The winners of the British 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest have just been announced, revealing an enchanting collection of underwater photography that captures the beauty of aquatic life. With more than 5,000 submissions from photographers around the world, the winners were chosen from 11 different categories, including Wide Angle, Macro, Wrecks, Behavior, Portrait, Black & White, as well as categories specifically for British Waters.
The top prize went to German photographer Tobias Friedrich who was crowned Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018. His entry CYCLE-WAR reveals British World War II military vehicles, deep inside a shipwreck that was lost in the Red Sea, by Egypt. The amazing panoramic view shows row upon row of Norton 16H motorbikes, loaded in Fordson WOT 3 trucks, hidden under a thick blanket of fluorescent green sea moss, with a battalion of soldierfish swimming above.
The title of British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 was awarded to Scottish photographer Grant Thomas. His photo Love Birds features a pair of swans in Loch Lomond, Scotland, captured with their heads dipped underwater in perfect symmetry. Thomas explains, “The swans were searching for food beneath the surface, I just had to wait for that perfect moment of synchronicity.”
With an aim to promote new talent, the competition also awarded a prize for Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018. This year’s winner was Malaysian photographer Man BD for his incredible image titled Roar. Capturing the dramatic dangers of the deep blue, his image shows a pair of sea slugs that are about to be eaten by a terrifying moray eel. Another award, for the Most Promising British Underwater Photographer, 2018 was presented to English photographer and “rising star” Tony Stephenson for his image How Many Pike? It reveals glistening pike swimming in the murky waters of Stoney Cove, Leicestershire.
Scroll down to see the some of the best images from the 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest, along with captions from the photographers.
“For a few years now I had had this image in mind as the motorcycles on this truck inside the Thistlegorm lie so perfectly together, but you can only barely capture it because the wall is very close and you can’t move backwards enough to capture the whole scenery. As a result I had to create a panoramic image of the same scene to capture the whole cargo deck, including some lights that give the image more depth.”—Tobias Friedrich.
“I have always been fascinated by over-under photography, connecting the everyday terrestrial world that we all know with the less familiar underwater secrets. I chose Loch Lomond as the location for this shot due to its idilic scenery, water access and friendly swans. My initial idea was to frame a split shot of one swan feeding below the surface of the water but when I noticed how comfortable they were around me I was confident, with some patience, I could get that magical shot of the two. It was mid-day, sun high in the sky, I waded slowly into the shallow water, allowing the swans to become comfortable with my presence. When they began searching for food below the water line I just had to wait for that perfect moment of synchronicity.”—Grant Thomas.
“When I was shooting this nudibranch I was focusing on it’s behaviour to get just the right shot. While this happened a moray eel suddenly appeared out from the blue behind the nudi. I was shocked for a while but decided it would be a great composition. As a few minute flew by to my surprise another nudi appeared right behind the other one maybe to mate. Having both nudi’s and a moray eel was a double surprise for me. I then decided to wait a while longer for the nudi to be in frame with the moray eel roaring behind. It took about 30 minutes to get this shot and it was well worth it.”—ManBd UiDive.
“Each year, I go to Tonga to lead a small group of nature enthusiasts to photograph humpback whales. Tonga offers probably the best opportunity to interact with the whales in blue water. This year was very special, with my friends we had sone of my best moments in my underwater photographer’s life: Very curious and playful whales came to investigate us and adopt the spy hopping posture in front of our masks. Although weighing several tens of tons this mammal showed incredible agility and power in holding itself vertically in the water. It was very impressive and we could feel the power of nature but we were also invaded at the same time a feeling of gentleness. I had the chance to freeze this moment with a split shot to recreate a spectacular moment.”—Greg Lecoeur.
“Shark behaviourist Ms. Cristina Zenato has been studying Caribbean Reef Sharks near Freeport in The Bahamas for over 24 years The unique bond between her and the sharks allows her to get really close to them without putting them into tonic immobility and this has been helping many scientists, photographers and conservationists better understand and protect this beautiful species.
Unlike in the movies, sharks in fact seldom attack humans on purpose and humans are not on their menu at all, on the contrary countless sharks are killed by humans just for their fins. Without these ancient animals the ocean will be completely different, and it will eventually become a disaster for mankind.”—Fan Ping.
“The pond I was in has the highest density of seahorses on Earth, but I’ve never seen three together like this before. I was camping on shore and had all night to shoot with the idea of backlighting a single seahorse, but finding three together was a real gift. I was super careful not to disturb them because they will swim away if they’ve had enough. I had my off-camera strobe and an underwater flashlight on a small tripod which I placed behind and below the trio. Then I waited for them to all turn in way that you could see their silhouette. The sun was setting and as it got darker the plankton really began to pile up. When the seahorses ate some of the plankton I could tell they were relaxed. We are still working on getting this special place protection so I cannot reveal the exact location.”—Shane Gross.
