The winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 59 were announced during an awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum, London, on October 10.
Laurent Ballesta won the Grand Title Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023 for the second time with an ethereal picture of a shimmering Golden Horseshoe Crab.
The top prize for Young Photographer of the Year 2023 went to Carmel Bechler from Israel for his striking image of Barn Owls nesting in an abandoned building by the roadside.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.
Scroll down to see the winners from NHM WPY 59.
The Wall of Wonder
Vihaan Talya Vikas | Winner, 10 Years and Under
Vihaan Talya Vikas watches as an Ornamental Tree Trunk Spider prevents its prey from escaping. This was Vihaan’s first visit to the tamarind grove. Fascinated by stories of the Hindu god Krishna, it seemed to Vihaan as if the spider had positioned its web after being entranced by the sound of Krishna’s flute. This spider is an orb weaver, which creates a wheel-shaped web of sticky threads to catch flying insects. As the spider grows, it elongates its web, which entangles anything that lands on it.
Out of the Blue
Ekaterina Bee | Winner, 11-14 Years
Ekaterina Bee shares her intimate encounter with some Common Bottlenose Dolphins. Ekaterina’s trip to the west coast of Scotland was filled with wildlife encounters, but bottlenose dolphins were an unexpected surprise. From the boat she composed this image, which highlights the surface patterns on the water created by the dolphins’ movements. Common Bottlenose Dolphins can be found throughout the world’s oceans except in polar regions. Living in small groups, they are highly social animals, and are one of the top marine predators living in Scottish waters.
Owls’ Road House
Carmel Bechler | Winner, 15-17 Years | Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Carmel Bechler discovered several Barn Owls in an abandoned concrete building near a busy road. Returning to where he had spotted a Barn Owl the previous year, Carmel and his father used the family car as a hide. He made the most of the natural light and used long exposure times to capture the light trails of passing traffic. Israel has the densest Barn Owl population in the world. A national project has provided nesting boxes near agricultural fields, encouraging owls to nest near farmland. Because the owls hunt rodents that eat seeds and crops, this arrangement has reduced the use of pesticides on farms.
Face of the Forest
Vishnu Gopal | Winner, Animal Portraits
Vishnu Gopal records the moment a Lowland Tapir steps cautiously out of the swampy Brazilian rainforest. Finding hoofprints on a forest track near his campsite, Vishnu waited nearby. An hour later, the tapir appeared. Using a long exposure and torchlight to capture texture and movement, Vishnu framed the tapir’s side-turned head as it emerged from the forest. Lowland Tapirs rely on the forest for their diet of fruit and other vegetation and in turn the tapirs act as seed dispersers. This important relationship is threatened by habitat loss, illegal hunting and traffic collisions.
Silence for the Snake Show
Hadrien Lalagüe | Winner, Behaviour: Birds
Hadrien Lalagüe is rewarded for his patience with a perfect alignment of Grey-winged Trumpeters watching a boa slither past. Hadrien set up his camera trap by a track in the rainforest surrounding Guiana Space Center. He spent the next six months maintaining the camera kit against high humidity, plastic-munching ants and damage by poachers. This image was his reward. Trumpeters – named for their loud calls – spend most of their time foraging on the forest floor, eating ripe fruits, insects and the occasional small snake. The boa constrictor, more than three metres (9.8 feet) long, could have made a meal of them.
Whales Making Waves
Bertie Gregory | Winner, Behaviour: Mammals
Bertie Gregory tracks a pod of Orcas as they prepare to ‘wave wash’ a Weddell Seal. Bertie took two month-long expeditions searching for Orcas. ‘We spent every waking minute on the roof of the boat, scanning,’ he says. After battling high winds and freezing conditions, he captured this remarkable behaviour with his drone. These Orcas belong to a group that specialises in hunting seals by charging towards the ice, creating a wave that washes the seal into the water. With rising temperatures melting ice floes, seals are spending more time on land, and the behaviour of ‘wave washing’ may disappear.
The Tadpole Banquet
Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada | Winner, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles
Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada watches as toad tadpoles feast on a dead fledgling sparrow. The drama unfolded near Juan’s home when a newly fledged sparrow launched itself from a nest on his neighbour’s roof and fell into a nearby pond, where it drowned. Juan had to pick his moment to show the tadpole formation and the sparrow’s eye. Common Toad tadpoles have varied diets consisting of algae, vegetation, and tiny swimming invertebrates. As they grow larger, they become more carnivorous so when a banquet like this arrives, they take full advantage.
