Underwater Photographer of the Year 2020 – Dive behind the water mirror
The jury of the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition has just unveiled the winning photos for 2020, taking us on a deepwater dive to discover some aquatic treasures. A wonderful way of revealing to land dwellers the beauty of an invisible world now under threat.
The British Underwater Photographer of the Year competition, created in 1965, is one of the most prestigious underwater photography competitions. This year, some 500 candidates from 70 countries submitted 5,500 entries in 12 main categories, including Wide Angle, Marine Conservation, Portrait, and Black and White. The competition is a “showcase of the diversity of disciplines and photographic styles that comprise ‘underwater photography’ and we love seeing photographers pushing the technical and artistic boundaries of the genre,” according to UPY member Alex Mustard.
Greg Lecoeur with “Frozen Mobile Home”
French photographer Greg Lecoeur was crowned Underwater Photographer of the Year for his photo entitled Frozen Mobile Home, showing crabeater seals circling an iceberg. The photo was taken during an expedition in Antarctica alongside filmmaker Florian Fisher and freediver Guillaume Néry, two-time world champion and multiple record holder in the discipline. “Icebergs fertilise the oceans by carrying nutrients from the land that stimulate the proliferation of marine life while also providing habitats for larger animals, like these crabeater seals,” explained the photographer, also a winner in the Wide Angle category.
Fish pop art
British photographer Nicholas More won the award for British Underwater Photographer of the Year with a photograph of a school of rabbit fish in movement taken off the coast of Indonesia. The addition of a motion blur effect gives the image a larger-than-life “pop-art” feel, with fish that appear to be literally shooting out of the frame.
Lemon shark nursery
The Bahamas has been a shark sanctuary since 2011. Although the mangroves are not yet protected, it is here that lemon shark pups spend the first 5 to 8 years of their lives. To take this picture, young photographer Anita Kainrath, originally from Austria, spent several hours standing in knee-high water in the middle of the mangrove, assailed by mosquitoes and sand flies. An effort remarked on by the jury, which named her Up and Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year.
This photo, taken off the coast of the Cayman Islands, shows a small goby posing right at the top of a coral head. Its original composition, positioning the subject in the lower left-hand corner, the artistic blurring of the background and the magnificent colour balance caught the eyes of the members of the jury, who awarded its creator, Hannes Klostermann, 1st prize in the Macro category.
It was the picture of an octopus swimming beneath a drifting football, taken by Italian photographer Pasquale Vassallo, that came first in the Behaviour category. It is impossible not to laugh at this incongruous image of an octopus with a ball for a head. But, very quickly, laughter is replaced by a feeling of sadness and discomfort, as pointed out by competition juror Alex Mustard: “As you think, you enjoy seeing the cephalopod playfully investigating with this strange object in its environment. Then the photo poignantly reminds us that oceans have, for too long, been a rubbish dump for all our old and unwanted trash.”
We will leave the final word to Peter Rowlands, another member of the jury, who was moved by the winning photograph in the Marine Conservation category taken by the Italian Pasquale Vassallo: a close-up of a tuna trapped in the mesh of a fishing net, entitled “Last Dawn, Last Gasp”: “All we can do is show the truth to those who live above but can’t envisage the world below and hope that they start asking questions.”