Awaken New Depths: UN WOD photo winners

Awaken New Depths 1st Place by Renee Capozzola (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Awaken New Depths 1st Place by Renee Capozzola (www.unworldoceansday.org)

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Steve Weinman

The winners of the 11th annual photo competition for United Nations World Oceans Day (UN WOD) have just been announced (7 June) as part of the celebrations at the UN Headquarters in New York, which are broadcast internationally on UNTV.  

The winners in the five categories were submitted by both amateur and professional photographers and based around the event’s central 2024 theme “Awaken New Depths”. They were selected by a judging panel from thousands of submissions from around the world.

The categories were Underwater Seascapes, Small Island Developing States, Big & Small Underwater Faces, Awaken New Depths and Above Water Seascapes, and the outright winners of each one hailed from different parts of the world. 

Their work, along with that of all the second- and third-placed winners, will feature from today (7 June) in the competition’s virtual gallery, which also shows winners from past years, and will continue to be displayed during next year’s UN WOD event.

The day is designed to celebrate the ocean and its importance to the planet and people’s lives, while raising awareness about the many threats it faces. 

Awaken New Depths

In the Awaken New Depths category, US photographer Renee Grinnell Capozzola’s Bringing Up The Net (above) shows a large discarded fishing net found lying on the reef about 30m deep in Kona, Hawaii.

Volunteers from Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) used lift-bags to bring the net up to a boat provided by Kona Honu Divers. Earlier that day ODA had raised and extracted large volumes of fishing-line snarled on the reef.

Second place in this category was scooped by another underwater image, taken by another US photographer, Patrick Webster, and showing kelp-restoration technician Andrew Kim removing purple sea urchins from an experimental site in California’s Monterey Bay.

Awaken New Depths 2nd Place by Patrick Webster (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Awaken New Depths 2nd Place by Patrick Webster (www.unworldoceansday.org)

Underwater Seascapes

The Underwater Seascapes category was won by Canada’s Taryn Schulz with Cormorant Love, taken in Baja California, Mexico at Isla Islotes, a location well-known for its sea-lion colony.

Underwater Seascapes 1st Place by Taryn Schulz (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Underwater Seascapes 1st Place by Taryn Schulz (www.unworldoceansday.org)

“The day we dived here, there happened to be a large amount of sardines taking refuge by the island, which became an exciting spectacle in the water, with pelicans and cormorants as in this photo flying around and torpedoing themselves in the water,” says Schulz.

“Moments before this shot the sardines were swimming very quickly, so I turned around as I knew something was coming, and I was so happy to capture the heart-shape of the sardines as they fled from the cormorants.”

Two Australian photographers took second and third places in this category. Daniel Sly depicted some of the hundreds of thousands of giant cuttlefish that aggregate in the shallow waters of the upper Spencer Gulf in South Australia in winter to mate.

Underwater Seascapes 2nd Place by Daniel Sly (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Underwater Seascapes 2nd Place by Daniel Sly (www.unworldoceansday.org)

And Vanessa Mignon’s Mobula Dance was captured in Baja California where Mobula munkiana assemble. ”Seeing such big aggregations can lead you to think that their populations are doing well,” says the photographer, but points out that the species is down as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Underwater Seascapes 3rd Place by Vanessa Mignon (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Underwater Seascapes 3rd Place by Vanessa Mignon (www.unworldoceansday.org)

Small Island Developing States

In this category, Brazilian Andrea Marandino submitted a winning image taken in Abatao, North Tarawa in Kiribati, where children start playing in the water from an early age. Tarawa, the capital, is a narrow strip of land lying between the Pacific and an enormous lagoon that depends on a freshwater lens. 

Small Island Developing States 1st Place by Andrea Marandino (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Small Island Developing States 1st Place by Andrea Marandino (www.unworldoceansday.org)

“The kids are always smiling and happily interact with the few visitors, but their future is uncertain,” says Marandino. “Kiribati’s coral atolls are very low-lying, with a maximum elevation of 3-4m above sea level, making it one of the countries most threatened by climate change.”

Big & Small Underwater Faces

Mathieu Macias of France triumphed in the Big & Small Underwater Faces category with a portrait of a leafy sea dragon taken in Rapid Bay, South Australia, where the species is endemic. “I was absolutely charmed by this creature as soon as I saw it for the first time in the first photo, and it became a dream for me to meet one,” he says.

