This Incredible Underwater Photo of a Mother Whale and Her Child Wins $120,000

Whale Underwater

“Essence of Life” by Jasmine Carey (Australia). Grand Prize Winner.
A mother humpback whale is seen resting with her newly born calf in the Kingdom of Tonga. The rain fell rhythmically in a soothing pitter-patter on the water’s surface, gently lulling them. As we floated and watched them, the sound of the rhythm faded just a little and the ocean calmed just enough for the tranquil pair to rise up, meeting the light rays just starting to break through the surface.

Australian photographer Jasmine Carey took home top prize at the prestigious HIPA international photo contest for her incredible underwater photograph. Taken in Tonga, Carey's stunning photo shows a humpback whale resting with her new calf. For her efforts, she'll receive $120,000.

Started by Dubai's crown prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2011, HIPA has transformed into a competitive contest that attracts photographers from around the world. With $450,000 in cash prizes up for grabs, it's also one of the world's more lucrative photo contests. For this ninth edition, the theme was water, and photographers put forth their best work across several categories. There was a particularly strong showing from the Gulf region and Asia, with photographers from these areas sweeping many of the categories.

“We conclude today the ninth season of HIPA, ‘Water,’ man’s oldest friend on the planet,” said Secretary General Ali bin Thalith. “All the inhabitants of Earth know water, but some fear it. The relationship of a fisherman with water is not like that of someone who does not know how to swim. It is completely different from the relationship of the scientific researcher, who is concerned about the frightening acceleration of the melting icebergs underwater. We watch today how the creators of the world see water through their lenses; Water, the major issue that concerns us all, and touches our lives and the survival of our planet.”

Christian Vizl is one of the winners whose celebration of water is particularly moving. The Mexican photographer, known for his incredible black and white underwater photography, won the Portfolio category and took home $24,000. His series of images immortalizes majestic sea creatures in a way that encourages the public to evaluate how they can help preserve this precious environment.

See more incredible winners from the HIPA international photography contest.

Fisherman on Boat in Algae Covered Water

“A Journey Outside Our World” by Apratim Pal (India). 1st Prize, Mobile.
In winter, when the flow of water is very low due to ‘Photochemical Reactions’, a moss like structure is formed and causes water pollution. It refers to the blend of such substances in water that invalidates it for use by humans, flora and fauna. Water pollution affects the whole world as water is the basis of life. A fisherman appears on his boat as if he belongs on the upper deck of the earth and is on a journey beyond our world.

Cascading Waterfall

“The Downpour” by François Bogaerts (Belgium). 1st Prize, Water.
This photo was taken in Iceland. The waterfall is called ‘Dynjandifoss' and is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland (also known as the Fjallfoss or mountain waterfall). With this image, I wanted to capture the beauty of nature and portray how small and insignificant we are compared to this wild nature. By using a slower shutter speed (half a second), the water of the waterfall is shown as a beautiful bridal veil.

Silhouette of a Polar Bear Walking at Night

“King of the North” by Talal Al Rabah (Kuwait). 1st Prize. General Black and White.

Sunbird Drinking from a Flower

“Refection” by Budi Gunawan (Indonesia). 2nd Prize, Mobile.
A crimson sunbird is hovering and quenches its thirst from the flower. This picture was taken approximately 50cm from the bird using artificial light and a reflector.

Portrait of a Sapa Girl with Heterochromia

“The Portrait of Sapa” by Yose Mirza (Indonesia). 2nd Prize, General Color.
Sapa is a Vietnamese girl living in Nha Trang. She suffers from ‘Heterochromia', a condition caused by the increase or decrease in melanin and may be hereditary or the result of a genetic defect. She has unique expressive eyes – one brown and one blue. She is a descendant of the Chams tribe.

Man Wandering Among Old Trees in Poland

“The Silent Witness” by Anna Niemiec (Poland). 2nd Prize, General Black and White.
Over two-hundred-year-old trees in the center of Szczecin (Poland); silent witnesses of many human stories. An old man strolls through these old trees in the quiet of Autumn, like seasons reflecting a passage of time.

People Walking on Cars Submerged in a Flood in Mumbai

“What a problem!” by Shantha Kumar Samba Shivam Laila (India). 2nd Prize, Water.
People climb onto buses and cars submerged in floodwaters to save themselves during the monsoons in Mumbai, India. Water has always been known as the essence of life, however in the recent past, due to climate change, water or the lack of it has become a destructive force. Droughts, floods, tsunamis have become more common now than ever.

Christian Vizl won the Portfolio category for his breathtaking black and white underwater photography.

Whale Underwater in Black and White

“Kingdom of Beauty and Danger” by Christian Vizl MacGregor (Mexico). 1st Prize, Portfolio.
The attraction to the sea makes this photographer a captive of what he can see under the waves. Wandering through the ocean and observing the beauty of the creatures in it, he is communicating with nature directly, always surprised by what he sees. Most people only see these creatures as a source of food but they have voices we can hear and rights we must preserve in the face of danger. Dangers of human destruction of this beautiful environment in several ways—overfishing, pollution, plastic, radiation, climate change and so on.

Black and White Underwater Photograph

“Kingdom of Beauty and Danger” by Christian Vizl MacGregor (Mexico)

Two Dolphins Nuzzling Underwater

“Kingdom of Beauty and Danger” by Christian Vizl MacGregor (Mexico)

Whale and Offspring Underwater

“Kingdom of Beauty and Danger” by Christian Vizl MacGregor (Mexico)

Fish Underwater by Christian Vizl

“Kingdom of Beauty and Danger” by Christian Vizl MacGregor (Mexico)

HIPA: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by HIPA.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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