Life In British Waters Celebrated By Underwater Photographer Of The Year Award Winners

Have you taken the time during the pandemic to explore Nature? These British photographers have and the resulting images are spectacular. From a yawning seal to a thunderous plunge of gannets, this year’s UnderWater Photographer of The Year contest not only highlighted spectacular photos from around the globe, but also honed in on the best photographs of underwater life in British waters.

Based out of the United Kingdom, the annual competition picked the 2022 winners from the photographers that explored the waters of their home country. The wonderful collection reinforces the diversity Nature has to offer if you simply go exploring in your own backyard.

British Waters Wide Angle

Winner Gannet Storm by Henley Spiers/UPY 2022

“A northern gannet swims in an artistic hail of bubbles created by diving seabirds.”

Henley Spiers/UPY 2022

“40,000 gannets visit the nearby cliffs annually to lay and care for a single egg, fishing for food nearby. Hitting the frigid water faster than an Olympic diver, these incredible birds have evolved airsacs in the head and chest to survive these repeated heavy impacts.

From underwater, the sound was thunderous as streamlined, white torpedos pierced the surface. I wanted to create a novel image of these handsome seabirds and resolved to try and capture their movement through a slow exposure,” says winner Henley Spiers.

“The speed of the gannets led to innumerable failures but in this frame we retain strong eye contact with the gannet, even as the scene is artistically softened. With great thanks to Richard Shucksmith, without whom this encounter with the gannets would not have been possible.”

Runner Up Grayling in summer sunlight by Paul Colley/UPY 2022

Paul Colley/UPY 2022

“I’ve been photographing Grayling for some years now and my intent is always to create memorable images of UK river life to support the conservation of wildlife and habitat,” says photographer Paul Colley. “Both are under threat from over-abstraction of water, unsustainable land development and sewage dumping. The combination of a cooperative fish and strong natural light is often elusive, but on this day it clicked.”

Colley says he usually uses remote control cameras, but for this photo he took it with a “traditional” way, getting into the river with waders and waiting patiently for the fish to approach.

Third place Yawn by Henley Spiers/UPY 2022

“A grey seal pup stretches and performs an exaggerated yawn as it awakens from a snooze in the kelp. I find it hard not to smile when looking at this image and hope it has the same effect on others,” says Henley Spiers, who took the shot near Lundy Island.

Henley Spiers/UPY 2022

“There is a kinship one feels when sharing the water with marine mammals and these seals are amongst the best underwater companions. With enviable aquatic grace, seal pups have an irresistible zest for life, exhibiting curiosity, playfulness and affection.”

Henley explains, “Just weeks after birth, pups are abandoned to fend for themselves, but they exhibit no anxiety at the world which awaits, exploring it with insatiable energy and joyfulness. The pups actively seek out divers and snorkelers, leading to wildlife encounters in which everyone wins. Best of all, with one of the largest grey seal populations in the world, British waters are the perfect place to visit these charismatic pinnipeds.

British Waters Macro

Winner Best Buddies by Dan Bolt/UPY 2022

Dan Bolt/UPY 2022

“2021 was the 10 year anniversary of my first trip to the beautiful Loch Carron [in Scotland] and in all that time it has never failed to produce stunning underwater images with its diverse array of marine inhabitants.”

“My buddies know that I’m not very good at finding Yarrels blennies, and it was no exception on this dive either. We were diving on an area of reef I’d not previously explored, and after an excited squeal and waving of a torch in my direction I dropped down to see that my buddy had found not one, but two beautiful little blennies holed up in a crack in the rock.”

“Having my long macro lens on was an advantage as I could stand-off from the reef enough to get some light into their home so we could all see their some-what bemused little faces. Best buddies for sure!”

Runner Up Hello! by Dan Bolt/UPY 2022

Dan Bolt/UPY 2022

Beacon Cove, south Devon, England proved to be the spot to capture this Corkwing wrasse.

“The low-lying reef on this site is home to as many as a dozen of these beautiful male Corkwing wrasse busily building theirs nests in the spring and early summer,” says Dan Bolt.

