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Whale shark triumph at UPY 2022

UPY 2022
Wide Angle Winner & Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022. © Rafael Fernandez Caballero / UPY 2022 (Spain). “Giants Of The Night” Whale sharks, Ari Atoll, Maldives. Nikon Z7 II, Nikon 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED fisheye Nikkor AF-S, Isotta Z7II/Z6II, OrcaTorch D950V. f/4.2, 1/80th, ISO 5000

A photograph of five whale sharks feeding on nocturnal plankton concentrated in a boat’s lights, taken in demanding conditions in the Maldives, has won Spanish diver Rafael Fernandez Caballero the title of Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY) 2022.

The UK-based competition’s judges considered the work the best of the 4200 underwater pictures entered by photographers from 71 countries. “It was already incredible when one whale shark came to our boat but more and more kept arriving,” explained Caballero of his winning image Giants Of The Night.

“I was diving with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe it as their numbers grew.  He counted 11 sharks that night – a once-in-a-lifetime encounter that nobody thought was possible.”

“This image took my breath away from the first viewing and I never tired coming back to it,” commented judge Peter Rowlands. 

“Scale, light and the sheer numbers of big subjects – this was, by some distance, our winning image,” added Alex Mustard. “Photography needs light and simply recording these giants in a dark ocean is a massive achievement. To do this with such beautiful light and careful composition of the five sharks is outstanding.

Mustard noted that while travel restrictions over the past year might have stopped many photographers visiting their favourite waters it had not stifled their creativity. “The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest aims to celebrate underwater photography in all its forms and we are delighted that many of this year’s awarded images come from home countries – and some are even taken in swimming pools,” he said.

British Underwater Photographer of the Year © Matty Smith / UPY 2022 (Australia). “Great White Split” North Neptune Islands. Nikon Z6II, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S Series, Aquatica Digital. f/8, 1/1000th, ISO 2800
British Underwater Photographer of the Year © Matty Smith / UPY 2022 (Australia). “Great White Split” North Neptune Islands. Nikon Z6II, Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S Series, Aquatica Digital. f/8, 1/1000th, ISO 2800

Matty Smith, an Englishman now living in Australia, was named British Underwater Photographer of the Year for Great White Split, a shark portrait taken in the Neptune Islands.

“I had wanted to shoot a charismatic over/under portrait for years,” said Smith. “Some techniques I had previously tried failed terribly, so this time I designed and constructed my own equipment to get the camera exactly where I wanted.”

He built a supersize dome-port for his camera, with a carbon pole and remote trigger. “Surprisingly, the sharks were instantly attracted to the camera; in fact it was a battle to stop them  biting it!”

“This split shot of the most famous fish in the sea truly captures its character,” said competition judge Tobias Friedrich. “An excellent reward for the perseverance of the photographer, experimenting with different techniques until he got the result he wanted.”

Marine Conservation Winner & SOSF Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year © Thien Nguyen Ngoc / UPY 2022 (Vietnam). “Big Appetite” Anchovy fishing, Phu Yen, Vietnam. Hasselblad DJI Mavic Pro 2, 28mm f/2.8. f/2.8, 1/60th, ISO 100
Marine Conservation Winner & SOSF Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year © Thien Nguyen Ngoc / UPY 2022 (Vietnam). “Big Appetite” Anchovy fishing, Phu Yen, Vietnam. Hasselblad DJI Mavic Pro 2, 28mm f/2.8. f/2.8, 1/60th, ISO 100

Thien Nguyen Ngoc from Vietnam was named Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year for his aerial photo Big Appetite. It shows boats straining the waters for anchovies in the country’s Phu Yen province. 

“Salted anchovy is the most important raw material in traditional Vietnamese fish sauce,” said the photographer, “but these little fish are a keystone of the ecosystem. 

“The reserves and catches of anchovies have decreased by 20-30%  in the past 10 years. When they are overfished,  the whales, tuna, seabirds and other marine predators face starvation and critical population declines.”

“A stark visual reminder of man’s reach and control over the surrounding habitat and its devastating effect on the natural balance,” was how Rowlands described the image. “The  mouths of these nets  dwarf the people casting them, and the tight composition speaks about our squeeze on nature,” said Mustard.

Up & Coming Winner © Quico Abadal / UPY 2022 (Spain). “Supernova in Paradise” Model Jeniya at Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand. Olympus EM-1 Mk II, 8mm PRO f/1.8, Olympus, Olympus UFL-3. f/5, 1/160th, ISO 200
Up & Coming Winner © Quico Abadal / UPY 2022 (Spain). “Supernova in Paradise” Model Jeniya at Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand. Olympus EM-1 Mk II, 8mm PRO f/1.8, Olympus, Olympus UFL-3. f/5, 1/160th, ISO 200

Quico Abadal from Spain was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year for his creative image Supernova In Paradise, taken at sunset off Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand and purposely shown upside-down.

“This photo features Jeniya, who moves so poetically in the water,” explained Abadal. “What I like about this photograph is the imperfection of backscatter in the dark water, creating the feeling of outer space and making it perfect to me.”

“In this category we are always looking for exciting new talent bringing fresh visions to underwater photography,” said Mustard. “This image is a fabulous example. Simple subject matter,  elevated into an artistic image by the imagination, ideas and talent of the photographer and model.”

