Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Mike Korostelev, Eduardo Acevedo

13+ Amazing Entries From The Underwater Photographer Of The Year Competition

Whether this is the first time you've ever heard of the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition or not, it presents a lot to get excited about. And according to Dr. Alexander Mustard, the contest's chairman, this is its biggest year ever with 5,000 photos coming in from 65 different countries.

Before it took on its current, international form, the competition has been celebrating excellence in British underwater photography since 1965.

Why British photographers, specifically? That's because William Thompson took the first underwater photo in England back in 1856 and the nation's been at the forefront of innovating and perfecting the art ever since.

And now, we've got a breathtaking sense of how much richer all of that progress has left the world.

This impressive split shot comes from Taeyup Kim of South Korea and it earned him the competition's Up and Coming Photographer of the Year award.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Taeyup Kim

As he said in the competition's yearbook, he was hoping to capture some sharks in this shot of South Fakarava in French Polynesia.

Even though that didn't happen, judge Martin Edge thought Kim achieved a perfect split here.

True to the competition's roots, it has a category for Most Promising British Photographer of the Year, which went to Malcolm Nimmo.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Malcolm Nimmo

Nimmo spotted this jellyfish while snorkeling around the Isles of Scilly. The waters weren't deep, so he was able to shoot directly upwards and capture the sky behind it, which makes it looks encased in the jellyfish.

According to judge Peter Rowlands, the vibrant colors and creative use of angles made the judges like this image more every time they saw it.

This sad image of a trapped turtle earned Eduardo Acevedo of Spain the Marine Conservation Photographer award for turning an environmental issue into a striking scene.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Eduardo Acevedo

Acevedo described the plight of Caretta caretta turtles like this one, who must dodge plastic waste, ropes, and fishing nets to complete a journey from the Caribbean to Spain's Canary Island that takes "many" years.

Under normal circumstances, this net would have meant the end for this turtle, but Acevedo and another photographer rescued it.

As with other awards, many of the Underwater Photographer of the Year honorees were split into categories. For instance, one celebrated excellence in wide angle images.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | François Baelen

The winning image in this category came from François Baelen, who hails from Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.

As far as Martin Edge was concerned, the symmetry of the whale and the way the diver and the calf were aligned made this a shoo-in.

Baelen said that this came down to how co-operative the two whales were since the big one let him shoot so closely and the calf was perfectly curious.

Just to show how stiff the competition can be in this contest, this was one of the images that Baelen's whale photo beat.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Konstantin Killer

This dynamic wide angle shot came from Konstantin Killer of Germany, who achieved two incredibly difficult feats: Taking a great underwater picture in a pool, which is surprisingly harder than in natural waters, and capturing these fast rugby players in motion.

No, Thomas Heckmann of Germany didn't capture a mermaid on camera. Model shots are also acceptable entries for the competition.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Thomas Heckmann

At least, they are in the wide angle category. After finding this clearing in Mexico's Tajma Ha cenote, Heckmann brought this model named Sonja to make the scene complete.

He doesn't recommend doing something like this without a safety diver with "full cave certification" as he had on-site, though.

Unfortunately for Mike Korostelev of Russia, his is only the latest in a series of impressive bear shots the competition has seen.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Mike Korostelev

Judge Peter Rowlands said this "unfortunate reality" ended up decreasing this image's "wow factor" from the judges.

At least Korostelev didn't almost get bitten by a bear cub just to hear that bad news. He captured this image via a remote-controlled camera.

Although an array of incredible shots were submitted in the wide angle category, bringing things in a little closer for the "Macro" category also yielded some great results.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Fabio Iardino

This year's macro king is Fabio Iardino from Italy, who used panning and long exposure techniques to capture the way this cuttlefish moves in an almost dream-like way.

As far as the judges were concerned, Ace Wu of Taiwan took some risks with this multi-colored shot of a nudibranch mollusk.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Ace Wu

As Peter Rowlands explained, dual color lighting as employed here can come across as gimmicky and boring if it isn't used effectively, but the judges loved the results here.

Wu mentioned that it was difficult to blend the blue light into the photo naturally while making the mollusk stand out, but he definitely pulled it off.

Apparently, there are enough undersea wrecks out there that the competition has a whole category dedicated to them.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Rene B. Andersen

This year, the award for the most effective use of a wreck went to Rene B. Andersen from Denmark, who actually appears in this photo as the diver above the sunken HMS Audacious' turret.

Right on Andersen's heels was Tobias Friedrich of Germany, who wowed judges with this panoramic shot of the Chrisoula K wreck.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Tobias Friedrich

The ship, now nestled in the bed of Egypt's Red Sea, had a bow that was too large to fit in one photo, so Fredrich stitched multiple images together in a panorama instead.

This seahorse photo by K. Zhang of Japan was entered into the "behavior" category to capture the natural behavior of sea life, but there's more going on here than that.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | K. Zhang

While Zhang intended this image of a sea horse giving birth to represent new life in the way we can clearly see it, it's also supposed to represent the rebirth of the nation's Minamata region.

That's where this image was taken and it's also a place that was restored through government efforts after severe mercury contamination.

Scott Portelli of Australia nearly claimed the top award in the behavior category for this shot of a phenomenon known as "the heat run."

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Scott Portelli

In this case, 16 male humpback whales were competing for a female's affections and, as often happens with these, a lot of dolphins decided to crash the party.

Although the judges called Portelli's ability to maintain his focus while all of this was going on "heroic," one image topped this category. Since its photographer won the whole shebang, we won't see that one quite yet.

Before we see the winning photo, let's take a look at some friendly fellows featured in the "portrait" category.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Nicholas Samaras

These photos are meant to show a particular creature's character and this bright, colorful shot of a very happy stingray from Nicholas Samaras of Greece certainly achieves that.

It's not hard to see why he was this category's winner.

American photographer Bruce Sudweeks sought to capture a slightly different character from this marine iguana.

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Bruce Sudweeks

It's found only in the Galapagos Islands and Sudweeks felt it looked like Godzilla giving an impish little smile before causing some mischief.

Finally, we have the competition's big winner, British photographer Richard Barnden, who gave us "The Gauntlet."

Underwater Photographer Of The Year | Richard Barnden

This photo depicts a parrotfish's desperate, but ultimately futile efforts to dodge a hungry horde of hundreds of sharks.

Barnden's ability to capture such a dynamic and frankly terrifying moment from the midst of the action earned him both the top honors for British Photographer of the Year and the Underwater Photographer of the Year, period.

h/t: Underwater Photographer of the Year