Jaw-Dropping: The 2020 Winners Of The Underwater Photographer Of The Year Contest
The winners of the 2020 Underwater Photographer of the Year were announced and the photos collection will take your breath away. Every single image is worthy of your attention as photographers pushing the technical and artistic boundaries of the genre. This year's contest was another record-breaker with entries rising to 5500 and the number of photographers also jumping up to 500.
'Frozen Mobile Home' - GREG LECOEUR
"Massive and mysterious habitats, icebergs are dynamic kingdoms that support marine life. As they swing and rotate slowly through polar currents, icebergs fertilize the oceans by carrying nutrients from land that spark blooms of phytoplankton, fundamental to the carbon cycle. During an expedition in Antarctica Peninsula with filmmaker Florian Fisher and freediver Guillaume Nery, we explored and documented the hidden face of this iceberg where crab-eater seals have taken up residence on icebergs that drift at the whim of polar currents"
'Dragon Split' - J. Gregory Sherman
"While Komodo Dragons are primarily land reptiles, they will venture into the water if something warrants investigation. For this image we went out in a RIB to take a look at the Dragons and I had brought along my rig "just in case". One particular Dragon came out and repeatedly got VERY close including trying to climb on and into the RIB on several occasions. I suspect that he has become habituated to humans and was looking for a handout. In hindsight I'm not sure it was the safest thing I have ever done so I'd have to add the caveat 'Don't try this at home!"
'Lemon shark pups in mangrove nursery' - Anita Kainrath
that's where these lemon shark pups spend the first 5-8 years of their lives. I was standing in knee-high water, trying to hold my camera still, waiting for the sharks. Trying not to move when you have mosquitoes and sand-flies buzzing around you was probably the part I struggled with the most at this moment. After less than one hour the little predators came closer and finally swam around my feet and my camera, bumping against me and trying to taste my strobes. They are curious little fellas but you need time to gain their trust and I love observing them in their natural habitat and that's what I wanted to capture.
They are such characters and we need to protect their nurseries in order to make sure their population is not declining"
'Commotion in the Ocean' - Nur Tucker
"This image shows my very favorite of the species, the thorny sea horse. Over time, I have tried many different techniques, with varying degrees of success, including backlighting, side lighting, snooting, panning, double exposure and silhouette shots. I love experimenting even if this comes at the expense of a wasted dive. On this particular dive, in Dumaguete (Philippines), I was keen to aim for something different and potentially offbeat. I began with a panning shot of the sea horse, captured with a 1/4 second shutter speed and a small, f/25 aperture. Then, I used the same settings to capture a panning shot of a shiny scouring pad, carried in my pocket. Both images were merged, in-camera, for the resulting double exposure shot. I must have repeated this sequence 50 times before eventually achieving this one when he made eye contact, which pleased me"
'Say me' - Paolo Isgro
"This photo was taken in Tonga during a Naia liveaboard. On the second day, in the middle of lunch, the cruise director called us because there was a lot of whale action right around the boat. So in a fraction we climb out of the chair, jump into the wetsuit swallowing the last bite and dive into the water. A couple of young whales really want to play with us and minutes after minute they get closer and closer. And it was during a freediving at 10 m that I saw this whale caming so close to me: it looks at me very intensely and says "Hello" in one breath exhaling so many bubbles"
'Last Dawn, Last Gasp' - Pasquale Vassallo
"This winter, I went diving with some local fishermen. At 6 in the morning I was already in the water, as the nets were raised at first light. During the dive I followed the path of the fishing nets from the bottom to the surface. As the fishermen quickly hauled on the nets, I tried to take some shots of trapped fish still suffering in the mesh, such as this tuna (Euthynnus alletteratus)"
'Underwater Fashion' - Wayne Lai
"To be honest, I was not a fan of underwater model photography before taking this photo. During our trip to the Garden of Queen, our group leader Michael AW fancifully dressed up Jessea who is a professional freediver. When I was just about finishing my dive, I suddenly spotted a visually attractive picture of her flicking her sleeves on a crystal clear blue background with a beam of sun rays. Several reef sharks swim outwards as if she is in full command of them. For the first time, I realized that humans and nature can be harmonized in fashion. I couldn't resist the temptation of getting closer to capture this beautiful moment'.
