The winners of the prestigious 2017 UK Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition have recently been announced and the winning photographs will take your breath away. With over 4500 images entered from over 67 different countries, the judges were tasked with selecting a winner from an array of high-class underwater images. Not a job to envy with the staggering talent!

The judges included a panel of three experts in the field of underwater photography who hoped to see a wide range of subject matter, visual styles, photographic techniques and genres. The 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year Award went to “Dancing Octopus” by Gabriel Barathieu taken in the lagoon of the little island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.

In addition to Underwater Photographer of the Year, the UPY picked winners in eight other categories such as: Wide Angle, Macro, Behavior, Portrait, and more.

Dancing Octopus

Underwater Photographer of the Year: Gabriel Barathieu (France)

“In the lagoon of Mayotte, during spring low tides, there is very little water on the flats. Only 30 cm in fact. I had to get as close as possible to the dome to create this effect. The 14 mm is an ultra wide angle lens with very good close focus which gives this effect of great size. The octopus appears larger, and the height of water also. Also, I didn’t need flash because I had lots of natural light.”

Dancing Octopus UPY competition

Photo: Gabriel Barathieu/UPY 2017

Out of the Blue

British Underwater Photographer of the Year: Nick Blake (UK)

“Kukulkan Cenote on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula forms part of the Chac Mool system and is noted for the spectacular light effects as the sun penetrates the darkness. I left my strobes behind for the natural light shot I wanted and positioned myself in the shadows of the cavern. Moving my eye around the viewfinder, I could see that the rock outline of the cavern around me made for a pleasing symmetry and I adjusted my position to balance the frame. The light show flickered on and off as the sun was periodically covered by cloud and as it reappeared, I beckoned to my buddy and dive guide, Andrea Costanza of ProDive, to edge into the illumination of some of the stronger beams, completing the composition.”

Out of the blue UPY competition

Photo: Nick Blake/UPY 2017

Oceanic in the Sky

Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year: Horacio Martinez (Argentina)

“This was my first Red Sea experience, and my first liveaboard-based photo workshop, so everything was interesting… but arduous. We were on the last dive of the day and I ventured a tad deeper to get closer portraits of the Oceanic White Tips, when I noticed this shark patrolling in the distance. I took a few shots to expose for the sun beams and the surface, and was pleased by the dreamlike effect. Oceanics are great subjects for close ups as they are anything but shy. Yet, every now and then it is great to try and capture their apparent loneliness, their wandering, and their independence in the big blue.”

Oceanic in the Sky UPY competition

Photo:Horacio Martinez/UPY 2017

Orca Pod

Most Promising British Underwater Photographer: Nicholai Georgiou (UK)

“This photo was taken during an amazing week freediving with wild Orca in Norway. The days are quite short in winter and the water was around 5 degrees but we wore a thick wetsuit. The light had a really nice colour from the setting sun as this graceful pod of Orca swam by nice and close.”

Orca Pod UPY competition

Photo: Nicholai Georgiou/UPY 2017

One in a Million

Category: Wide Angle. Winner: Ron Watkins (USA)

“Last summer I headed to Alaska in search of salmon sharks. We cruised in the boat looking for their dorsal fins for hours and that is when we came across an enormous moon jellyfish bloom that stretched for several hundred meters. The dense bloom of jellyfish ranged in depth from 2 meters to over 20 meters and we spent a lot of time in the water with them. I came across this Lion’s Mane Jellyfish rising from the bloom towards the surface and positioned myself directly over it to capture this image.”

UPY competition

Photo: Ron Watkins/UPY 2017


Category: Macro. Winner: Yatwai So (Hong Kong)

“This photo was shot during a blackwater dive in Anilao. Even though the larvae mantis shrimp (left) is very small, it still a predator which uses its raptorial appendages to hunt. Has it spotted the prey and is ready to pounce?”

UPY Competition

Photo: So Yat Wai/UPY 2017

The Wreck of the Louilla at Sunset

Category: Wrecks. Winner: Csaba Tokolyi (Hungary)

“This is the wreck of the Louilla resting on top of Gordon reef in the Straits of Tiran on the edge of the Sinai. Beneath her lies a pile of her anchor chains, giving the form of a whale. Wrecks become part of the eco-system in no time. Soft corals develop very soon and they can become shelter for schools of juvenile fish. But also, they can have a devastating effect on their surroundings. This wreck sits on top of Gordon reef, battered by the waves and is slowly deteriorating. Last summer, part of the superstructure collapsed, and the wreck lost it’s epic, cinematic look. In a few decades, the reef should be free again from the remains of this once huge freighter.”

