US-based environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy has announced the winners of its 2022 Photo Contest and they include a number of eye-catching underwater images.
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The entries came from among supporters of the long-established non-profit body, which celebrates 50 years of existence (under various names) this year. They were judged by a panel of four – Thai photo-journalist and marine biologist Shin Arunrugstichai, Australian freediving photographer Matt Bagley, Swiss polar photographer Daisy Gilardini and German documentary photographer Esther Horvath.
The Judges’ Choice Winner was Surprise by Alexandra Rose. She said that she had returned to a specific dive-site in Los Islotes, Mexico for several years in a row “and determined that October is the best month for both sea-lions and big schools of sardines.
“People are diving and snorkelling with these sea-lions nearly every day for nine months of the year, so they are extremely accustomed to the presence of humans,” said Rose. “I desperately wanted to capture one of these pinnipeds blasting through a ball of fish, but it all happens so quickly and, without planning, it’s easy to miss these shots.
“By the end of my dive, after watching this female sea-lion swim figure-of-eights around the same rocks, I finally timed it correctly and positioned myself right in the thick of the fish and waited for her to pop through. I think she was a bit surprised to see me!”
Human Impact was one of the set categories, and its winner was The Hunter’s Trash by Angela Farmer. “On one of my many swims with the Galapagos seals I was swimming along the wall of Champion Islet when I saw a young pup spinning and playing with something in the water,” she said.
“She began swimming faster and faster, coming closer with each subsequent pass, and showing me how to spin until I could’ve easily reached out and touched her. She was incredibly intrigued with something she had found in the water.
“She continued to spin as if she was teaching me how to twirl. The more playful I became, she would zoom beneath me like a torpedo, blowing bubbles and spinning in circles with her newfound toy. I dived down and tried to mimic her, only to realise that she was mimicking me and had a piece of plastic in her mouth. The very thing I try to protect these beautiful creatures from had become a toy to her.
“I took the chance when the pup left the plastic for me to play with on my turn and hid it from her. It was heart-wrenching to hide the very thing I know was bringing her so much joy but killing so much sea life. I urge you to do your part in saving our ocean and sea life by only supporting brands that use alternative non-plastic packaging.”
Prue Wheeler’s Rasta Jelly won in the Marine Wildlife category, the title being the local name for Thysanostoma loriferum in western Australia. “We came across this jellyfish a few miles off the back of the Ningaloo Reef,” she said. “Its vibrant colour stuck out in the blue water as we passed it on a boat. Stretching over 1.5m and floating in the vast ocean it created its own miniature ecosystem, surrounded by an entourage of accompanying marine life.”
Fly Ardea Alba by Diana de la Vega came top in the Ocean Stories category. “This photo, taken in the morning, shows the activity and the dynamics between marine birds and fishermen at Hollywood beach in Cartagena, one of the most touristic spots in town,” she said.
“In the back and on the lower edges you can see the boat and fishermen, even the men reeling in the net and the surrounding birds. In the front, a white heron (Ardea alba) captured in flight about to join the other birds circling the fishermen and waiting for any small fish or leftovers to be thrown their way.
“This is a daily spectacle during the fishing season, with the fish getting invariably smaller given the relentless and uncontrolled activity of men fishing with the huge net that captures all.”
Spectacular Seascapes winner Kate McFadden said: “Never have I seen a more gorgeous sunset over the ocean than out on Montauk in Long Island. She called her photograph End of the World.
Three underwater shots were among the “Wildcard Winners” that secured honourable mentions: