The ocean is as beautiful as it is scary. The 2018 Underwater Photography Of The Year (UPY) contest have just announced its winners, and they have perfectly captured the many treasures of the world down below.


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All photos had to be taken underwater (split-level images were permitted too, as long as a part of the image was underwater). There were also no restrictions on post processing. Photographers from 63 countries submitted more than 5,000 photos to compete in the 11 categories as well as the grand prize.

German photographer, Tobias Friedrich, was the one who got it. Tobias' piece is called ‘CYCLE-WAR’ and shows a panoramic view of the shipwrecked SS Thistlegorm, stocked with rows of 16H motorbikes loaded into Fordson WOT 3 trucks. Friedrich said he chose the location because he had been there a few years previous, but hadn’t caught the right shot. The second time around still proved to be a challenge.

“It took my an entire dive to place the lights and the diver in the background like I had it in mind. On the second attempt the panoramic image worked out as well.”

For underwater photography there is more to a shoot than getting the right angle, the photographer elaborated.

“Often can’t dive longer than 60 minutes, so you need to be quick for your images. As well, the density of water is 700 times higher than air, so everything that is more than 5-10 meters away will be difficult to see to to get light on.”

While it took true talent to grab the essence of the Thistlegorm, there was some editing magic involved. Friedrich merged five to six images together with the added use of

contrast, saturation and white balance. For a clean look he removed any added particles or “backscatter.”

For competition judge Peter Rowlands it was this kind of artistic composition that set Friedrich apart.

“Perfectly lit and composed, I predict that there will never be a better shot of this subject from now on.”

More info: underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com

#1 British Waters Compact Category: "Peek-A-Boo!" By Martin Edser, Uk

British Waters Compact Category: "Peek-A-Boo!" By Martin Edser, Uk

It's always fun to dive with and photograph seals but this encounter was extra special. I had not seen any on this dive probably because it was late afternoon and they were enjoying a sensible nap on shore. I was beginning to lose hope when out of nowhere a head popped up out of the kelp and gave me an inquisitive stare. It disappeared again as quickly as it appeared... Read More

It's always fun to dive with and photograph seals but this encounter was extra special. I had not seen any on this dive probably because it was late afternoon and they were enjoying a sensible nap on shore. I was beginning to lose hope when out of nowhere a head popped up out of the kelp and gave me an inquisitive stare. It disappeared again as quickly as it appeared only for the head to pop up again a few moments later in what I can only describe as a game of 'Peek-a boo'! The water was murky and flash was not really an option, but we were shallow and it was a bright afternoon so anticipating where the head was likely to appear and using a wide aperture and as fast shutter speed as I could, allowed me to capture this memorable experience and the face of my playmate.

Martin Edser Report

ZombieGirl5591 2 months ago

This photo actually did take my breath away, lol. Wasn't expecting that. Something about it...its magical

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#2 Portrait Category Winner: "A Sand Tiger Shark Surrounded By Tiny Bait Fish" By Tanya Houppermans, USA

Portrait Category Winner: "A Sand Tiger Shark Surrounded By Tiny Bait Fish" By Tanya Houppermans, USA

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.... Read More

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 Report

Daria B 2 months ago

Shark: "Heaven..... I'm in heaven..... ♬♪" (so much food)

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#3 Black & White Category: "Morning Flight" By Filippo Borghi, Italy

Black & White Category: "Morning Flight" By Filippo Borghi, Italy

During spring time from April to June on the coast of Baja California we can witness one of the most impressive migrations of the sea. Thousands of mobula ray's migrate along this coast. I try many times to find this incredible behavior but some how this has not occurred. This year, during a morning safari on the sea we saw a different group of beautiful mobular. I jumped in the... Read More

During spring time from April to June on the coast of Baja California we can witness one of the most impressive migrations of the sea. Thousands of mobula ray's migrate along this coast. I try many times to find this incredible behavior but some how this has not occurred. This year, during a morning safari on the sea we saw a different group of beautiful mobular. I jumped in the water and we followed them for a couple of hours and during this time a small group moved into a shallow area where I was able to shoot in great light.