UPY Competition

Photo: Csaba Tökölyi/UPY 2017

Your Home and My Home

Category: Behavior. Winner: Qing Lin (Canada)

“Clown anemonefish and anemones enjoy a symbiotic relationship. The parasitic isopods like to hang out in the mouths of anemonefish. Perhaps because of the isopods, Clown anemonefish often open their mouths. These three particular fish were very curious. As I approached, they danced about the camera lens. It took me six dives, patience and luck to capture the exact moment when all three fish opened their mouths to reveal their guests. Finally, on the last day, on the last dive, I succeeded.” Taken in Indonesia.

UPY competition

Photo: Qing Lin/UPY 2017

Face to Face

Category: Portrait. Winner: Ferenc ifj. Lorincz (Hungary)

“We were photographing a big school of bat fish in front of the fully blue background in Shark Rafeen, Rash Mohamed National Park in Egypt, but it is extremely hard to capture a school of fish in a nice position, especially with divers swimming by all the time, so I gave up trying. Not so far from the others I noticed a crevice in a rock, which fish used as a cleaning station, and slowly, very slowly, I swam into the gap, switching places with the cleaning fish. This made it possible to photograph this bat fish front on.”

UPY competition

Photo: ifj. Lorincz Ferenc/UPY 2017

I’ve Got My Eye on You!

Category: Compact. Winner: Jenny Strömvoll (Mozambique)

“I have shot many whip gobies but this particular shot was taken with the Inon compact bug-eye lens which added a lot of character to the goby’s eye. The trick was to get close enough without the goby moving away. I was fortunate enough to find a very forgiving goby who allowed me into his private space. I knew I had to get down low and shoot up to include the surface of the water. I shot this scene many times before getting the image I was after.”

UPY Competition

Photo: Jenny Stromvoll/UPY 2017

Eye to Eye

Category: British Waters Wide Angle. Winner: Melvin Redeker (Netherlands)

“In 2011 I saw my first orcas in the North Sea. It was the inspiration for our Dutch photo project ‘In the North Sea’. We needed the iconic killer whales to raise attention that the North Sea has many fantastic ecosystems and habitats. But first I needed to learn diving and handle an underwater camera. We had studied the behavior of the Mousa pod over a few weeks and decided the best opportunity would come if I hid on the seabed just below the coastal rocks while the orcas are hunting seals. So I was dropped by Fiona (my wife) from our RIB in an area where we anticipated them to come for seal hunting. Staring in a wall of water, suddenly the pod appeared. Totally silent. Eye to eye with these mighty apex predators, my heart skipped a few beats. ”

UPY competition

Photo: Melvin Redeker/UPY 2017

Dragon Display

Category: British Waters Macro. Winner: Kirsty Andrews (UK)

“This cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) noticed me before I noticed it. As I passed, it was skulking behind a rock and wafting its tentacles in what was either a kelpy camouflage tactic or an attempt to warn me away. Cuttlefish will often make this type of threat display and only retreat once it’s clear that the diving photographer or other recipient has not been appropriately cowed. I do love the pose and to me, the outstretched strobe-lit tentacles against a dark background bring to mind a fearsome Chinese dragon. Cuttlefish are fascinating, beautiful creatures and I have had some wonderful experiences in British waters watching them breed, fight, feed, or just interact with divers. I find it terribly sad that in some former hotspots, increased use of cuttlefish pots, especially during the mating season, has had a devastating impact on cuttlefish numbers. ”

UPY competition

Photo: Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2017

Scottish Fireworks Anemone

Category: British Waters Compact. Winner: Simon Yates (UK)

“This was taken on my second shore diving trip to Scotland at Loch Duich near Inverinate. Previous dives were a little frustrating as I hadn’t quite realised that these are found in quite deep and dark water, with the best subjects being at 25m or more. This together with a very soft silty bottom presented quite a challenge to get a well lit image. I am particularly pleased with the “glow” at the centre on the subject. Since this trip, Scottish shore diving is now an annual event for my wife and myself!”

UPY competition

Photo: Simon Yates/UPY 2017

Source: Underwater Photographer of the Year. Check out all the winners here.

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