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 Bored Panda. “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
1st Place, Marine Life Behavior and Best of Show by Duncan Murrell
Image credits: Duncan Murrell
Spinetail devil rays, (Mobula japanica) engaged in rarely observed or photographed courtship behaviour with two males pursuing one female.
1st Place, Wide-Angle Category, “Gentle Giants” by François Baelen
Image credits: 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.
2nd Place, Wide-Angle Category, “Paddle Boarders Sunset” by Grant Thomas
Image credits: Grant Thomas
Stand up paddle boarders were out exploring the shallow reefs at sunset. I wanted to demonstrate the innate bond humans have with the ocean, whether we are physically in it or floating on the surface. Our inherent relationship with the ocean is eternal and we must care for it in a way that ensures sustainability for the future.
3rd Place, Wide-Angle Category, “Two Inquisitive Friends” by Celia Kujala
Image credits: 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.
4th Place, Wide-Angle Category, “West Coast Flowers” by Geo Cloete
Image credits: Geo Cloete
Each year during the early spring, the normally barren looking West Coast landscape of South Africa undergoes a magnificent transformation as millions of wildflowers bloom and decorates the landscape in a kaleidoscope of colours as far as the eye can see.
When I stumbled upon this scene of sandy anemones (Aulactinia reynaudi) whilst exploring the West Coast coastline, it immediately reminded me of the yearly flower season of the region. Only in this instance nature treats us to this beautiful display year round and a wonderful reason to appreciate and give recognition to the wonders of our coastline much more.
In order to capture as wide a field of view as possible, I relied on my trusty fisheye lens and applied a lens correction function.
5th Place, Wide-Angle Category, “Eclipse” by Edwar Herreno
Image credits: 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.