'Amphipod in HD' - yatwaiso
"Both amphipods and pteropods are quite common subjects on blackwater dives. Occasionally, we find the crustacean attached to the mollusc to help it get around. I am always keen to shoot this odd couple because it is such a funny behaviour. However it is difficult because it is small, normally less than 5mm. For this shot I used a 100mm focal length macro lens and a wet lens to get a highly magnified image. Even so, I had to take around 70 frames to produce an image of optimum quality. The key to taking this photo is precise and stable buoyancy and effective finning for manoeuvring around this couple with my eye always in the viewfinder"
'Turtle & Friends' - Henley Spiers
"A large olive ridley turtle rests peacefully on the sea bed as it is manicured by an eager group of reef fish. Turtle shells are often populated by epibionts, or tiny ocean hitchhikers, who use the shell as a home and a way of spreading their gene pool to new areas. They do not harm the turtle in small numbers, but should their presence grow too great, the turtle will be uncomfortably encumbered. To prevent this from happening, turtles have been known to recruit the services of fish, who feed on these epibionts in a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship. Even so, this behaviour is rarely witnessed by divers, and I was delighted to find this scene upon dropping in for a dive at Cabo Pulmo National Park, where strict marine protection measures have resulted in a safe haven for marine life"
'Emperor among drummers' - Scott Portelli
"An Emperor fish tussles for position among a school of silver drummer fish in the shallows at Lord Howe Island, Australia, competing for prime position to devour any scraps left by tourists visiting to watch this behaviour. The Emperor fish spurts a stream of water out of its mouth in an attempt to distract the other fish from a potential free meal"
'Eyes' - Keigo Kawamura
"The Unicorn shrimp usually inhabits around 200 to 300 m deep, but they rise to about 40m due to breeding behavior. There are thousands to tens of thousands of shrimps but there are only a few suitable places to shoot them. The direction and density of the tide may vary depending on the direction, strength, and brightness in the ocean. I went there many times because I could only stay for 15 minutes once a day. I was lucky to be able to find and shoot the ideal situation"
'Great White Bite' - Kimberly Jeffries
"For several days we visited the resting site of a deceased sperm whale hoping to capture the natural events that unfolded. We were treated to visitations from some of the most beautiful and threatened species in the world and witnessed incredible and natural feeding events. One of the most memorable visitors was this newly identified white shark. The behavior of each shark was unique not just to the species but to individual and their reactions to various divers all very different. It was thrilling to document and witness these creatures, knowing that these images would go on to help scientists put together new knowledge and understanding to help protect our oceans"
"Lemons" - Mika Saareila
"I wanted to photograph a Lemon fish couple with backlight and bokeh balloons. The Dive into Lembeh dive guide found a suitable target and placed the light behind it, and I could take the picture I wanted :) Background backscatter and backlighting did add nice bokeh balloons to the picture :)"
'Bling' - Lilian Koh
'It is a slow black water night in Anilao where there is not many subjects in sight and mostly not suitable to use this foreground bokeh technique. I was drifting along the current until this juvenile wunderpus octopus (wunderpus hotogenicus) came along at around 25m depth"
'Octopus Training' - Pasquale Vassallo
At the end of a session of free diving, I noticed a soccer ball, in the distance and on the surface. Intrigued I approached it, and then I noticed that below it was an octopus that was being pulled along by the current. I do not know what it was doing under the ball, but I think it is training for the next football World Cup! There was time for me to take a couple of shots before the octopus let go of the ball and dropped back to the seabed.
Goby Goodness' - Hannes Klostermann
"During the dive that I took this image on I swam a grand total of about 30 metres. I dropped down from the surface and descended towards the shallow, pristine coral reef in the Cayman Islands when I spotted this little fella posing right at the top of a coral head. I noticed the purple sea fan in the background and suspected it would look pleasing with a shallow depth of field, a look I really like in macro photography. After I had taken the first image and reviewed it I knew I would spend the entire dive with this goby, as the complementary colours of the fan and coral head worked very well together. Thankfully, the goby really seemed to enjoy the prime spot at the top of the coral head so it kept coming back to have its picture taken, not minding my close approach one bit"