“I’ve had many encounters with this conger eel and I’ve have taken a few photos, but never have I seen it in such a picturesque manner as this, As if drawing you in by coiling its body and at the same time darting its eyes on a lone prey – it is because of breathtaking sights like this that I fell in love with underwater photography and to do it justice I really aimed to capture the moment in perfect detail. To capture the intricate details of the subject, proper strobe positioning was the key factor in getting the shot that I wanted as even a little error in lighting would rob the picture of its immaculacy.”—Songda Cai.
“In winter time in the Izu peninsula in tokio area the asiatic cormorant stop for couple of month before moving to China. So this is the best moment for try to shoot this amazing sea bird during diving and fishing. I Was in this area and I spent two days in a very shallow waters from 5m to 8m waiting for the opportunity to take a right moment for have this photos. Luckily four birds for two days stay in this aera in search of sardine and don’t care about my presence during his diving session give me the chance to sort it.”—Filippo Borghi.
“Taken at a depth of 15 meters in 200-250m deep water. Towards the end of the ‘Blackwater’ dive, Edwin, one of our divemasters, called me over to show me this beautiful Jellyfish, for me only to realise it had a juvenile Trevally within it, and to my amazement, it was wedged between the bell and the tentacles! I had seen many Jack and Jelly combos before but never like this. I shot around 20 frames and right on the last few frames it turned towards me to give me this very unusual portrait of a behaviour I had never seen before.”—Scott Gutsy.
“I always look forward to diving the wreck of the Caribsea and seeing the fierce-looking, but docile, sand tiger sharks that frequent the wreck. On this day as I descended to the wreck, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Millions of tiny fish, collectively known as “bait fish”, were grouped together in an enormous bait ball above the wreck, with dozens of sand tigers lazily meandering among the fish. As I slowly swam to the center of the bait ball, I looked up and noticed a sand tiger a few feet above me. I swam on my back underneath her, trying not to startle her. As I moved with the shark through the water the bait fish parted way, giving me a clear shot of the underside of this beautiful shark, and also one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had yet as an underwater photographer.”—Tanya Houppermans.
“When diving was finished for the day, I asked the divemaster to take me back again to a place, where seawater crocodiles are usually seen. I wanted to shoot them in low evening sunlight, when the sky turns into warm colours. When we arrived, the sun was already on the horizon and it was very dark in the water. I pushed ISO settings high to get some warm ambient light into the picture and set the power of my strobes low. Fortunately the crocodile was very cooperative and since we were both very calm, beautiful reflections appeared on the surface. I shot many images with his reflections and this one was my favourite. Since there is a strong graphic element in this picture, conversion into black and white made it even more powerful.”—Borut Furlan.
“Despite appearances, these two Tompot Blennies are not kissing but engaged in a ferocious battle over mating rights. The British summer is mating season amongst Tompots and competition is fierce. I went diving under Swanage Pier in search of these charismatic fish and was delighted to encounter one with the ornate, blue facial markings designed to attract a partner. To my surprise and wonder, he was soon joined by another male and they started tussling. At one point, the dust settled and they remained motionless, jaws locked together, just long enough for me to capture this image. It was a very fortunate encounter and I am delighted to be able to share it through this photo.”—Henley Spiers.
“I had a free weekend so took-up a last minute space on our club trip to The Farne Islands. The Farne Islands are home to thousands of grey seals (also known as Atlantic seals), and each autumn hundreds of pups are born here. We’d arrived just before then but there were still plenty of younger seals keen to interact and explore these strange bubbling divers. This picture was taken on the 2nd dive of the day, when my 2 buddies acted as seal magnets and we had some glorious encounters. This seal obviously had an itch to scratch, as at one point he lay on his back waiting for his belly to be rubbed and as we were leaving him he was giving his tail a good scratch, pulling some interesting shapes in the process and which must have led to the satisfied grin he appears to be sporting!”—Vicky Paynter.
“Living in the East Midlands in England is a long way from the sea and as a result, a lot of my diving takes place in the quarry at Stoney Cove, the UK’s National Diving Centre. I love photographing pike and on this particular dive during the Easter holidays, a ‘group’ of males were looking for a mate. Once they found one they pursued her relentlessly and were completely transfixed on gaining her attention. This allowed me to get close in front of the fish, fill the frame and aim to get lots of good eye contact. I was delighted by the results. I hope that I have demonstrated that UK inland diving can throw up some amazing sights that are a pleasure to witness and photograph.”—Tony Stephenson.