Here’s a selection of images with an underwater theme that are highly commended in the latest Wildlife Photographers of the Year. The winners of the annual Natural History Museum photography competition will be announced next month
The octopus case by Samuel Sloss, Italy/USA
Highly commended, 15-17 Years
Samuel Sloss is spotted by a coconut octopus, which peeks out from its clam-shell shelter. Samuel was muck diving when he noticed this octopus. He lowered the power of his strobe lamp so as not to distress it. The octopus shut the lid of the shell when Samuel approached, but then slowly opened it, revealing colours and coils. This small octopus hunts mainly shrimps, crabs, clams and small fishes. To protect its soft body when foraging on sand or mud, it hides in various objects – sometimes even coconut shells.
Location: Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia
Technical details: Nikon D300 + 105mm f2.8 lens; 1/320 sec at f6.3; ISO 200; 2x Inon Z-240 strobes; Nauticam housing
The right look by Richard Robinson, New Zealand
Highly commended, Animal Portraits
Richard Robinson becomes the object of fascination for a young whale.
With the whale investigating him, Richard’s main challenge was to swim far enough from the curious calf to photograph it. The encounter lasted 30 minutes, with the whale circling him, swimming off, then returning for another look.
New Zealand’s population of southern right whales, known as ‘tohorā’ in Māori, were hunted to near extinction by European whalers in the 1800s, then by Soviet whalers in the 1900s. Now protected, the population has bounced back from a small group including just 13 breeding females, to more than 2,000 individuals.
Location: Port Ross, Auckland Island, New Zealand
Technical details: Canon EOS 5DS R + 8–15mm f4 lens at 15mm; 1/500 sec at f4.5; ISO 640; Aquatica housing
Just one day’s catch by Srikanth Mannepuri, India
Highly commended, Oceans: The Bigger Picture
Srikanth Mannepuri takes a sobering look at the scale of unsustainable fishing.
Srikanth was shocked to see so many recently caught marlin and sailfish in a single place in one morning. To demonstrate the scale of the fish market, he used a drone to take the image from a bird’s-eye view.
Sailfish and marlin are top ocean predators essential to ecosystems. Globally, 85% of fish stocks are currently overexploited by humans. Without urgent efforts to protect marine habitats and create truly sustainable fishing practices, we will soon begin to lose species forever.
Location: Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, India
Technical details: DJI Mavic 2 Pro + Hasselblad L1D-20c + 28mm f2.8 lens; 1/500 sec at f5.6 (+2.3 e/v); ISO 100
Underwater wonderland by Tiina Törmänen, Finland
Highly commended, Under Water
Tiina Törmänen floats through sheets of cloud-like algae in search of fish.
Tiina was thrilled to meet a school of inquisitive European perch on her annual lake snorkel. During the previous three years, she had only ever found dead fish. Submerged in the surreal scene, she framed the orange-finned fish flying through clouds of pink-tinged algae.
Although it created a beautiful scene, excessive algal growth, a result of climate change and warming waters, can cause problems for aquatic wildlife as it uses up oxygen and blocks out sunlight.
Location: Posio, Finland
Technical details: Canon EOS R5 + 15–35mm f2.8 lens at 15mm; 1/250 sec at f8; ISO 500; Nauticam housing