Jialing Cai, Overall Winner Ocean Photographer of the Year. A Paper Nautilus drifts on a piece of ocean debris at night, surrounded by heavy sediment. Photo: Philippines
Marine biologist and amateur photographer Jialing Cai has been named the 2023 Ocean Photographer of the Year thanks to her stunning image of a paper nautilus floating on a piece of debris just after a volcanic eruption in the Philippines. Cai went on a blackwater dive shortly after the eruption and was rewarded with this image, which put the 25-year-old ahead of the other talented entrants to the contest.
Cai became fascinated with blackwater dives after learning about diel vertical migration (DVM), when zooplankton move from the deep ocean to the surface at night. “That hit me like lightning,” says Cai. “My professor was telling me the deep sea was within my reach, that it would come to me. That realization was mind-blowing. It’s why [I’ve become] so obsessed with blackwater photography.”
The other winners of the annual contest, which is organized by Oceanographic Magazine, are equally impressive. From a young polar bear desperately clinging to melting ice to two friendly manatees getting up close with a photographer, the images are a beautiful look at all the ocean has to offer.
The contest also awards young talent, with photographer Jarvis Smallman named Young Ocean Photographer of the Year. His image of a bodyboarder in Western Australia paddling out to take on the waves is a stunning look at how humans challenge the power of the ocean in a quest for adventure.
All of the winners will be included in a five-month-long exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum. Opening November 17, 2023, it's a wonderful way to see these winning images in person. Scroll down for the winners and some of our other favorites, and check out the full winner's gallery online.
Here are the winners of the 2023 Ocean Photographer of the Year awards.
Florian Ledoux, Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year (Impact). A polar bear cub contends with the fragility of melting ice. Location: Svalbard, Norway
Andrei Savin, Runner Up Ocean Photographer of the Year. A crab sits in the center of a sea anemone as it sways in ocean current. Location: Philippines
Merche Llobera, Female Fifty Fathoms. Two manatees pose for the photographer. Location: Florida
Nicholas Holton. 3rd Place Ocean Wildlife Photographer of the Year. A humpback whale lands gracefully on its back after launching its enormous frame out of the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Location: Australia.
Sirachai Arunrugstichai, Ocean Portfolio Award. A young grey reef shark is hooked by an angler at night at Burma Bank, an offshore plateau in the Andaman Sea. Location: Myanmar
All of the winners give a diverse look at all the ocean has to offer.
Todd Glaser, Adventure Ocean Photographer of the Year. While surfing North Shore’s famous Banzai Pipeline, a rainbow appears. Location: O’ahu, Hawaii
Jarvis Smallman, Young Ocean Photographer of the Year. A bodyboarder paddles out to sea, while big storm clouds block the sun and create an electric blue color effect on the wave. Location: Western Australia
Sylvie Ayer, Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year (Hope). A manatee enjoys the crystal-clear waters of the Homosassa River. Location: Florida
Jack Pokoj, Ocean Wildlife Photographer of the Year. A lizardfish’s open mouth reveals its last meal. Location: The Philippines
Jade Hoksbergen, Ocean Fine Art Photographer of the Year A whale shark and its entourage of remoras is attracted by the bright lights of fishermen. Location: The Maldives
Jingyi Wang, The Human Connection Award: People and Planet Ocean. Artisanal fishing fences stand proudly in the sea. Location: China
Craig Parry. Runner Up Ocean Wildlife Photographer of the Year. A gentoo penguin, the fastest penguin species in the world, charges across the water. Location: Antarctica
Jeroen Hoekendijk, 3rd Place The Human Connection Award: People and Planet Ocean. On a stormy, grey morning, a horse rider meets one of the victims of a mass stranding of whales. Location: The Netherlands
Jules Casey, Runner Up Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year (Hope). Two pale octopuses sit on a pipe that forms part of an artificial reef built to attract octopuses and other marine life to the area. Location: Australia
Gergo Rugli, Runner Up, Ocean Adventure Photographer of the Year. A surfer braves a big swell, while the setting sun paints the sky red. Location: Sydney, Australia
Alvaro Lopez, 3rd Place Ocean Photographer of the Year. A whale struggles on, its flukes severely damaged as a result of continued entanglement. Location: Mexico