Sriram Murali | Winner, Behaviour: Invertebrates
Sriram Murali showcases a night sky and a forest illuminated with fireflies. Sriram combined fifty 19-second exposures to show the firefly flashes produced over 16 minutes in the forests near his hometown. The firefly flashes start at twilight, with just a few, before the frequency increases and they pulse in unison like a wave across the forest. Fireflies, which are in fact beetles, are famous for attracting mates using bioluminescence. Darkness is a necessary ingredient in the success of this process. Light pollution affects many nocturnal creatures, but fireflies are especially susceptible.
Last Breath of Autumn
Agorastos Papatsani | Winner, Plants and Fungi
Agorastos Papatsanis reveals the magic of a fungus releasing its spores in the forest. Long fascinated by fungi, Agorastos used his silver photographic umbrella to stop his camera getting wet, and covered his carefully positioned flash with a plastic bag. The colourful touches come from refraction of the light passing through the spore-laden air currents and rain. Parasol Mushrooms release spores from the gills under their cap. Billions of tiny spores travel – usually unseen – in the air currents. Some will land where there is moisture and food, enabling them to grow networks under the forest floor.
Birds of the Midnight Sun
Knut-Sverre Horn | Winner, Urban Wildlife
Knut-Sverre Horn offers a glimpse of kittiwake chicks illuminated in an abandoned factory. From his vantage point inside an abandoned fish-processing factory, Knut-Sverre kept watch on the Black-legged Kittiwakes tending to their chicks on the windowsill. As midnight approached, the low summer sun struck the north-facing window, sharpening the birds’ silhouettes and giving him the image that he wanted. Kittiwakes naturally nest on the narrow ledges of high, steep coastal cliffs. Recently numbers have plummeted, and some have headed for urban areas due to shortages of food caused by warming oceans and pollution.
The Dead River
Joan de la Malla | Winner, Wetlands - The Bigger Picture
Joan de la Malla provides a bird’s-eye view of the polluted Ciliwung river winding through Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. To find a time when lower air pollution allowed a clear view, Joan returned to the scene over several days. His image documents one of the most polluted rivers in the world and illustrates the growing global issue of river pollution. Plastic rubbish, human waste, agricultural fertilisers and factory waste are suffocating the Ciliwung river. As a result, Jakarta’s residents are having to use groundwater for drinking water. This has resulted in widespread subsidence and the city is now sinking.
The Tourism Bulldozer
Fernando Constantino Martínez Belma
Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar (Mexico) shows the devastating path of a new cross-country tourist railway line. To reach a point from where he could launch his drone, Fernando was guided through four kilometres (2.5 miles) of an underground cave system. The result of his challenging trek was this image. The government-funded railway line connecting tourist destinations brings economic benefits to Mexico’s southeast, but it also fragments ecosystems, threatens protected reserves and archaeological sites, and impacts Indigenous peoples. While trains are a more environmentally friendly form of transport, conservationists warn of devastating consequences.
Karine Aigner | Winner, Photojournalist Story Award
Karine Aigner documents the annual hunting competitions in Texas, USA. For some people in the USA, hunting wildlife is a pastime. In Texas, while there are strict regulations covering ‘game’ species, certain predators such as Bobcats, Mountain Lions and Coyotes have no protection and can be killed at any time and by any means. In this portfolio, Karine delves deep into the contests and festivals that celebrate the killing of these unprotected and maligned species, exploring their relationship with humans.
The Ancient Mariner
Laurent Ballesta | Winner, Portfolio Award |Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Laurent Ballesta went looking for horseshoe crabs in the protected waters of Pangatalan Island in the Philippines. Marine biologist and photographer Laurent Ballesta has dedicated his life to exploring the oceans and revealing their wonder through art. He has led a series of major expeditions, all involving scientific mysteries and diving challenges, and all resulting in unprecedented images. The Tri-spine Horseshoe Crab has survived for more than 100 million years but now faces habitat destruction and overfishing for food and for its blood, used in the development of vaccines. But, in the protected waters off Pangatalan Island, there is hope for its survival. Seen here is a Tri-spine Horseshoe Crab moving slowly over the mud, with a trio of juvenile Golden Trevallies for company.