In photographs: fascinating underwater worlds

From intertwined ‘love bird’ swans to a herd of hungry seahorses, the winning shots from this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year awards capture the breadth and beauty of our aquatic ecosystems

Underwater Photographer of the Year is a UK-based annual competition that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes and even swimming pools.

British photographer Phil Smith was the first ever Underwater Photographer of the Year, named in 1965. Today, the competition has 11 categories, testing photographers with themes such as macro, wide angle, behaviour and wreck photography, as well as three categories for photos taken specifically in British waters.

We pick some of our favourite shots from this year’s competition.

Diving deep: 10 standout shots

British underwater photographer of the year: Grant Thomas (UK)
Love Birds – Luss Pier, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Love Birds: Grant Thomas/UPY 2018

“I have always been fascinated by over-under photography, connecting the everyday terrestrial world that we all know with the less familiar underwater secrets,” Thomas said. “I chose Loch Lomond as the location for this shot due to its idyllic 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 midday, sun high in the sky, when 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.”

Winner, macro category: Shane Gross (Canada)
Seahorse Density – Bahamas

Seahorse Density: Shane Gross/UPY 2018

“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,” said Gross.

The pond I was in has the highest density of seahorses on Earth, but I’ve never seen three together like this before

Winner, portrait category: Tanya Houppermans (USA)
A Sand Tiger Shark Surrounded By Tiny Bait Fish – Wreck of Caribsea, North Carolina, USA

A Sand Tiger Shark Surrounded by Tiny Bait Fish: Tanya Houppermans/UPY 2018

Houppermans said: “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 centre 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.”

Behaviour category: Scott Gutsy Tuason (the Philippines)
In Hiding – Janao Bay, Batangas, the Philippines

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

As content editor, I get to do what I love everyday. Tweet, share and promote the best content our tools find on a daily basis.

I have a crazy passion for #music, #celebrity #news & #fashion! I'm always out and about on Twitter.
Sasha Harriet

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