“They will spend weeks building the next by cropping nearby seaweeds and placing them in a rocky crevice with their mouths,” he explains. “If they are lucky enough to attract a female, for a few weeks after mating they will defend the nest and keep the eggs clean and fresh by blowing and wafting water over them constantly.”

“This individual was happy to ignore me after a careful approach, and spent over an hour just sitting and observing his behaviour. This allowed me to get very close to him indeed without being a disturbance, such a privilege!”

Third Place Diamonds and Rust by Paul Pettitt/UPY 2022

Paul Pettitt/UPY 2022

“This picture was taken on a bright afternoon when I knew the sun would be on the west side of the Pier,” says Paul Pettitt. “The Sea Gooseberries had been around for a while and on this particular day the water was like glass. I floated in the spot I wanted and waited for them to slowly drift by. The background colours represent the rust and weed growth on a metal cross beam.”

British Waters Living Together

Winner A peaceful coexistence by Lewis Michael Jefferies /UPY 2022

Lewis Michael Jefferies /UPY 2022

“In the summer months Jelly fish frequent the British isles in larger numbers, thought to be attracted by the warmer waters. The summer of 2021 was no exception and there were huge numbers of these Compass jellyfish in Falmouth Bay [in Cornwall],” says Lewis Michael Jefferies of his winning shot.

“It was a perfect summers evening – clear and calm with hardly a breath of wind. We grabbed the paddle board and camera and headed to the beach in search of jellyfish. I had a sunset shot like this – loosely – in mind and fortunately all the elements lined up to create something quite memorable.”

Runner Up SS Persier by Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2022

Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2022

“The SS Persier is a crowd pleaser of a wreck,” says Kristy Andrews of the ship strewn underwater near Plymouth. The usual dive plan involves descending on to the boilers and following the prop shaft to the stern. Wreck appreciators can see the various parts of the vessel laid out before them, history buffs will be aware of the wreck’s story as a casualty of the Second World War.

“To me, the main draw is the wildlife: there are always shoaling bib and patrolling spider crabs as you can see in the picture, but also fields of pink sea fans, and potentially conger eels, anglerfish and thornback rays, to name but a few.”

Third Place Snug in my pipe by Alison Pettitt/UPY 2022

Alison Pettitt/UPY 2022

“I am lucky to be able to dive Swanage Pier a lot, and its always nice to see where the Tompot Blenney choose to make their homes,” says Alison Pettitt. “This one was very happy in his old rusty pipe and posed for me nicely.”

British Waters Compact

Winner Rock pool star by Martin Stevens/UPY 2022

“Living from shallow down to deep water and reaching impressive sizes, spiny starfish are abundant in Cornwall (Falmouth). I’ve often taken photos of them underwater, but on a low tide they can be found in the exposed rock pools.”

Martin Stevens/UPY 2022

“Last year we had very low spring tides, and I wanted to attempt some split shots of a starfish in the pools. So, I attached a fisheye wet lens and was lucky with bright conditions, and after a while came across a large starfish in a gully flanked by exposed kelp,” describes Martin Stevens.

“The water was clear and calm, and given that starfish aren’t the quickest of creatures I could compose some photos with the gully and kelp behind and a little off the starfish showing through the water from above. At the same time, seaweed is most vibrant in the spring, which added a splash of red colour to the scene.”

Third Place Fluorescent Fireworks by James Lynott/UPY 2022

James Lynott/UPY 2022

“I don’t think I will ever tire of viewing and capturing images of fireworks anemones fluorescing under blue light, there is so much variation in the fluorescence patterns between individuals as well as the shapes created by the position of the tentacles in the water. This shot was taken in Loch Long [Scotland” during a night dive in October 2021 and it is one of my favourites so far,” says James Lynott of his shot.

“I was quite lucky with this one that the main tentacles just curled up slightly while leaving the brightly fluorescing inner tentacles in full view.”

To see more images from this year’s competition see our article here.

You can also visit the Underwater Photographer of the Year website to see more photos and learn more about the competition.

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