Stunning underwater scene crowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 winner

CNN  — 

The winning images in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have been released after a record-breaking number of entries were submitted, with a riveting underwater shot taking home the top prize.

Organized by the Natural History Museum in London, the 57th edition of the contest saw 50,000 entries from 95 countries vying for a prize – with shots ranging from a reindeer battle to a venomous spider hiding under a bed.

French underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta was crowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his photo of camouflage groupers exiting their milky cloud of eggs and sperm in a biosphere reserve in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

Ballesta returned to the Fakarava lagoon five years in a row to capture the annual spawning that takes place around the July full moon. Camouflage groupers are a vulnerable species threatened by overfishing, the museum said in a press release Tuesday.

“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,” Natural History Museum director Doug Gurr said in the press release.

Meanwhile, 10-year-old Indian photographer Vidyun R. Hebbar was awarded the prize of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his image of a tent spider in its web, with a backdrop of an auto-rickshaw passing by.

Winners were announced in a total of 19 categories, with this year featuring three new additions – “Wetlands,” “Oceans” and “Natural Artistry.”