The oceans and waterways across the planet are home to a rich variety of life. The 2018 Underwater Photography Of The Year (UPY) contest focuses on highlighting the photographs that capture the mysteries and delights of life underwater.
All photos had to be taken underwater (split-level images were allowed too, as long as a part of the image was underwater).
Photographers from 63 countries submitted more than 5,000 photos to compete in the 11 categories. Looking at these incredible photographs, we know the judges must have had an incredibly challenging time selecting the winners.
Here are the award-winning photographs selected along with the runners’ up and other notable pictures.
Portrait Category Winner: “A Sand Tiger Shark Surrounded By Tiny Bait Fish” By Tanya Houppermans, USA
“I always look forward to diving the wreck of the Caribsea and seeing the fierce-looking, but docile, sand tiger sharks that frequent the wreck. On this day as I descended to the wreck, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Millions of tiny fish, collectively known as “bait fish”, were grouped together in an enormous bait ball above the wreck, with dozens of sand tigers lazily meandering among the fish. As I slowly swam to the center of the bait ball, I looked up and noticed a sand tiger a few feet above me. I swam on my back underneath her, trying not to startle her. As I moved with the shark through the water the bait fish parted way, giving me a clear shot of the underside of this beautiful shark, and also one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had yet as an underwater photographer.”
British Underwater Photographer Of The Year. “Love Birds” By Grant Thomas, Uk
“I have always been fascinated by over-under photography, connecting the everyday terrestrial world that we all know with the less familiar underwater secrets. I chose Loch Lomond as the location for this shot due to its idilic scenery, water access and friendly swans. My initial idea was to frame a split shot of one swan feeding below the surface of the water but when I noticed how comfortable they were around me I was confident, with some patience, I could get that magical shot of the two. It was mid-day, sun high in the sky, I waded slowly into the shallow water, allowing the swans to become comfortable with my presence. When they began searching for food below the water line I just had to wait for that perfect moment of synchronicity.”
British Waters Compact Category: “Peek-A-Boo!” By Martin Edser, Uk
“It’s always fun to dive with and photograph seals but this encounter was extra special. I had not seen any on this dive probably because it was late afternoon and they were enjoying a sensible nap on shore. I was beginning to lose hope when out of nowhere a head popped up out of the kelp and gave me an inquisitive stare. It disappeared again as quickly as it appeared only for the head to pop up again a few moments later in what I can only describe as a game of ‘Peek-a boo’! The water was murky and flash was not really an option, but we were shallow and it was a bright afternoon so anticipating where the head was likely to appear and using a wide aperture and as fast shutter speed as I could, allowed me to capture this memorable experience and the face of my playmate.”
Wide Angle Category Winner: “Humpback Whale Spy Hopping” By Greg Lecoeur, France
“Each year, I go to Tonga to lead a small group of nature enthusiasts to photograph humpback whales. Tonga offers probably the best opportunity to interact with the whales in blue water. This year was very special, with my friends we had sone of my best moments in my underwater photographer’s life: Very curious and playful whales came to investigate us and adopt the spy hopping posture in front of our masks. Although weighing several tens of tons this mammal showed incredible agility and power in holding itself vertically in the water. It was very impressive and we could feel the power of nature but we were also invaded at the same time a feeling of gentleness. I had the chance to freeze this moment with a split shot to recreate a spectacular moment.”
Compact Category: “Tres Amigos” By Sarah Vasend, USA
“This was taken on the last day of my trip to La Paz, Mexico. Los Islotes is one of my favorite dive sites, well known for its sea lion colony. This group of three were some very friendly juveniles that were playing in a cave. These pups are easily amused and make for cooperative photo subjects! Make sure all equipment is firmly attached, there may have been some lens covers lost in the taking of this photo!”
Wide Angle Category: “Blacktip Rendezvous” By Renee Capozzola, USA
“In French Polynesia, there is a healthy shark population thanks to their strong protection. It is my favourite place to photograph sharks [Blacktip reef sharks] as they often frequent shallow waters, which are perfect for split shots. It was my intention to go out at sunset and try to capture an over-under of the sharks. This shot was challenging as there was only a short time period when the sun was at the horizon and it required multiple attempts over several days. A small aperture, large dome port, and flash were used for this image. Sadly, up to 100 million sharks are lost every year, mainly due to overfishing and the high demand for shark fin soup. Sharks signify a balanced marine ecosystem. It is my hope that images such as this will capture peoples’ attention and help raise awareness for sharks and other marine animals throughout the world.”
Behaviour Category Winner: “The Fisherman” By Filippo Borghi, Italy
“In winter time in the Izu peninsula in tokio area the asiatic cormorant stop for couple of month before moving to China. So this is the best moment for try to shoot this amazing sea bird during diving and fishing. I Was in this area and I spent two days in a very shallow waters from 5m to 8m waiting for the opportunity to take a right moment for have this photos. Luckily four birds for two days stay in this aera in search of sardine and don’t care about my presence during his diving session give me the chance to sort it.”
Behaviour Category: “In Hiding” By Scott Gutsy Tuason, Philippines
“Taken at a depth of 15 meters in 200-250m deep water. Towards the end of the ‘Blackwater’ dive, Edwin, one of our divemasters, called me over to show me this beautiful Jellyfish, for me only to realise it had a juvenile Trevally within it, and to my amazement, it was wedged between the bell and the tentacles! I had seen many Jack and Jelly combos before but never like this. I shot around 20 frames and right on the last few frames it turned towards me to give me this very unusual portrait of a behaviour I had never seen before.”
