It’s hard to believe, but it’s been eight long months since the winners of the Dog Photographer of the Year Awards were announced.
What a wonderful time that was, taking time out from the hustle and bustle of the constant capitalist nightmare rat race we all subject ourselves to day in day out, just to look at lovely pictures of lovely dogs.
Well, in case you feel like you can’t make it through to June, when the next set of dog winners are announced, we’ve got another treat for you: the winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year contest.
Close your eyes - OK, close them a bit but not too much that you can’t read this article or see the pictures, that would be ridiculous - imagine the waves lapping at your feet as you lie on a sandy beach with not a care in the world.
Now immerse yourself in these beauties, the winners in their respective categories, and enjoy the stories of those talented photographers who took the winning snaps (and if you want even more, you can download the free 160 page UPY yearbook by clicking right here).
What a wonderful world we live in.
1. Wide Angle
Greg Lecoeur: “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.”
Shane Gross: “The pond I was in has the highest density of seahorses on Earth, but I’ve never seen three together like this before. I was camping on shore and had all night to shoot with the idea of backlighting a single seahorse, but finding three together was a real gift. I was super careful not to disturb them because they will swim away if they’ve had enough. I had my off-camera strobe and an underwater flashlight on a small tripod which I placed behind and below the trio. Then I waited for them to all turn in way that you could see their silhouette. The sun was setting and as it got darker the plankton really began to pile up. When the seahorses ate some of the plankton I could tell they were relaxed. We are still working on getting this special place protection so I cannot reveal the exact location.”
Tobias Friedrich: “For a few years now I had had this image in mind as the motorcycles on this truck inside the Thistlegorm lie so perfectly together, but you can only barely capture it because the wall is very close and you can’t move backwards enough to capture the whole scenery. As a result I had to create a panoramic image of the same scene to capture the whole cargo deck, including some lights that give the image more depth.”
Filippo Borghi: “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.”
Tanya Houppermans: “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.”
6. Black and white
Borut Furlan: “When diving was finished for the day, I asked the divemaster to take me back again to a place, where seawater crocodiles are usually seen. I wanted to shoot them in low evening sunlight, when the sky turns into warm colours. When we arrived, the sun was already on the horizon and it was very dark in the water. I pushed ISO settings high to get some warm ambient light into the picture and set the power of my strobes low. Fortunately the crocodile was very cooperative and since we were both very calm, beautiful reflections appeared on the surface. I shot many images with his reflections and this one was my favourite. Since there is a strong graphic element in this picture, conversion into black and white made it even more powerful.”
7. Compact cameras
Simone Matucci: “Escaping the New Zealand winter for a magical week in Tonga’s underwater dreamland dancing with whales, my wife and I spent 5 days and nights at sea, sailing the Ha’apai islands & swimming with humpbacks. Not another single boat was in sight all week. The beauty of the encounters that we had are truly transcending. These two adult humpbacks had such a connection with us in the water, literally “dancing” .. it was the most wild & incredible thing I have probably witnessed in my entire life. Humpback whales are such a magnificent species and they need our protection. The entire ocean needs our help. Now is the time more than ever, before it is too late .. before we lose it all. I hope that my photography brings out the ocean conservationist in all of us and helps to spread awareness to help save the ocean!”
8. Up and coming
Man BD: “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.”
9. British waters wide angle
Grant Thomas: “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.”
10. British waters macro
Henley Spiers: “Despite appearances, these two Tompot Blennies are not kissing but engaged in a ferocious battle over mating rights. The British summer is mating season amongst Tompots and competition is fierce. I went diving under Swanage Pier in search of these charismatic fish and was delighted to encounter one with the ornate, blue facial markings designed to attract a partner. To my surprise and wonder, he was soon joined by another male and they started tussling. At one point, the dust settled and they remained motionless, jaws locked together, just long enough for me to capture this image. It was a very fortunate encounter and I am delighted to be able to share it through this photo.”
11. British waters compact cameras
Vicky Paynter: “I had a free weekend so took-up a last minute space on our club trip to The Farne Islands. The Farne Islands are home to thousands of grey seals (also known as Atlantic seals), and each autumn hundreds of pups are born here. We’d arrived just before then but there were still plenty of younger seals keen to interact and explore these strange bubbling divers. This picture was taken on the 2nd dive of the day, when my 2 buddies acted as seal magnets and we had some glorious encounters.
“This seal obviously had an itch to scratch, as at one point he lay on his back waiting for his belly to be rubbed and as we were leaving him he was giving his tail a good scratch, pulling some interesting shapes in the process and which must have led to the satisfied grin he appears to be sporting!”