Taking a camera under water brings challenges and rewards for a photographer.
The results of this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year competition highlight what can be achieved in conditions that often combine technical difficulty and extraordinary patience.
The 2016 winner is Gold, by David Lopresti, an Italian photographer who used a macro lens and long exposure to capture a seahorse in the Mediterranean.
Other images captured wildlife from around the world or found a haunting beauty in shipwrecks, all giving a glance into an environment that covers more than 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface but conceal a world we rarely see.
Here the winners tell of their work.
British Underwater Phogorapher of the Year, Dan Bolt, “Catshark Supernova”
Also winner of Category 7, British Macro
Country taken: UK. Location: Thurlestone, Devon.
“Just off a headland in this beautiful bay is a reef system favoured as a laying ground for the eggs, or “mermaid’s purse” of the Small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula). The day I chose to visit the reef for a snorkel I came across many egg cases wrapped tightly into the weed. Positioning my strobe carefully took some time but the resulting image, with the low visibility providing a celestial-like quality, shows the hidden beauty within this system of reproduction.”
Category 3 winner, International Wrecks, Thomas Heckmann, “A Family Affair”
Country taken: Curacao. Location: Tugboat.
“I was unable to descend because I had to take care of Maja, my five-year-old daughter who is unable to snorkel by herself. So my only possibility was a shot from the surface. It was too rough for a normal over/under shot. I decided to try a wave-and-wreck shot with the island of Curacao in the background, all taken while swimming with my daughter. I needed several tries to compose the wreck, the wave and the island in one shot. But at the end I got this real over/under shot with a total other view of the famous wreck.”
Category 4 winner, International Behaviour, Richard Carey, “Turtle Eating Jellyfish”
Country taken: Thailand. Location: Similan Islands.
“After an early morning dive in the Similan Islands, we stopped in a bay to have breakfast. A Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) surfaced near our boat. I decided to get in and snorkel with it, watching it as it searched for food. Soon, it spotted a large Mosaic Jellyfish (Thysanostoma thysanura) a couple of metres below the surface. It swam over to the jellyfish, dived and started feeding on it. The turtle wanted to keep the jelly close to the surface, so every time it swam deeper the turtle would bite on to it and drag it back. I spent a few minutes taking photos, and then left the turtle to finish his meal in peace.”
Underwater Photographer of the Year and Category 2 winner, Davide Lopresti, “Gold”
Country taken: Italy. Location: Sistiana – Trieste
“Over the years, the Mediterranean’s population of seahorses has fallen drastically. Their numbers have only recovered thanks to public awareness and significant restocking. Areas of the sea have now been set aside, protected from harmful fishing methods like trawling. This has allowed vulnerable and delicate creatures, like seahorses, to return. This is what I hoped to celebrate with this image. For this shot, I used a focused beam of light from my strobe to freeze the details in the subject. My aim was to give the scene a sense of grace and strength simultaneously.”
Category 1 winner, International Wide Angle, Mike Korostelev, “Underwater Fisherman”
Country taken: Russia. Location: Kuril Lake (Kamchatka).
“Cages are more commonly associated with photographing Great White sharks, but I constructed a cage to keep me safe as I captured the fishing behaviour of the bear. I waited many hours in the cold water for the bear to come close enough to make my photo. The bear’s strategy is to start by sitting down, putting his head under the water and looking for fish. Once the fish start to ignore him, he creeps closer before making his crucial lunge to snare a large salmon in his paws, or teeth. He would usually stay under water for about 20 seconds. This bear came to this place in the river several times a day. Each time, he caught about five fish and then went for a rest on the beach.”
Up and Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year, Pier Mane, “Three Pillars – Practice & Luck”
Country taken: Bahamas. Location: Tiger Beach.
“Weary of shooting sharks head-on, and keen to avoid diver’s bubbles in my shot, I decided to turn away from the peak action and the crowds it attracts. I wanted sun rays, dramatic foreground, background perspective, and – the cherry on top – to capture the ‘master of the house’ in all of its mystique. The three sponges were well-positioned to set the scene beneath the boat and it took countless shots to balance the elements I wanted, but perseverance, patience and practice all paid off. “
Category 4 third, International Behaviour, Rui Guerra “Millions of Crabs”
Country taken: Portugal. Location: Berlengas Natural Reserve
“Every year, millions of crabs form large red masses in places along the coast of Portugal. This high density of swimming crabs is somewhat rare. On this day we first spotted some dispersed crabs, but it took us almost an hour to find a higher concentration. And a further 20 minutes of blue-water diving until I noticed this immense ‘red cloud’ made up of maybe several thousand crabs swimming through the water. “
Rui Guerra / UPY 2016
Category 4 runner up, International Behaviour, Alejandro Prieto “What Feeds Beneath”
Country taken: Mexico. Location: Todos Santos
“I entered the cold November the water to photograph a pair of humpback whales which passed away very quickly, swimming back to the boat I saw a small moving object in front of me; it was a Hawaiian petrel submerging its head to feed on the tiny crustaceans. Under normal circumstances as you get close it will fly away, but surprisingly instead of this it just kept feeding in front of me. By approaching very slowly I was able to get close from beneath, thankfully it stayed there for a few moments allowing me to capture this behaviour. The Hawaiian petrel is a species classified as endangered by the IUCN.”
Alejandro Prieto / UPY 2016
Category 3 runner up, International Wrecks, Anders Nyberg “Truck Parking”
Country taken: Egypt, Red Sea. Location: SS Thistlegorm
“I really like the SS Thistlegorm and can not get enough of this beautiful wreck. What makes the wreck so unique is the great opportunity to create stunning wreck images, especially if you add one or more off camera strobes to create more depth in the image. For lighting, my buddy and I placed the 3 off camera strobes, one strobe in each truck and a torch in the engine compartment in the first truck. I could easily spend many dives entirely inside this captivating wreck.”
Anders Nyberg / UPY 2016
Category 1 third, International Wide Angle, Greg Lecoeur “Lagoon”
Country taken: French Polynesia. Location: Moorea
“French Polynesia is an amazing place for nature lovers. In the lagoon of Moorea I was snorkeling with an abundance of marine life, most notably these black tip sharks. The topography of the mountains in the background inspired me to realize this half and half photo.”
Greg Lecoeur / UPY 2016
Source: art & life