UPY2024 – the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 contest – is now open and accepting entries until 5 January 2024. The contest, one of the world’s leading underwater photography competitions, attracts thousands of entries each year, with the winners showcased around the world in the mainstream media.
The previous edition was won by Kat Zhou, from the United States, with her Amazonian dolphin photo ‘Boto Encantado’. Chair of the judges, Alex Mustard said: ‘the previous edition of UPY received our biggest ever entry, with 546 underwater photographers submitting almost 6000 photos.
‘That’s a huge jump up from the 2500 images we received 10 years ago when this contest was re-born,’ added Mustard. ‘The 2024 edition is the tenth UPY since this contest was relaunched, although UPY traces its roots back to 1965, when British photographer, Phil Smith, was named the first Underwater Photographer of the Year.’
To celebrate the first decade of its modern competition, UPY is planning a standalone award ceremony in central London, which will feature an exhibition of the winners from across the 10 years of the competition. The regular presentation of prints will be made at the UK’s Go Diving Show, and further exhibitions will be held in both the UK and overseas.
This year’s competition has 13 categories including Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour, Wreck and Conservation, plus four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. The experienced judging panel consists of photographers Peter Rowlands, Tobias Friedrich and Alex Mustard, who will meet in person to judge every image entered into UPY2024.
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Winning images from UPY 2023
Kat Zhou from the United States was named as both Underwater Photographer of the Year and Up and Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year in the 2023 competition with her photograph of an Amazon river dolphin, titled ‘boco encantado’
Commenting on her winning image, Zhou said: ‘There’s a legend among locals in the Amazon that river dolphins, or ‘botos’, can transform into handsome men known as ‘boto encantado’ at night to seduce women.
‘Though I did not witness this elusive boto transformation, at dusk I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way. The water was so dark that I was shooting blind, but this dolphin gave me a perfect pose and smile!’
Competition judge Peter Rowlands said: ‘This is a perfectly timed and composed image of a distinct but rarely well photographed subject, so it stood out from the crowd very early on. Like a chef reducing his sauce, this powerful image improved with each viewing and saw off the incredibly high quality images that this Competition attracts. A pleasure to behold.’
The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Ollie Clarke, an Englishman now living in Australia, was named as the British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 for his image of a whale shark and its accompanying mob of small fish using it as shelter.
Clarke said: ‘The whale sharks on the Ningaloo are often accompanied by bait-balls like this one, where the small fish use the shark as a floating shelter. However, this one was huge, much denser and with a lot more fish than usual, so I was really excited to photograph it. The shark almost looked as if it was getting fed up with the small fish and it was attempting to shake off the swarm.’
Chair of the judges, Alex Mustard, commented: ‘For me this is predator and the prey. Whale sharks are sometimes mis-labelled as plankton feeders, but they are also active predators of schools of small fish. Ollie’s stunning image is perfectly timed as the shark pounces, switching from benign escort to hunter, mouth gulping down its prey.’
Alvaro Herrero from Spain was named the Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023 for his aptly titled image ‘Hopeless’. The image shows a humpback whale with abandoned fishing gear ensnared on its tail.
Herrero said: ‘A humpback whale dies a slow, painful and agonizing death after having its tail entangled in ropes and buoys, rendering its tail completely useless. A reflection of what not only our oceans are suffering, but also our planet, the product of man’s selfishness and lack of responsibility.’
Competition judge Tobias Friedrich commented: ‘What a stunning image and what a message that it delivers. I can’t imagine the sadness when this poor whale has been discovered, but also a good decision to take a few images to actually get a message of awareness out to the public. For me it was clear from the beginning that this image is the winner of the category.’
For more information and to submit photographs, visit the competition website at www.underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com