A Weymouth photographer has described his ‘total shock’ after coming out on top in a prestigious photography competition.

Ryan Stalker, 44, has won this year’s British Wildlife Photography Awards with his photo ‘Ocean Drifter’ which depicts a football covered in goose barnacles below the waterline off Portland.

The picture was chosen from more than 14,000 entries.

Ryan said: “Every year down on Chesil Beach after the winter storms, we have all sorts of rubbish and waste that drifts in and brings goose barnacles in.”

The football was found by local beachcomber Steve Trewhella and Ryan added that ‘without him he would not have had the opportunity to capture the photograph.’

Although the ball was found washed up on Chesil Beach on Portland, Ryan had taken it down to Portland Harbour to photograph for safety reasons as Chesil was too dangerous after the storm.

Ryan said: “Luckily it was a very sunny day and the wind had dropped a bit, I took the photo in a wetsuit and snorkel although the water was only six degrees.”

Upon finding out the news that he had won, Ryan said: “I had to get my wife to read the email about three times before it sank in. I was in total shock, it’s all a bit of a whirlwind.”

Dorset Echo: Ryan StalkerRyan Stalker (Image: Ryan Stalker)

Photography is one of Ryan’s hobbies, which he shares with his wife Sandra, particularly underwater photography which he does whilst scuba diving, and during the day, he works as an aerospace engineer in Crewkerne.

Sandra's photography, including her crab image Midnight Raver', below, was recognised in the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 competition for her selection of sea life images taken locally.

Dorset Echo:

Ryan decided to take the photo as ‘goose barnacles are not native to this country and out of the water, you can’t really appreciate their story,’ adding: ‘It shows the main story of waste going into the sea and creatures trying to live on it which is wrong."

Ryan said: “I love taking photos and being able to show people how beautiful the underwater world is in the UK.”

He described ‘Ocean Drifter’ as ‘a photo of a football that is covered in goose barnacles below the waterline. Above the water is just a football. But below the waterline is a colony of creatures. The football 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.’

He added: "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 more photos of goose barnacles on Ryan’s Instagram account.