After six years, Spanish photographer Angel Fitor was finally able to get the photograph of jellyfish in Spain’s Mar Menor that he’d been envisioning. His patience was not only rewarded with the stunning photo, but also with a win at the 2021 European Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. He beat out over 1,000 photographers from 36 countries to nab the top spot.
Though it appears that there are eleven jellyfish in the photo, Fitor actually photographed two. By following their movements with multiple flash releases, we’re able to see them bob across the frame. While the photo is beautiful, it also holds an important message. Fitor’s photo was taken in 2014 prior to the destruction of the lagoon’s ecosystem. The photographer blames poor agricultural planning and overbuilding for the tourism sector for the slow decline of the water’s aquatic life. In fact, he calls the photo an “ode to the unique natural heritage the lagoon Mar Menor once was.”
“Through the illusion of a swarm of jellyfish, [the photo] evokes associations with a trend we can observe everywhere in heavily overexploited seas. Marine ecosystems that are no longer unimpaired and the warming seas as a result of climate change are promoting the increase of individual species,” says the patron of the competition and president of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BFN) Dr. Beate Jessel.
Other winning images from the contest show unique aspects of the natural world. This includes interesting underwater encounters between different species and a flock of birds coming to roost in Norway. Young photographers also have an important place in the contest, with delightful images of birds winning both the 15- to 17-year-old and under 14-year-old categories.
With over 19,000 images entered in this year’s competition, the judges had a lot to evaluate. As always, the contest is sponsored by the German Society for Nature Photographers as a way to celebrate modern nature photography. The winning photos will now embark on a traveling exhibit around Germany and other parts of Europe. If you can’t make it over to see the exhibition, or just wish to browse the photos at home, there is also a printed catalog of this year’s winners available for purchase.