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10 Incredible Images from the Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards 2022

Winners show amazing ocean spectacles and species and capture vistas from flooded mines to deep shipwrecks
Photo of underwater photographer of the year

The Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY) competition recently announced their 2022 winners and, as usual, there were some unbelievable photos capturing the top awards. One of the world’s most prestigious underwater photography contests, UPY was begun nearly a decade ago, but this year was special, organizers said, because of the recent disruptions from the global pandemic.

“Restriction on travel over the last year may have stopped many photographers visiting their favorite waters, but it hasn’t stifled their creativity as you can see from the stunning photos [in this competition],” Alex Mustard, UPY’s 2022 chair said. 

“UPY aims to celebrate underwater photography in all its forms, and we are delighted that this year’s awarded images represent many genres and are produced by photographers from around the world. The winners reveal amazing ocean spectacles and species, and capture vistas from flooded mines to deep shipwrecks, while many more come from home countries, and some are even taken in swimming pools. But what unites them all, is that they are all photographs that are worth our time to dive into and explore.”

Featured at the top of this page is an image from the overall winner, Rafael Fernandez Caballero of Spain, called “Dancing with the giants of the night.”

“In the ocean magic can always happen,” Caballero said about his winning photo. “But when magic happens all together, you only can think you’re dreaming. This was the case of that night in Maldives. At the beginning of the night one whale shark came to the light of our boat BlueForce One, we jumped in the water and then another whale shark came. We were so happy when, a couple of hours later, out of the blue, madness happened, and whale sharks started to come in big numbers. I was together with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We counted at the same time 11 whale sharks surrounding us. It was a unique moment that no one there had thought it could even be possible.”

Check out more of the winners, runners-up, and highly commended photos from the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 competition below. See all the winners here. On a slightly different note, here are 17 hilarious winners of last year’s Comedy Pet Photo Awards.

British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022: Matty Smith (Australia)

Photo of a shark
Smith’s winning image is titled, “A 3.5m great white curiously approaches my lens.” Here’s what he had to say about it: “I had wanted to shoot a charismatic over/under portrait of a great white shark for a couple of years. Some techniques I had previously tried failed terribly, so this time I designed and constructed my own carbon pole and remote trigger. This enabled me to safely lower my camera and housing into the water with my own 12” split shot dome port attached. Surprisingly the sharks were instantly attracted to the camera with no extra bait needed, in fact it was a battle to stop them biting the dome port! We had wonderfully calm seas and nice evening side lighting for this naturally lit image.”

My Backyard Award 2022: Pekka Tuuri (Finland)

Photo of two frogs making love
Tuuri’s winning image is titled, “All You Need Is Love.” Here’s what he had to say about it: “This love pond is in my backyard, a 20-minute drive from home. And it has rewarded me plentifully over the past ten years. It is full of love in late April. The common frogs come first, then toads and finally newts. I spent four days and four night-time sessions in it in 2021. I wore a drysuit with argon, lots of undergarments and a heated vest to survive in the five-degree water. I floated and stayed put among the frogs and quite soon they accepted me and my camera as a part of the scenery. The frogs climb on top of my camera, make grunting sounds in my ears and squeeze between my face and the backplate of the camera. The active spawning time lasts about two days and nights.”

Wide Angle Runner Up: Andy Schmid (Switzerland)

Photo of a stingray
Schmid’s image is titled “Sunset Ray.” Here’s what he had to say about it: “I had heard and seen so many good things about the ‘Tuna Factory’ dive site close to Malé in the Maldives and was looking forward to diving this site hoping to see Guitar Rays or big sharks like Bull or Tiger Sharks that are regularly seen there. Because it was the last dive on a liveaboard trip before I flew out early the next day however, I had to stay shallow. So, while everybody else went deep looking for bigger fish I stayed up in the shallows and played around with what the site had to offer: schooling Bannerfishes, Stingrays and Moray Eels that are looking for tuna skins, bones and heads that are dumped into the ocean by the tuna factory. I quickly found a great spot where I could shoot against the setting sun, framing the schooling Bannerfishes and the Pink Whiprays that were constantly circling the area.”

Behavior Runner Up: Javier Murcia (Spain)

Photo of a fish eating a fish
Murcia’s image is titled “The Circle of Life.” Here’s what he had to say about it: “This image is the result of many years working on animal behavior. A diseased species is usually easy prey for a predator since it uses little energy. In this case, a Mediterranean predatory fish (Sereranus scriba) has hunted a green fish (Labrus viridis), an endemic species to the Mediterranean and abundant in the Posidonia oceanica meadows. The moment was unique, the green wrasse swam slowly and roughly, it was probably sick, and a few meters away I could see the sawing hiding among the dense posidonia meadow to hunt it down. It was a matter of being patient and in the blink of an eye I caught it. It was so interested in swallowing it that I was able to get within a few inches without flinching. And so is the cycle of life.”

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