Filippo Borghi Report

Nini Meow 2 months ago

Looks like bats in a batcave

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#4 Black & White Category: "Hypnosis" By Wendy Timmermans, Netherlands

Black & White Category: "Hypnosis" By Wendy Timmermans, Netherlands

I'm a freediving Vice-World Champion and can dive up to 83 meter while holding my breath. But diving deep is only one small part of my passion for the underwater world and for me, freediving the Mexican Cenotes has been a dream for many years. As freedivers, we explore the abyss on one breath only, in its purest way. It allows us to move gracefully through the water and makes... Read More

I'm a freediving Vice-World Champion and can dive up to 83 meter while holding my breath. But diving deep is only one small part of my passion for the underwater world and for me, freediving the Mexican Cenotes has been a dream for many years. As freedivers, we explore the abyss on one breath only, in its purest way. It allows us to move gracefully through the water and makes time stand still for a moment. The calmness, beauty and serenity of this remote Cenote magnified the state of tranquillity inherent in our sport. The picture shows fellow freediving underwater photographer Guillaume Bihet. Together we create our images and share our work as Seadrops Photography. Freediving gives us the perfect tool to move around freely and improvise. Taken with natural light only, in Nah Yah Cenote, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

Wendy Timmermans Report

JillVille 2 months ago

WOW. There's something about this one. Very neat.

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#5 British Underwater Photographer Of The Year. "Love Birds" By Grant Thomas, Uk

British Underwater Photographer Of The Year. "Love Birds" By Grant Thomas, Uk

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... Read More

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 Report

Laugh Fan 2 months ago

Lovely, simply lovely.

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#6 Macro Category: "Pretty Lady" By Tianhong Wang, China

Macro Category: "Pretty Lady" By Tianhong Wang, China

This is a Japanese pygmy seahorse, a lot of creatures in order to protect themselves, will stay in their own and similar color environment, so the adjacent color in the natural color will be easier to find. When I took this shoot, I used a large aperture and tried a variety of different combinations of lighting methods to blur the background to highlight the subject, but at the same time... Read More

This is a Japanese pygmy seahorse, a lot of creatures in order to protect themselves, will stay in their own and similar color environment, so the adjacent color in the natural color will be easier to find. When I took this shoot, I used a large aperture and tried a variety of different combinations of lighting methods to blur the background to highlight the subject, but at the same time using the adjacent colors in the background, and then vivid contrast in harmony. The purpose is to make it a more unified background and subject, with a pink background to set off the subject, can make it a lovely character, give a better impression.

TianHong Wang Report

Laugh Fan 2 months ago

Looks like it's partly made of sequins!

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#7 Wide Angle Category: "Blacktip Rendezvous" By Renee Capozzola, USA

Wide Angle Category: "Blacktip Rendezvous" By Renee Capozzola, USA

In French Polynesia, there is a healthy shark population thanks to their strong protection. It is my favourite place to photograph sharks as they often frequent shallow waters, which are perfect for split shots. It was my intention to go out at sunset and try to capture an over-under of the sharks. This shot was challenging as there was only a short time period when the sun was at the... Read More

In French Polynesia, there is a healthy shark population thanks to their strong protection. It is my favourite place to photograph sharks as they often frequent shallow waters, which are perfect for split shots. It was my intention to go out at sunset and try to capture an over-under of the sharks. This shot was challenging as there was only a short time period when the sun was at the horizon and it required multiple attempts over several days. A small aperture, large dome port, and flash were used for this image. Sadly, up to 100 million sharks are lost every year, mainly due to overfishing and the high demand for shark fin soup. Sharks signify a balanced marine ecosystem. It is my hope that images such as this will capture peoples' attention and help raise awareness for sharks and other marine animals throughout the world.

Renee Capozzola Report

Cerys Dunbar 2 months ago

cant imagine the amount of patience you must have to capture these gorgeous photos

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#8 Wide Angle Category Winner: "Humpback Whale Spy Hopping" By Greg Lecoeur, France

Wide Angle Category Winner: "Humpback Whale Spy Hopping" By Greg Lecoeur, France

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... Read More

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 Report

Laugh Fan 2 months ago

Fantastic shot.

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#9 Macro Category Winner: "Seahorse Density" By Shane Gross, Canada

Macro Category Winner: "Seahorse Density" By Shane Gross, Canada

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... Read More

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 Report

Aline Bojan 2 months ago

GOD! This one is awesome!!

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#10 Black & White Category Winner: "Crocodile Reflections" By Borut Furlan, Slovenia

Black & White Category Winner: "Crocodile Reflections" By Borut Furlan, Slovenia

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... Read More

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 Report