The winning photograph of the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2024 comes from the sea

Ryan Stalker’s photo, winner of the BWPA, shows a football floating in the water becoming an alien colony

20 March 2024 | by Redazione
Ocean Drifter by Ryan Stalker, overall winner of the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2024

An old white and blue football floats on top of the water. Where does it come from? We can imagine it being a faithful playing companion, for a group of children, kicking it around in the sand, until it ends up in the water, who knows where, maybe the tropics, maybe a strong gust of wind took hold and brought it across the ocean to Britain.


From above the water it is just a lost ball, a symbol of environmental decay, and the little care humans have for the marvellous marine ecosystem, but when Ryan Stalker’s attentive eye fell on this ball, the multi-award-winning underwater photographer photographed it in the waters of Dorset, his home, and showed the hidden half under the waterline – it had become a new home for goose barnacles.

Ocean Drifter” is the title of Stalker’s image, overall winner of the British Wildlife Photography Awards 2024 (BWPA), celebrating nature photography in the United Kingdom since 2009.

The football – says the caption – was washed up in Dorset after making a huge ocean journey across the Atlantic and then returned to the sea for the photo to be taken. Goose barnacles are not native to the UK but can wash up on our shores during powerful Atlantic storms.   Although the ball is waste and should not be in the sea, I do wonder about the journey the ball has been on.  From initially being lost, then spending time in the tropics where the barnacles are native and perhaps years in the open ocean before arriving in Dorset. However, this waste can also bring creatures that may survive in UK waters and could become invasive species.  More human waste in the sea could increase the risk of more creatures making it to our shores.


There are a number of categories in which photographers from around the world can compete: from animal behaviour to animal portraits, botany, black and white landscapes of the British countryside, British wildlife throughout the seasons, beautiful woodlands and forests, ecosystems and habitats, a category dedicated to invertebrates and wildlife in the city, alongside video documentaries and shorts. Ryan Stalker’s overall winning photograph was also first place in the Coast and Marine category.

The only limit to the competition: photographs must have been taken in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, the Island of Man or the Channel Islands, with the aim of showcasing the beauty and diversity of nature in Britain.


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