Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023: 'golden horseshoe' scores undersea photographer Laurent Ballesta second win

The winning snap features an otherworldly image of a tri-spine horseshoe crab accompanied by a trio of golden trevallies
The ancient mariner/the golden horseshoe (Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)The ancient mariner/the golden horseshoe (Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)
The ancient mariner/the golden horseshoe (Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

An ancient lifeform cast in striking gold, flanked by a trio of golden retainers as it crawls across a murky seafloor has taken out the top prize at this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards.

Selected from almost 50,000 entries spanning 95 countries, French marine biologist and undersea photographer Laurent Ballesta's 'The golden horseshoe' has won him his second Wildlife Photographer of the Year title - making him one of just two people to win it more than once. The winners of the prestigious competition - developed and produced by the Natural History Museum - were revealed at an awards ceremony in South Kensington on Tuesday night (10 October).

The winning snap features an otherworldly image of a tri-spine horseshoe crab accompanied by a trio of golden trevallies. 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 blue blood - used in the development of vaccines.

Owls’ road house (Carmel Bechler/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)Owls’ road house (Carmel Bechler/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)
Owls’ road house (Carmel Bechler/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Chair of the jury and editor Kathy Moran said: "To see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing. We are looking at an ancient species, highly endangered, and also critical to human health. This photo is luminescent."

Seventeen-year-old Carmel Bechler from Israel was awarded Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023 for ‘Owls’ road house’, capturing a pair of barn owls in an abandoned roadside building. Using the family car as hide, Carmel made the most of natural light and long exposure times to capture the light trails of passing traffic.

Carmel was just 11 years old when he began wildlife photography, and this is his first award in the annual competition. "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," he said.

The tadpole banquet by Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada - Winner in the Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles category (Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)The tadpole banquet by Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada - Winner in the Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles category (Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)
The tadpole banquet by Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada - Winner in the Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles category (Juan Jesús Gonzalez Ahumada/Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

"This photograph has so many layers in terms of content and composition. It simultaneously screams “habitat destruction” and “adaptation”, begging the question: If wildlife can adapt to our environment, why can’t we respect theirs?," Ms Moran added.

The two grand title winners were selected from a pool of 19 category winners, a series of photos showcasing the rich diversity of life on Earth. Each entry was judged anonymously by an international panel of experts on its originality, narrative, technical excellence, and ethical practice.

Other section winners included tadpoles feasting on a banquet of a newly-fledged sparrow after its unfortunate mishap, a twice-beached orca taking its last gasp, the devastating path of a new cross-country tourist railway line in Mexico, and bobcats shot dead for sport in a US hunting competition.

How can I see the full exhibition?

The exhibition will open on Friday, 13 October at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. It will be open from Monday to Sunday, through to 24 June next year.

Tickets can be booked ahead of time on the Natural History Museum website here. It is advised people book ahead of time, with tickets often selling out quickly on the weekends.

After the London exhibition closes, the 100-strong collection of photos will embark on a UK-wide and then a world tour - including to venues in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, and Singapore.

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