The Underwater Photographer of the Year was just announced for 2019, and the winning images offer an enchanting breadth of what’s beyond the shoreline. For the fourth year in a row, the photo competition has represented different aspects of the ocean through a variety of categories. Winners were chosen in 14 fields including Wide Angle, Macro, Behavior, and Portrait.
Each winning image showcases a different aspect of the underwater world. Some ocean photographs highlight the interesting creatures that lurk below the surface, while others pay homage to the majesty of large mammals such as whales and seals. Other images have a dire message. Eduardo Acevedo was awarded the Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year for his poignant portrait of a Caretta caretta turtle struggling to free itself from a net. It’s a powerful reminder that we need to protect the creatures that live in the ocean by implementing sustainable fishing practices as well as curbing our reliance on single-use plastics.
So, who took the top prize this year? That honor goes to Richard Barnden for his image titled The Gauntlet. It features an action-packed scene of a shark feeding frenzy at the Fakarava South Pass in French Polynesia. There are an estimated 700 sharks patrolling the mouth of the channel by day and hunting at night, and Barden was there to see it.
“The gauntlet is about to unfold,” he describes. “Descending into the darkness I can feel my heart beating a little faster than normal as hundreds of sharks are now covering the bottom. This unlucky parrotfish dodged in and out of the patch coral heads looking for somewhere to hide as swarms of sharks followed in hot pursuit. One grey reef shark suddenly grabbed the parrotfish by its head as the another twisted underneath it to get a better grip. In desperation it hurtled straight towards me as I snapped a few passing shots and curled up into a ball as the frenzy of sharks shot past, leaving only but a few falling parrotfish scales behind.”
See more highlights from the Underwater Photographer of the Year below, and view all 125 awarded images in the winners' gallery here.