The Ocean Photographer Of The Year contest has announced the finalist images chosen from thousands submitted from around the world by the planet’s best ocean photographers.
Drone, coastal and underwater images combine to reveal the full spectrum of ocean life in various categories that include Wildlife, Fine Art and two Conservation (Hope and Impact), among others.
This year’s photographs include stunning wildlife encounters such as airborne penguins, spectacular seascapes, a herd of goats on the edge of a coastal desert, a surreal shot of a white-mouth moray and different interpretations of the connection between humans and ocean.
The mission of the Ocean Photographer of the Year competition is to shine a light on the beauty of the ocean and the threats it faces.
The 2023 overall winner and the different categories’ winners will be announced in September.
Meanwhile, all the finalists can be seen here.
“We found this mototi octopus actively hunting in the morning,” says photographer Ollie Clarke. “He was swimming between rocks and I was hoping to capture a motion blur shot of it. I was really excited when he briefly stopped on this crinoid allowing me to capture this shot with so many motion lines.”
Cedric Peneau shot this portrait of a whitemouth moray eel using a macro lens. “I love that its body is covering the background, resulting in this multiplication of dots,” he said. “It was neither a difficult shot to take nor a rare subject but I like the image for its originality.”
“This is a curious spider squat lobster I found on a dive in the Philippines,” says Yung Sen Wu. “For this shot, I waited until it fully opened up its limbs, set the maximum aperture to magnify the blur. I love this whimsical shot!”
A lizardfish’s open mouth reveals a surprise: “It seemed that the lizardfish was trying to swallow the other fish tail-first before it got stuck in its throat,” said Jack Pokoj. “Both fish looked to be in some distress. Lizardfish are ambush predators and swim away if a diver gets too close. So this behaviour was highly unusual. The lizardfish kept its mouth open as if it wanted the fish inside its mouth to escape.”
“Surrounded by diverse wildlife in Paradise Bay, a raft of energetic gentoo penguins charged towards our inflatable,” said Craig Parry. “Freezing the fastest penguin species in the world head-on wasn’t easy as they raced at speeds of over 20 miles per hout towards me. This front-on portrait surpassed even my wildest visions.”
A polar bear walks atop a glacier in Michael Haluwana’s “first polar bear encounter. Everything lined up perfectly — the timing, setting, light, positioning and the added bonus of the waterfall. The toughest part for me was standing on a small zodiac with the ever-changing weather conditions and waves moving the boat around. I took a deep breath and pressed the shutter. I am beyond happy with the result.”
“Meeting this super pod of spinner dolphins was one of the most special encounters I have ever had,” said Merche Llobera. “Before getting in the water they were delighting us on the surface with their acrobatic jumps. In the water, I was enthralled by their energetic and playful presence. It fills the image with vitality and joy. I hope that in the near future, this will be the only way to see dolphins – wild and free.”
“As I descended on my dive at Norris Rocks in British Columbia, I saw Steller sea lions circling me,” recalled Celia Kujala. “They approached curiously and stared at me with their large, soulful eyes. When a group of them approached, everything came together perfectly. Sadly, Steller sea lions are listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List. I hope the image of this curious and playful group conveys their beauty and magic and inspires their conservation.”
“I love the artistry of aerial photography,” says Michael Haluwana. “For this shot, I was harnessed in an open door aircraft flying over Shark Bay in Western Australia, photographing its beautiful coastline. I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay of the golden sand against the turquoise blue ocean. When this herd of goats appeared in view, I was eager to capture it in this frame. To date, this is one of my favourite shots. Many people don’t believe that these are goats in the image because it looks so other-worldly.”
A juvenile prowfish uses a lion’s mane jellyfish for protection and as its exclusive food source while in its juvenile stage. This image was made in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
“I captured this image by staying still, waiting patiently and not exhaling any bubbles into the shot,” Renee Capozzola said. “This image was only possible due to the strong legal protections that allow this species to thrive in Hawaii. By successfully enacting and enforcing these protections, Hawaii shows the rest of the world what can be accomplished through excellent conservation practices.”
