From a horseshoe crab gliding along the bottom of the sea to a dramatic clash of ibexes, photos from wildlife photographers were celebrated at this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards — a competition produced by the Natural History Museum of London that hopes to inspire people to protect the natural world.
Laurent Ballesta, a French underwater photographer and marine biologist, got this year’s grand title for the image of a tri-spine horseshoe crab in the Philippines, accompanied by three golden trevally fish. Horseshoe crabs have survived for over 100 million years but are now endangered as they face habitat destruction and overfishing.
The tri-spine horseshoe crab (Tachypleus tridentatus) is typically found in the tropical waters of southeast Asia. There are four living species of horseshoe crab, three found in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic coastline in North America. Despite their name they aren’t actually crabs but are more closely related to spiders and scorpions.
Ballesta had won the prize in 2021 for a photo of a camouflage grouper fish in a swirl of eggs and sperm. Kath Moran, chair of the judging panel, said the photo of the crab was luminescent. “To see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing,” Moran said in a news release.
The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award was given to 17-year-old Carmel Bechler from Israel, who took a photo of several barn owls in a hollowed-out concrete building by a roadside. He used his family’s card as a hiding spot with long exposure times to capture the impressive light trails of passing traffic, as seen in the photo.
“I hope to share with my photography that the beauty of the natural world is all around us, even in places where we least expect it to be – we just need to open our eyes and our minds,” Bechler said in a news release. The winning photos were selected from almost 50,000 entries from 95 countries and were announced in a ceremony this week.
Other impressive photos
Among the 17 other category winners, Agorastos Papatsanis won an award for showing how the parasol mushroom releases its spores for them to drift on air currents. Meanwhile, Sriram Murali won the Behaviour: Invertebrates award for showcasing how fireflies attract males, combining 50 exposures of 19 seconds with 16 minutes of the beetle’s bioluminescence.
“Whilst inspiring absolute awe and wonder, this year’s winning images present compelling evidence of our impact on nature – both positive and negative. Global promises must shift to action to turn the tide on nature’s decline,” Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said in a news release about the awards.