A French biologist and underwater photographer has been named the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year for 2021.
Laurent Ballesta was selected as the winner of the competition for his “enigmatic image” Creation, which captures camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.
Over the past five years, Mr Ballesta and his team dove into the lagoon day and night so they did not miss the annual spawning that takes place around the full moon in July.
His image was selected from more than 50,000 entries from 95 countries and was named the winner at a virtual awards ceremony at the Natural History Museum in central London.
“The image works on so many levels. It is surprising, energetic and intriguing, and has an otherworldly beauty,” said chairwoman of the judging panel, writer and editor Rosamund “Roz” Kidman Cox.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Vidyun R Hebbar was named Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the ceremony.
The 10-year-old's colourful image, Dome home, features a tent spider in its web as a tuk-tuk passes.
The two winners were chosen from 19 categories in total which aim to celebrate the natural world.
Three new categories were introduced this year, including Oceans — The Bigger Picture and Wetlands — The Bigger Picture.
A total of 100 images from the competition will be on display at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum.
It opens on October 15 before touring across the UK and internationally.