Macro Winner © Javier Murcia / UPY 2022 (Spain). “Mimicry” Pipefish and green prawn in seagrass, La Azohia, Spain. Nikon D850, Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D, Isotta D850, Inon z330. f/8, 1/250th, ISO 200
Macro Winner © Javier Murcia / UPY 2022 (Spain). “Mimicry” Pipefish and green prawn in seagrass, La Azohia, Spain. Nikon D850, Nikon AF Micro-NIKKOR 60mm f/2.8D, Isotta D850, Inon z330. f/8, 1/250th, ISO 200
Wrecks Winner © Alex Dawson / UPY 2022 (Sweden). “Abandoned Ship” Tyrifjord wreck at 40m, Gulen, Norway. Nikon D850, Nikkor 8-15mm fisheye, Sea&Sea MDX-D850, Bigblue. f/4.5, 1/50th, ISO 500
Wrecks Winner © Alex Dawson / UPY 2022 (Sweden). “Abandoned Ship” Tyrifjord wreck at 40m, Gulen, Norway. Nikon D850, Nikkor 8-15mm fisheye, Sea&Sea MDX-D850, Bigblue. f/4.5, 1/50th, ISO 500
Behaviour & My Backyard Winner © Pekka Tuuri / UPY 2022 (Finland). “All You Need Is Love” Mating frogs in a pond in Vantaa, Finland. Canon 5D Mark III, EF8-15mm F4 + Kenko 1.4 teleconverter @15mm, Subal 5DIII. f/11, 1/30th, ISO 640
Behaviour & My Backyard Winner © Pekka Tuuri / UPY 2022 (Finland). “All You Need Is Love” Mating frogs in a pond in Vantaa, Finland. Canon 5D Mark III, EF8-15mm F4 + Kenko 1.4 teleconverter @15mm, Subal 5DIII. f/11, 1/30th, ISO 640
Portrait Winner © Thomas Heckmann / UPY 2022 (Germany).,“Rapunzel on Fire ,-)” Underwater photo studio. Nikon D800E, Nikkor 16-35 mm @ 20mm, Seacam, Subtronic Mega, Nova, pro160, Fusion & Retra snoot.  f/13, 1/200th, ISO 100
Portrait Winner © Thomas Heckmann / UPY 2022 (Germany).,“Rapunzel on Fire ,-)” Underwater photo studio. Nikon D800E, Nikkor 16-35 mm @ 20mm, Seacam, Subtronic Mega, Nova, pro160, Fusion & Retra snoot. f/13, 1/200th, ISO 100
Black & White Winner © Kerrie Burow / UPY 2022 (Australia). “Sarah’s Underwater World” Niece, 7, shot on one breath. Canon EOS 5D Mk IV, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, Isotta, Inon Z-330. f/9, 1/250th, ISO 200
Black & White Winner © Kerrie Burow / UPY 2022 (Australia). “Sarah’s Underwater World” Niece, 7, shot on one breath. Canon EOS 5D Mk IV, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, Isotta, Inon Z-330. f/9, 1/250th, ISO 200
Compact Winner © Enrico Somogyi / UPY 2022 (Germany). “Peace” Toad in Leipzig pond. Sony RX100vii, Fantasea UWL-09, Fantasea, 3 x Backscatter Miniflash. f/8, 1/2000th, ISO 160
Compact Winner © Enrico Somogyi / UPY 2022 (Germany). “Peace” Toad in Leipzig pond. Sony RX100vii, Fantasea UWL-09, Fantasea, 3 x Backscatter Miniflash. f/8, 1/2000th, ISO 160
British Waters Wide Angle Winner © Henley Spiers / UPY 2022 (UK). “Gannet Storm” Northern gannet in Shetland. Nikon D850, Nikon 28-70mm @ 35mm & Nauticam WACP-1, Nauticam NA D850, 2 x Inon Z240. f/22, 1/8th, ISO 125
British Waters Wide Angle Winner © Henley Spiers / UPY 2022 (UK). “Gannet Storm” Northern gannet in Shetland. Nikon D850, Nikon 28-70mm @ 35mm & Nauticam WACP-1, Nauticam NA D850, 2 x Inon Z240. f/22, 1/8th, ISO 125
British Waters Macro Winner © Dan Bolt / UPY 2022 (UK). “Best Buddies” Yarrels blennies, Loch Carron, Scotland. Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus 60mm macro, Aquatica A-EM1, 2 x Sea & Sea YS-D1 f/8, 1/250th, ISO 500
British Waters Macro Winner © Dan Bolt / UPY 2022 (UK). “Best Buddies” Yarrels blennies, Loch Carron, Scotland. Olympus OM-D E-M1, Olympus 60mm macro, Aquatica A-EM1, 2 x Sea & Sea YS-D1 f/8, 1/250th, ISO 500
British Waters Living Together Winner © Lewis Michael Jefferies / UPY 2022 (UK). “A Peaceful Coexistence” Compass jellyfish in Falmouth Bay, Cornwall. Sony A7iii, Sony 16-35, Nauticam A7riii, 2 x Inon Z240. f/22, 1/250th, ISO 320
British Waters Living Together Winner © Lewis Michael Jefferies / UPY 2022 (UK). “A Peaceful Coexistence” Compass jellyfish in Falmouth Bay, Cornwall. Sony A7iii, Sony 16-35, Nauticam A7riii, 2 x Inon Z240. f/22, 1/250th, ISO 320
British Waters Compact Winner © Martin Stevens / UPY 2022 (UK). Rock Pool Star: Spiny starfish in pool, Falmouth, Cornwall. Canon G9X MKII, Weefine WFL-02 fisheye, Fantasea FG9X. f/1, 1/60th, ISO 160
British Waters Compact Winner © Martin Stevens / UPY 2022 (UK). Rock Pool Star: Spiny starfish in pool, Falmouth, Cornwall. Canon G9X MKII, Weefine WFL-02 fisheye, Fantasea FG9X. f/1, 1/60th, ISO 160

The international Underwater Photographer of the Year competition, which originated in 1965, has 13 categories with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour and Wreck photography, including four categories for photos taken in British waters. For all the results, photographers’ statements and judges’ comments, visit Underwater Photographer of the Year.

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