WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
Better Photography|November 2021
The 57th edition of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest witnessed a staggering 50,000 entries from 95 countries in 19 categories. Every year, several panelists belonging to different disciplines preside over the judging process.

This year, Vidyun R Hebbar from India was named the Young Grand Title Winner for his image of a tent spider. Along with him, three Indian photographers made it to the Highly Commended list within the different categories of the contest—Hitesh Oberoi, Nayan Khanolkar, and Rakesh Pulapa. Wildlife Photographer of the Year was founded in 1965 by the BBC Wildlife Magazine, then called Animals. In 1984, the Natural History Museum joined forces with the contest to create the competition as it is known today. Together, they have inspired and empowered everyone to make a difference in nature. Here's a look at all the winners.

GRAND TITLE WINNER

UNDERWATER

Laurent Ballesta, France

Creation: This is a photograph of a trio of camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm known as spawning. For five years, my team and I returned to this lagoon, diving day and night to see the annual spawning of camouflage groupers. Often, after dark, we were joined by reef sharks hunting the fish. Spawning happens around the full moon in July, when up to 20,000 fish gather in Fakarava in a narrow southern channel linking the lagoon with the ocean. Overfishing threatens this species, but here the fish are protected within a biosphere reserve.

Nikon D5 with 17–35mm f/2.8 lens; 1/200 sec at f/11; ISO 1600; and Seacam housing Seacam strobes.

WINNER

ANIMALS IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT

Zack Clothier, United States of America

Grizzly Leftovers: An image of a grizzly bear taking an interest in my camera trap. I decided that these bull elk remains were an ideal spot to set up the camera. Returning to the scene was challenging. So, I bridged gushing meltwater with fallen trees, only to find my setup trashed. This was the last frame captured on the camera. Grizzlies, a subspecies of brown bears, spend up to seven months in torpor—a light form of hibernation. Emerging in spring, they are hungry and consume a wide variety of food, including mammals.

Nikon D610 with 18–35mm f/3.5-4.5 lens; 1/160 sec at f/10 (-1.7 e/v); ISO 1000; two Nikon SB-28 flashes self-made camera trap system.

WINNER

ANIMAL PORTRAITS

Majed Ali, Kuwait

Reflection: To create this image, I trekked for four hours to meet Kibande, an almost 40-year-old mountain gorilla. The more we climbed, the hotter and more humid it got. As cooling rain began to fall, Kibande remained in the open, seeming to enjoy the shower. That was when I captured this portrait of him. Mountain gorillas are a subspecies of the eastern gorilla, and are found at altitudes over 1400 metres in two isolated populations—at the Virunga volcanoes and in Bwindi. These gorillas are endangered due to habitat loss, disease, poaching and habitat disruption caused by human activity.

Nikon Z6 with 70–200mm f/2.8 lens; 1/320 sec at f/6.3; ISO 640.

WINNER

BEHAVIOUR: INVERTEBRATES

GIL WIZEN, ISRAEL/CANADA

Spinning the Cradle: I found a fishing spider stretching out silk from its spinnerets to weave into its egg sac. I discovered this spider under loose bark. Any disturbance might have caused the spider to abandon its project, so I had to take great care. The action of the spinnerets reminded me of the movement of human fingers when weaving. These spiders are common in wetlands and temperate forests of eastern North America. More than 750 eggs have been recorded in a single sac. Fishing spiders carry their egg sacs with them until the eggs hatch, and the spiderlings disperse.

Canon EOS 7D with Laowa 100mm f/2.8 lens; 1/100 sec at f/10; ISO 200; Macro Twin Lite flash.

WINNER

BEHAVIOUR: BIRDS

SHANE KALYN, CANADA

The Intimate Touch: This is a picture of a raven's courtship display. It was midwinter, the start of the ravens’ breeding season. I laid on the frozen ground using the muted light to capture the detail of the ravens’ iridescent plumage against the contrasting snow to reveal this intimate moment when their thick black bills came together. Ravens probably mate for life. This couple exchanged gifts—moss, twigs, and small stones—and preened and serenaded each other with soft warbling sounds to strengthen their relationship or ‘pair bond’.

Nikon D500 with 200–500mm f/5.6 lens; 1/1250 sec at f/7.1; ISO 900.

WINNER

BEHAVIOUR: MAMMALS

STEFANO UNTERTHINER, ITALY

Head to Head: In this image, two Svalbard reindeer battled for control of a harem. I followed these reindeer during the rutting season. Watching the fight, I felt immersed in the smell, the noise, the fatigue, and the pain. The reindeer clashed antlers until the dominant male (left) chased its rival away, securing the opportunity to breed. Reindeer are widespread around the Arctic, but this subspecies occurs only in Svalbard. Populations are affected by climate change, where increased rainfall can freeze on the ground, preventing access to plants that would otherwise sit under soft snow.

Nikon D5 with 180–400mm f/4 lens; 1/640 sec at f/4; ISO 3200.

WINNER

BEHAVIOUR: AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES

JOÃO RODRIGUES, PORTUGAL

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