Wide Angle Category: “Cooking Sausage” By Pekka Tuuri, Finland
“This image was created from scratch. I went to a quarry and had the usual cavern and cave pictures in mind but I wanted to make something different, too. I thought of playing with dry ice to see how it behaves underwater. It bubbles violently and dies off quickly. A piece of orange gel was fixed onto a torch which created a virtual “fire” with the right colour temperature. After a few experiments we were ready for the real picture next day. We had bought sausage at a gas station and hammered together a few pieces of firewood. The rest was easy: a good model, natural light under the ice cover, the right shutter speed and a few shots. I am proud of this image as it is the result of our own innovation and not copied from somebody else!”
Portrait Category: “Australian Sea Lion” By Greg Lecoeur, France
“Interacting with sea lions is a great experience, they are curious and playful with divers. In this picture we can see an endemic sea lion from Australia who was having fun standing on the sand posing in front of my camera. The conditions that day were excellent for making the image with the sun’s rays piercing the surface.”
Portrait Category: “Oceanic White Tip Shark” By Greg Lecoeur, France
“In recent years, oceanic white-tip sharks have become rarer in Red Sea but they are back around the offshore reefs of Egypt. Diving with these magnificent predators is a privilege and offers incredible photographic opportunities and to witness the symbiosis with pilotfish. Curious, confident and inquisitive they do not hesitate to approach the divers and I was able to capture this image on our decompression stop.”
Portrait Category Runner Up: “The Nose” By Mike Korostelev, Russian Federation
“The picture was taken in Kuril Lake [Kamchatka, Russia, South Kamchatka Federal Sanctuary] – the place with the highest concentration of bears on our planet. The bears here are not hungry (due to the annual mass spawning of sockeye salmon) so they get used to people and do not feel danger from them.
I used a remote control system with a 10 meter cable. I left the camera in the shallow water in the river next to the path that bears regularly pass and hid 8 meters from the camera. This day my camera was spotted by four cubs, which were walking along the path with their mother. The mother stopped and began to look out for the fish in the river, and the cubs saw the camera, they were very curious and began to play with it.”
Macro Category: “Pretty Lady” By Tianhong Wang, China
“This is a Japanese pygmy seahorse, a lot of creatures in order to protect themselves, will stay in their own and similar color environment, so the adjacent color in the natural color will be easier to find. When I took this shoot, I used a large aperture and tried a variety of different combinations of lighting methods to blur the background to highlight the subject, but at the same time using the adjacent colors in the background, and then vivid contrast in harmony. The purpose is to make it a more unified background and subject, with a pink background to set off the subject, can make it a lovely character, give a better impression.”
Wide Angle Category: Runner Up “Surrounded” By Fan Ping, China
“Shark behaviourist Ms. Cristina Zenato has been studying Caribbean Reef Sharks near Freeport in The Bahamas for over 24 years The unique bond between her and the sharks allows her to get really close to them without putting them into tonic immobility and this has been helping many scientists, photographers and conservationists better understand and protect this beautiful species. Unlike in the movies, sharks in fact seldom attack humans on purpose and humans are not on their menu at all, on the contrary countless sharks are killed by humans just for their fins. Without these ancient animals the ocean will be completely different, and it will eventually become a disaster for mankind.”
Up & Coming Underwater Photographer Of The Year. “Roar” By Man Bd, Malaysia
“When I was shooting this nudibranch I was focusing on it’s behaviour to get just the right shot. While this happened a moray eel suddenly appeared out from the blue behind the nudi. I was shocked for a while but decided it would be a great composition. As a few minute flew by to my surprise another nudi appeared right behind the other one maybe to mate. Having both nudi’s and a moray eel was a double surprise for me. I then decided to wait a while longer for the nudi to be in frame with the moray eel roaring behind. It took about 30 minutes to get this shot and it was well worth it.”
British Waters Wide Angle Category: “Basking Shark Feeding” By Will Clark, UK
“Basking sharks are the world’s second biggest fish: they can grow over 10 metres long. Each year dozens arrive to the rich waters off the Inner Hebrides archipelago as part of their annual migrations. A bloom in plant plankton occurs in the warming springtime waters, which leads to an explosion in the numbers of animal plankton at the height of summer. Just as these tiny animals feed on the microscopic plants, so the basking sharks feed on the zooplankton, pushing slowly forward with their massive mouths open to envelop clouds of their prey before filtering them out through specialised gill structures. It is possible to sensitively snorkel with these gentle giants – if spooked they close their mouths and change direction. I’ve learned that the best method is to place yourself some distance in front, stay completely still and hope for the best.”
Compact Category: “Elvis” By Stefano Cerbai, Italy
“I went on holiday in Lembeh Strait, Indonesia with the aim of taking pictures of 4 subjects and one of them was the Hairy Frog Fish. I was excited to find one after a few dives. Once I had found it, I dedicated the whole dive to capturing it. I took several shots using two flashes, but the best result was the one using a snoot, as you can see in this picture.”
Up & Coming Category Runner Up: “The Hammer” By Jacob Degee, Poland
“It was the last day of the Enigma Team shark expedition to Bahamas. The last day and I was still missing a shot I came here to take. We went down. The day before there was a storm and we did not see anything. But they were back. Glorious, mighty, curious but shy four meter long ladies. The Great Hammerheads were slowly circulating around us. It was my last chance. The last opportunity to do what I had in my mind for months. “Stay calm, be patient” was constantly echoing in my mind. Sitting on a soft sandy bottom, facing against the sun I could have only waited. And there she was coming directly at me…”
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