A panorama photograph of British World War II military vehicles deep inside a shipwreck in the Red Sea sees German photographer Tobias Friedrich named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018. Friedrich’s photograph triumphed over 5000 underwater pictures entered by underwater photographers from all around the world. This is underwater photography at its most sublime.
“Cycle War” was taken in Egypt and shows Norton 16H motorbikes loaded in Fordson WOT 3 trucks, with soldierfish schooling above. Chair of the judges, Peter Rowlands, said, “This is quite an extraordinary shot which must be viewed as large as possible. The artistic skill is to visualise such an image and the photographic talent is to achieve it.”
The title of British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 goes to Grant Thomas from Glasgow, who now lives in New Zealand. His photo of swans called “Love Birds” was taken in Loch Lomond, Scotland.
Winner Greg Lecoeur (France), ‘Humpback whale spy hopping’
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: 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. We could feel the power of nature but we were also invaded at the same time a feeling of gentleness.
Winner Shane Gross (Canada), ‘Seahorse Density’
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.
Winner Tobias Friedrich (Germany), ‘CYCLE-WAR’
Panoramic view of the cargo deck inside the SS Thistlegorm with the motorcycles in the middle and light to lighten the trucks on the side of the cargo deck, near Sharm el Sheikh, Northern Red Sea, Egypt.
Winner Filippo Borghi (Italy), ‘the fisherman’
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 diving and fishing. I spent two days in a very shallow waters from 5m to 8m waiting for the right moment. Luckily four birds for two days stay in this area in search of sardines who didn’t care about my presence.
Winner Tanya Houppermans (United States) ‘A sand tiger shark surrounded by tiny bait fish’
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, 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 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.
Black & White
Winner Borut Furlan (Slovenia), ‘Crocodile reflections’
When diving was finished for the day, I asked the divemaster to take me back again to 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. Since there is a strong graphic element in this picture, conversion into black and white made it even more powerful.
Winner Simone Matucci (New Zealand), ‘Dancing with the giants’
Escaping the New Zealand winter for a magical week in Tonga’s underwater dreamland dancing with whales, my wife and I spent 5 days and nights at sea, sailing the Ha’apai islands & swimming with humpbacks. Not another boat was in sight all week. These two adult humpbacks had such a connection with us in the water, literally “dancing”. Humpback whales are such a magnificent species and they need our protection. The entire ocean needs our help. I hope that my photography brings out the ocean conservationist in all of us and helps to spread awareness to help save the ocean!
Up & Coming
Winner Abdul Rahman Jamaludin (Malaysia), ‘ROAR’
When I was shooting this nudibranch I was focusing on its behaviour to get the right shot. A moray eel suddenly appeared out from the blue behind the nudi. To my surprise, another nudi appeared right behind the other one maybe to mate. Having both nudis 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.
British Waters Wide Angle
Winner Grant Thomas (United Kingdom), ‘Love Birds’
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 I noticed how comfortable they were around me. 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.
British Waters Macro
Winner Henley Spiers (United Kingdom), ‘Battle of the Tompots’
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. 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.
British Waters Compact
Winner Vicky Paynter (United Kingdom), ‘Scratchy Seal’
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 two buddies acted as seal magnets. This seal obviously had an itch to scratch, as at one point he lay on his back waiting for his belly to be rubbed. 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!
About Underwater Photographer of the Year
Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that seeks to celebrate photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes and even swimming pools. This year’s judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Martin Edge and Alex Mustard.
For more stunning underwater photography shots, visit their website.
National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Winners: Best Photos 2017