The winning shot from this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award captures the moment a camouflage grouper releases a milky cloud of eggs and sperm into the water.
The image was taken by French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta. Every year, for five years, Ballesta and his team have visited the same lagoon in French Polynesia to witness the annual spawning event that only takes place around the full moon in July.
After dark, they were joined by hundreds of grey reef sharks, which were hunting the groupers in packs. Amid the chaos, Ballesta captured the image, which he called Creation.
Overfishing threatens the camouflage grouper, but in the lagoon where Ballesta took the photograph they are protected within a special biosphere reserve.
“In what could be a pivotal year for the planet, with vital discussions taking place at COP15 and COP26, Laurent Ballesta’s Creation is a compelling reminder of what we stand to lose if we do not address humanity’s impact on our planet,” said Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum. “The protection provided to this endangered species by the biosphere reserve highlights the positive difference we can make.”
Chair of the judging panel, writer and editor, Rosamund Kidman Cox, said: “The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic, and intriguing and has an otherworldly beauty. It also captures a magical moment – a truly explosive creation of life – leaving the tail-end of the exodus of eggs hanging for a moment like a symbolic question mark.”
Gallery: Some of the other winning shots
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.
Main image: Laurent Ballesta/2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year