Underwater photography opens up a dimension of Mother Earth we don’t normally see. Blackwater diving and shallow reef paddling would be incredibly hard to explain if it wasn’t for the vivid images people brought from beneath the surface. Celebrating the beauty of waters from all over the world, the 7th Annual Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest has just announced its winners, and the pictures speak for themselves.
“The purpose of the [competition] is to find and promote the world’s best underwater photographers and their work,” Underwater Photography Guide’s Managing Editor Nirupam Nigam told. “We’d also like to bring public awareness to the beauty of marine life and the necessity of its conservation. Ocean Art is about discovering and putting a spotlight on new/innovative photographic techniques, amazing animal behaviors, and the beauty of the world’s oceans.”
The judges evaluated thousands of entries from 70 countries before deciding which of them deserved to receive the over $80,000 in sponsor prizes across 16 different categories. “The 2018 competition was our most competitive year to date with a record number of entries. Images from this year’s competition show just how far underwater photographic technology and innovation from underwater photographers have come. As this innovation continues, we have seen a shift in preferred subjects for underwater photographers. It would seem that more photographers are now confident in shooting large pelagic subjects such as sharks, rays, humpback whales, and crocodiles. Although these are impressive subjects by themselves, we looked for the very best photos regardless of the subject. This year we saw an increase in entrants from Asia.”
Scroll down to check out the best images from the competition and read the stories behind them!
More info: uwphotographyguide.com
#1 Honorable Mention, Portrait Category, “Curiosity” By Kyler Badten
My freedive parter and I were surrounded by green sea turtles feeding on algae that washed out from the rocky shoreline on Oahu’s North Shore. I turned to see this turtle swimming directly at me, which was a truly remarkable behavior that I have never experienced before. As I set up to capture the unique encounter, the curious turtle saw her reflection and continued to slowly approach until nearly bumping my dome!
#2 1st Place, Wide-Angle Category, “Gentle Giants” By François Baelen
This unique encounter happened in September 2018 in Reunion Island (Western Indian Ocean) where the humpback whales come here to breed and give birth. The mother was resting 15 meters down, while her calf was enjoying his new human friends. Trust : this is what came to my mind, when this close to 30 ton-animal, still hunted today by mankind, allowed me to freedive behind her and take that shot. From down there, everything seemed unreal: that huge tail centimeters away from me, the calf, my friend free diving symetrically. I knew I would not get a shot like this one again. The post production was all about getting a good white balance and reducing noise, because this photo was taken with natural light only, 15 meters deep.
#3 Honorable Mention, Nudibranch, “Sheep On The Shot” By Chun Ho Tam
My dive master showed me this cute sheep during a dive in Lembeh, Indonesia. Its rouge face attracted me and I decided to take a face shot with snooting it to create a spot light effect.
Chun Ho Tam
#4 1st Place, Macro Ocean, “Ancistrocheirus” By Jeff Milisen
One of the things that makes guiding a blackwater dive so rewarding is the chance to spread my passion to the 6 eager customers. But even guides have to let loose, and for that we find empty boat seats and tag along to hone our skills. On this night, I was going holo holo (for pleasure) when I found this sharp-eared enope squid just under the surface. Most enope squids are small and thus difficult to shoot. As they mature, the difficult paralarva comes into its own. Every detail in the arms, organs, and chromatophores blasts to life in radiant color. Such was the case with this gem of a specimen. At around 3 inches in length, it was easily the largest and prettiest sharp-eared enope squid I recall finding. I caught the guide’s glance and let him show it to the nearby customers, but soon the animal fled down, so I followed where the guide couldn’t. We descended past forty feet, fifty feet, sixty feet while I continued watching, studying, and shooting. Anywhere else and these would be shallow depths, but the middle of the ocean at night is a lonely place. I cruised slowly by seventy feet, the guide’s torch watching me. At eighty feet the kraken’s dancing and squirming still entranced me. Finally, at ninety feet deep, it was time to leave my new little friend at peace.
#5 5th Place, Wide-Angle Category, “Eclipse” By Edwar Herreno
From August to November, golden rays migrate in large numbers in Costa Rican Pacific waters. No one knows the exact reason, but it can be to protection from predators or as a social/mating behavior. I was looking for this picture for years and after several weeks searching and working with biologist specialised in rays, I spotted a good place using my drone. I did several dives in this area and waited patiently, then When they came on top of me, I was shock and forgot that I had a camera in my hands. Any effort I did for this encounter, word it! Simply magic moment.
#6 3rd Place, Marine Life Behavior, “Love From A Father” By François Baelen
When it comes to clownfishes, we can safely say that Daddy does everything he can to make sure the next generation is safe. He takes care of the eggs by making them breathe with his fins; he removes dust, debris and dead eggs from the nest. This was a really lucky shot as I was trying a new wetlens (+20 diopter). It is pretty hard to use because its depth of field is so shallow that I had to focus manually. What a surprise it was to get this lovely behavior and the clownfish eye in perfect focus!
#7 3rd Place, Wide-Angle Category, “Two Inquisitive Friends” By Celia Kujala
The Australian sea lion is one of the most endangered pinnipeds in the world. One place they can be found is Essex Rocks in the Jurien Bay Marine Park. I was in shallow water, when two Australian sea lion pups swooshed in my direction. They were playing and zipping around each other in what appeared to be a beautiful underwater ballet. However, what happened next was even more special. As they neared me, I must have piqued their interest because the two playful friends became two inquisitive friends and swam to check me out. I was able to capture them at the exact moment they were perfectly posed and staring at me with their curious eyes. I love observing wildlife underwater, but the moments when one connects with wildlife are even more extraordinary. I hope to share with people the magic that I felt.
#8 Honorable Mention, Mirrorless Macro, “Face To Face” By Rafi Amar
When I took this picture, a lot of sharks were walking around me, and my Buddy did not understand why I was diving with a macro lens, but I had to photograph this shy fish. For more than an hour I waited for this picture but finally it was worth it.
#9 Honorable Mention, Portrait Category, “Roar” By Jinggong Zhang
This kind of species chaenopsid blenny was found in rocky reefs around Japan, in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. It features a Mohican-like “haircut,” which is usually in red, yellow, or black. This photo of blenny cleaning up its lair was taken in Kanagawaken, Japan.
#10 2nd Place, Novice Dslr, “Smile Of A Friend” By Antonio Pastrana
In my photo dreams I always had the idea of capturing a wild crocodile. But even when I have seen many in the wild, I have never been able to get in the water with one. That morning we saw this crocodile called El Niño. I was told he was nice enough to let you get close to him. He was watching us for quite some time and, when we… Read More