Big & Small Underwater Faces 1st Place by Mathieu Macias (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Big & Small Underwater Faces 1st Place by Mathieu Macias (www.unworldoceansday.org)

“Although the first try was a failure, I decided to come back a few months later and my dream came true. I was so happy to meet this animal that is so cute and almost unreal, with its amazing ability to camouflage itself. Its shyness was a big challenge in making this portrait, but I am delighted with the result.”

Big & Small Underwater Faces 2nd Place by George Kuowei Kao (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Big & Small Underwater Faces 2nd Place by George Kuowei Kao (www.unworldoceansday.org)

In second place was George Kuowei Kao, who came across a hard coral hosting blennies and used his new lens with a snoot to orchestrate a dramatic, overexposed standoff between two of the fish. “Jason, my guide, with a heart-shaped gesture, turned a shared look into a shared vision.“

Irene Middleton from New Zealand came third with her image of a juvenile football octopus, a pelagic species that usually lives in midwater at a depth of around 200m but is occasionally encountered in juvenile form near the surface, sheltered by large salps. The picture was taken in the Poor Knights Islands.

Big & Small Underwater Faces 3rd Place by Irene Middleton (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Big & Small Underwater Faces 3rd Place by Irene Middleton (www.unworldoceansday.org)

Above Water Seascapes

Finally, in this section, Michael Sswat of Germany had been sitting on a rocky shore in Norway watching the Northern Lights and their reflection in the sea surface with friends.

Above Water Seascapes 1st Place by Michael Sswat (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Above Water Seascapes 1st Place by Michael Sswat (www.unworldoceansday.org)

“What more do you want?” he asks. “In this case, we had even more beautiful nature to experience as, earlier in the day, we were diving through canyons into incredible kelp forests meeting lobsters and nudibranchs, in the Namsfjord, off the village of Utvørda, north of Trondheim.” His entry was entitled No More Wishes.

Above Water Seascapes 2nd Place by Emmett Sparling (www.unworldoceansday.org)
Above Water Seascapes 2nd Place by Emmett Sparling (www.unworldoceansday.org)

The second-place image was taken in French Polynesia by Canadian photographer Emmett Sparling, and he called it A Slice of Heaven in the Tuamotus. After a windless night the water remained glassy the next morning as a group of blacktip reef sharks patrolled around the boat. “Rainbows and sharks are common subjects in the Tuamotus – two things I’ll never get used to,” says Sparling.

Curated by underwater and wildlife photographer Ellen Cuylaerts, the UN WOD Photo Competition has been run as a free-to-all event since 2013.

The 2024 judging panel included photographer and dive-centre operator Mohamed Rifshan Shaheem, cave instructor and explorer Julia Gugelmeier and underwater photographers Mayumi Takeuchi-Ebbins and Tom St George.

The event is co-ordinated between the UN Division for Ocean Affairs & the Law of the Sea, DivePhotoGuide (DPG), Oceanic Global, the UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs, the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and Nausicaa. 

All participants are required to sign a charter of 14 commitments regarding ethics in photography. Explore the UN WOD Photo Competition site.

Also on Divernet: PLANET OCEAN: TIDES ARE CHANGING WINNERS, WINNING IMAGES FOR WORLD OCEANS DAY 2022

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This week, it looks like DPV manufacturer ScubaJet has begun insolvency proceedings. PADI has distributed half a million dollars in their Project Aware campaign. Dorset coastguard have called off the search for a missing diver. And the Pearl Fleet has commented on a viral video of a shark-dive that didn’t go so well
https://taucher.net/diveinside-insolvency_proceedings_at_scubajet-kaz9246
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/conservation/padi-aware-distributes-500k-in-mission-hub-grants/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/raid-launches-ots-full-face-mask-programme/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/dorset-coastguard-call-off-search-for-diver/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/search-for-diver-off-dorset-stood-down/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/pearl-fleet-hits-back-as-maldives-shark-dive-slammed/
Diving Into The Darkness Link:
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@emilyZA460
#AskMark hi! I was hoping you could help me understand the interchangeability of a DSMB and a simple SMB if I only plan to use it when I deploy it during my safety stop at 5 meters. I used the simple version for this purpose during my last liveaboard and despite occasionally having to reinflate at the surface due to some air escaping while being deployed underwater, it didn’t seem to be too problematic and so I was wondering if it’s necessary to have a DSMB for this purpose? The issue for me is that somehow I tend to end up misplacing my SMB quite often and so the price difference between the two makes it a more acceptable loss when it’s replacing the SMB regularly rather than the DSMB at double the cost
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