“Hidden yet unmistakable, a Northern gannet stares through a cloud of bubbles,” said Henley Spiers. “The bubbles were created by gannets, Britain’s largest seabird, diving in pursuit of fish. The silhouettes in the sky complete the story.”
“This picture shows a grey reef shark coming in to investigate a school of “manini” or convict tangs, which have recently spawned in shallow water near the surface and just before sunset,” Capozzola said. “This image was shot in Fakarava, French Polynesia, which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and an example of a balanced, healthy marine environment where the reefs and sharks are strongly protected. I converted this picture to black and white to emphasise the beautiful contrasts found among the shark, fish, water, and reflections.”
“This image shows a female paper nautilus with egg case riding a small jellyfish and was shot during a blackwater dive in Anilao, Philippines,” says Capozzola. “These unique cephalopods come up towards the surface at night to feed and aerate their eggs, and were mostly unknown to people except the local fishermen until blackwater diving became popular in the area.”
“This photo shows a Caribbean reef octopus mother protecting her eggs.” said Kat Zhou. “Like all other species of octopus, this mother does not eat while she tends to her eggs, and she will die after they hatch. I spent five dives photographing this octopus over the course of a month. It was fascinating to observe and document the development process of her young inside the eggs. It was a bittersweet feeling observing and photographing this octopus, knowing that she would soon pass away.”
“This photo shows a Banggai cardinalfish brooding eggs in its mouth,” said Kat Zhou. “When these cardinalfish reproduce, the female releases eggs into the water, which the male fertilizes and then sucks into his mouth, where he incubates them for about a month. While incubating, the males will usually aerate the eggs every 10-20 minutes. I was lucky to catch this one with its mouth partly open while it was actually facing me.”
A giant manta ray with large wounds is entangled in ghost nets from Thailand. “The ray repeatedly approached divers and allowed them to remove some of the nets,” says Arunrugstichai. “Although most of the nets were removed, some remained and were tightly wrapped around a cephalic lobe, which was close to falling off. A fishing boat captain suggested that these nets are commonly used by boats from Myanmar, highlighting the importance of transboundary efforts for conserving these highly migratory rays.”
A worker sits atop five tons of frozen, dismembered shark carcasses imported from Indonesia inside a refrigerated container. “Although finning is generally seen as a significant driver of shark fisheries in the world, fisheries nowadays are commonly taking the whole sharks instead of only fins as the meat is widely consumed as a cheap protein source and also traded internationally,” says the photographer said. “Nonetheless, whether it is utilised whole or not, the main concern is the sustainability of the fisheries.”
A freediver is surrounded by a shiver of grey reef sharks in French Polynesia. “French Polynesia has made remarkable strides in marine conservation by becoming the world’s largest shark sanctuary for the past two decades,” said Rachel Moore. “They are dedicated to expanding their protective measures further by 2030 to cover more than 350,000 square miles. In the remote reefs of the Tuamotu Islands, one can easily witness the positive impact of their conservation eﬀorts. The abundance of sharks swimming in these waters is a testament to their success. The reefs are thriving, and the shark populations are flourishing.”
“This image shows snorkelers getting too close to a whale shark,” said Laszlo Földi. “Some even attempted to touch the shark. This can be dangerous for the shark, but also for the people. I took this photo to draw attention to the negative aspects of whale shark tourism and to highlight the need for increased regulations around wildlife interactions.”
“Indonesian fishermen carry a tiger shark to a notorious shark market in Lombok,” said Rike Brandt. “This image shows only victims of the shark fin trade – and I don’t only mean the sharks. It might be hard to look at, but it is important to remember that these men are not the ones to blame as they are also exploited by the system. While I was feeling sad, the overall atmosphere at the market was very cheerful, which seemed incongruous to me.”
“This afternoon was one that I am never going to forget,” said Gergo Rugli. “A big swell reached Sydney’s coastline with some waves reaching over 10 feet in height. Very few surfers had the courage to fight with these monsters. It was just before sunset, and the sky was covered with clouds. I didn’t expect any colors, but just before the sun reached the horizon, a gap opened up, and the setting sun painted the whole sky with mysterious red light. I wanted to create a dreamy feeling and started to shoot with a slow shutter speed to capture the unique scene.”
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