The winners of the annual Underwater Photographer of the Year competition for 2022 have been announced, and their portfolios show how beautiful, weird, and endangered our seas, lakes, and river ecosystems are. The UK-based competition, which features talent from all around the world, includes 13 categories in which photographers are challenged to submit their finest work in Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour, and Wreck photography.
Matty Smith was named British Underwater Photographer of the Year for his shot “Great White Split” (shown above). Off the Neptune Islands in South Australia, we see a great white shark stuck between the water and its surface. Smith used a special supersize dome port for his camera, as well as a carbon pole and remote trigger to capture the photo from a safe distance.
“For a number of years, I’d wanted to photograph a charismatic over/under portrait of a great white shark,” Smith remarked. “Because some of my previous attempts had failed miserably, I devised and built my own carbon pole and remote trigger this time.” Surprisingly, the sharks were drawn to the camera without any additional bait, and it was a battle to keep them from biting the dome port!”
Rafael Fernandez Caballero was named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 for an incredible snap of a moonlight feast among a group of whale sharks in the Maldives. The lights of a boat had focused their nighttime diet of plankton, bringing these ocean giants within shoot with just enough light to see, which was convenient for the whale sharks – and Fernandez.
“Magic can always happen in the ocean.” When magic happens all at once, however, you can only believe you’re dreaming. “This was the scenario that night in the Maldives,” Fernandez explained. “Out of nowhere, craziness struck, and whale sharks began to arrive in large numbers.” Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, was beside me and couldn’t believe what we were seeing. At the same time, we spotted 11 whale sharks around us. It was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that no one had anticipated.”
Thien Nguyen Ngoc, a Vietnamese photographer, has been named “The Save Our Seas Foundation” Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2022. His aerial photograph “Big Appetite” illustrates the fight for keystone species like the anchovy, which is a mainstay in Vietnamese cuisine but whose population is rapidly dropping, threatening whales, sea birds, and other marine predators.
My Backyard Winner & Category Winner Pekka Tuuri proved that you don’t have to travel to the farthest ends of the earth to take memorable images. “All You Need Is Love,” his photograph, was taken in a pond 20 minutes from his home. “In late April, it’s full of love,” Tuuri added. “Common frogs are first, followed by toads, and finally newts.” In 2021, I stayed there for four days and four nights. To be warm in the five-degree water, I wore an argon drysuit, a lot of underwear, and a heated vest.”
“I floated among the frogs and stayed put, and they eventually accepted me and my camera as part of the scenery.” The frogs crawl to the top of my camera, grunt in my ears, and squeeze between my face and the camera’s backplate. The active spawning period is two days and nights long. What a memorable event with numerous photo opportunities!” Throughout the pandemic, finding beauty in unexpected places was a recurring topic for the competition.
“Travel restrictions over the last year may have prevented many photographers from accessing their favorite waters, but they haven’t hindered their inventiveness,” said judge Mustard in an email to IFLScience. “The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest strives to showcase underwater photography in all of its forms, and we are thrilled that many of this year’s award-winning photographs are from home countries, with some even being captured in swimming pools.” Do you live near a body of water with some watery opportunities? It’s time to start thinking about next year’s projects.