He’s waving! Amazing images from Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022

Henley Spiers/UPY2022

Spanish photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero has been named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022, for a spectacular image of whale sharks in the Maldives.

The winning image (seen below), called Dancing with the Giants of the Night shows a group of five whale sharks feeding together on plankton, illuminated from above by the lights of a boat.

 Overall winner: Dancing with the giants of the night. Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY2022

The Underwater Photographer of the Year competition has been running since 2014/5, and this year’s competition attracted 4,200 images from 71 countries.

“At the beginning of the night one whale shark came to the light of our boat BlueForce One, we jumped in the water and then another whale shark came,” says Caballero of the winning image. “We were so happy when, a couple of hours later, out of the blue, madness happened and whale sharks started to come in big numbers. I was together with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We counted 11 whale sharks surrounding us. It was a unique moment that no one there had thought it could even be possible.”

Judge Peter Rowlands says: “This image took my breath away from the first viewing and I never tired coming back to it. Scale, light and the sheer numbers of big subjects, it was quite obvious from an early stage that this was, by some distance, our winning image.”

Caballero adds: “Magic happens in the ocean every day, but if we don’t protect the oceans and sharks, these moments will soon be a thing of the past.”

Matty Smith, who is based in Australia, was named British Underwater Photographer of the Year for this portrait of a great white shark in the Neptune Islands, South Australia.

British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022: A 3.5m great white curiously approaches my lens. Matty Smith/UPY2022

“I had wanted to shoot a charismatic over/under portrait of a great white shark for a couple of years,” says Smith. “Some techniques I had previously tried failed terribly, so this time I designed and constructed my own carbon pole and remote trigger. This enabled me to safely lower my camera and housing into the water with my own 12” split shot dome port attached. Surprisingly the sharks were instantly attracted to the camera with no extra bait needed, in fact it was a battle to stop them biting the dome port! We had wonderfully calm seas and nice evening side lighting for this naturally lit image.”

Take a look at some of the other incredible winning and shortlisted images below:

‘Save Our Seas Foundation’ marine conservation Photographer of the Year 2022: Season of anchovy fishery. Thien Nguyen Ngoc/UPY2022

An aerial perspective of busy anchovy fishing activities off the coast of Hon Yen, Phu Yen province in Vietnam. Many local fisherman families along the coastline will follow the near-shore currents here to catch the anchovy during peak season. This image was hailed by judges as a ‘stark visual reminder of man’s reach and control over the surrounding habitat and its devastating effect on the natural balance’.

Wrecks category third place: Coral on the Kittiwake. Karlo Macas/UPY2022

The above image from the wrecks category was taken on the Kittiwake wreck in Grand Cayman where Karlo Macas worked as a dive instructor. Judges praised it as a ‘classic composition with detailed yet graphic simplicity’.

My backyard award 2022: All You Need Is Love. Pekka Tuuri/UPY2022

Finnish photographer Pekka Tuuri spent four days and four nighttime sessions in a pond in 2021 to get this shot. “I wore a drysuit with argon, lots of undergarments and a heated vest to survive in the five-degree water,” he says. “The frogs climbed on top of my camera, make grunting sounds in my ears and squeeze between my face and the backplate of the camera.”

Wide-angle category runner-up: Sunset Ray. Andy Schmid/UPY2022
Most promising British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022: Diamonds and Rust. Paul Pettitt/UPY2022

“This picture [above] was taken on a bright afternoon when I knew the sun would be on the west side of the pier,” says British photographer Paul Pettitt. “The Sea Gooseberries had been around for a while and on this particular day the water was like glass. I floated in the spot I wanted and waited for them to slowly drift by. The background colours represent the rust and weed growth on a metal crossbeam.”

Macro category winner: Mimicry. Javier Murcia/UPY2022
Portrait category winner: Rapunzel on Fire. Thomas Heckmann/UPY2022
Black and white category runner-up: Evening with sharks and birds. Borut Furlan/UPY2022

“I was in Moorea with my daughter in September 2021, in the middle of complete lockdown,” says Slovenian photographer Borut Furlan. “All dive shops and boat rentals were closed and tourists were not allowed to move out from their hotels, except 1km for recreation. Fortunately, our apartment was quite close to the famous spot in the lagoon with sharks and rays and the owner of the apartment arranged two kayaks for ‘recreation’ for us. We were three days completely alone there with all the sharks, rays and birds just for us.”

British waters wide-angle category winner: Gannet Storm. Henley Spiers/UPY2022
British waters living together winner: A peaceful coexistence. Lewis Michael Jefferies/UPY2022

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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