Behaviour, Underwater Photographer of the Year & British UPY / The Gauntlet – Richard Barnden (UK)
“As the sun sets on Fakarava South Pass [in French Polynesia], the estimated 700 sharks that patrol the mouth of the channel by day begin to hunt at night. The gauntlet is about to unfold.
“Descending into the darkness I can feel my heart beating a little faster than normal as hundreds of sharks are now covering the bottom. This unlucky parrotfish dodged in and out of the patch coral heads looking for somewhere to hide as swarms of sharks followed in hot pursuit.
“One grey reef shark suddenly grabbed the parrotfish by its head as another twisted underneath it to get a better grip. In desperation it hurtled straight towards me as I snapped a few passing shots and curled up into a ball as the frenzy of sharks shot past, leaving only a few falling parrotfish scales behind.”
Taken with a Nikon D810 with 15mm Sigma lens in a Nauticam NA D810 housing with Inon Z240 strobes, Dive Pro / Big Blue video lights. ISO 1000, f/8, 1/80th
ALEX MUSTARD COMMENTS: “Photography is about capturing moments and what an unforgettable and terrifying moment, especially if you’re a parrotfish, this is. At night, in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Richard transports us right to the peak of the action as a tangle of grey reef sharks rise like a breaking wave to tear apart their prey.
“To take this picture in the dark with a wide-angle lens meant that the photographer was right in the midst of the hunt, and the photo takes us right there too, letting us experience the ocean's wilder side.”
MARTIN EDGE COMMENTS: “As soon as the eye connects with the light and the action it’s an insane and no doubt very disconcerting moment for the photographer. It’s peak of the action as I have seldom seen before and, to be perfectly honest, an encounter I would prefer to sit out if I had the chance. Breath-taking!”
PETER ROWLANDS COMMENTS: “I worry that this image will refuel the public’s imbalanced perception of sharks but as an image capturing behaviour it has drama, adrenaline, grace, beauty and finality. That’s a very rare combination in one image.”