Marine life has always been an intriguing and mysterious world for humans. As we know little about the ocean universe compared to life on land, we are likely to be mesmerized by its charm.
One of the easiest ways to understand the unexplored life in the water is to look at the stunning photos taken by enthusiastic photographers. We’re here to introduce to you the list of the Ocean Photographer of the Year award winners announced in September 2022. The Ocean Photography Awards is created to celebrate the crucial role of marine life and raise public awareness, and 20% of the profit will be donated to the conservation of the oceans.
There are varied categories with the participation of myriad photographers, both amateurs, and professionals. Let’s go through the best 40 photos that illustrate the breathtaking world under the water!
#1 1st Place, Young Photographer Of The Year
Ryuta Ogawa, Japan.
“The baby turtles born on the islands have to migrate more than 1000km north to their feeding habitat,” says photographer Ryuta Ogawa. “I came across this hatchling in the shallows. It almost looked as if it was calmly preparing for its long journey ahead. I waited for the moment it surfaced for a breath of air to get this particular shot.”
#2 Finalist, Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Nadia De Lange, Svalbard, Norway.
Feeling safe and sound in the mother’s arms.
#3 2nd Place, Conservation (Hope) Photographer Of The Year
Andreas Schmid, Maldives.
“Because this was the last dive on a liveaboard trip before I flew out early the next day I had to stay shallow while everybody else went deep,” shares photographer Andreas Schmid. “This allowed me to play around with what the site has to offer in the shallows without any other divers around: schooling bannerfishes and pink whiprays.”
#4 Finalist, Conservation (Hope) Photographer Of The Year
Ellen Cuylaerts, Canada.
“Every year harp seals make their journey from the Greenland area to fast ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to give birth to their pups at end of February / early March. The mothers feed the pups for just two weeks with milk rich in fat and nutrients. Soon the mothers abandon their pups to join the males for courting and mating, leaving the vulnerable white young on the ice until they moult, lose most of their reserves and learn to swim and hunt by themselves. During this time they fully depend on strong sea ice that lasts at least another four weeks.”
#5 2nd Place, Human Connection Award: People & Planet Ocean
Simon Lorenz, Sri Lanka.
“When searching for whales in the open ocean we always inspect islands of flotsam as they can be interesting wildlife aggregators. This large ghostnet island was a death trap for an Olive Ridley sea turtle which we found entangled and struggling. She still looked healthy and strong so, when approaching her we had to be careful not to aggravate her. Getting her disentangled took a machete and more than 30 minutes of hard work. When all the netting was removed we checked the turtle over and sent her on her way.”
#6 3rd Place, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
Dmitry Kokh, Russia.
Polar bears make use of an abandoned station on Kolyuchin Island, Russia.
#7 3rd Place, Conservation (Hope) Photographer Of The Year
Renee Capozzola, Hawaii.
“Turtles thrive in Hawaii thanks to the legal protections they are provided.”
#8 Finalist, Wildlife Photographer Of The Year – Ocean Photography Awards
Andreas Schmid, Norway.
“This was the most beautiful day I’ve had in Northern Norway,” says photographer Andreas Schmid. “The mother stayed in front of her calf while they swam past me, making sure I couldn’t get too close while still giving the calf a chance to have a good look at me. During the winter months the sun above the Arctic circle is very low or doesn’t even rise at all. The window for in-water whale encounters with bright light and sunrays is short. Out of dozens of days this was the only time it all came together.”
#9 Finalist, Human Connection Award: People & Planet Ocean
Reiko Takahashi, Japan.
A jellyfish bloom appears alongside a resort in Kagoshima during the summer.
# 10 2nd Place, The Ocean Photographer Of The Year
Katherine Lu, Philippines.
“I was very sick during this dive,” photographer Katherine Lu remembers. “I spent a lot of time trying to equalize near the surface. When my guide frantically signaled for me to come down I hesitated for a moment, but went for it, pushing myself down. Luckily my ears equalized and there before my eyes were this beautiful blanket octopus. We swam alongside her and then, like magic, she opened up her blanket to show herself in all her glory.”
#11 Finalist, Fine Art Photographer Of The Year
Gergo Rugli, Australia.
“The mysterious yellow light and the flying bird inspired me to call this image Griffin as this half-eagle, half-lion mythical creature is mostly represented as a yellow bird-like creature,” photographer Gergo Rugli explains.
#12 3rd Place, The Ocean Photographer Of The Year
Brook Peterson, The United States.
“This image was made under the oil rig platform, Ellen, off Los Angeles, California. There was a large school of baitfish under the platform for several weeks and, as a result, numerous other animals there to feed off the baitfish – sea lions, bonita, and cormorants. The image depicts a cormorant hunting through a large bait ball.”
#13 3rd Place, Adventure Photographer Of The Year
Martin Broen, Mexico.
“Shot in an abandoned sinkhole-like cenote, where the organic matter that has fallen in the water has decomposed and generated a Hydrogen Sulphide cloud around it. It creates a spooky atmosphere accentuated by the natural framing and darkness of the cenote. It is a unique and strange natural environment, and a dream-like experience, like floating within in a haunted forest.”
#14 Finalist, Fine Art Photographer Of The Year
Brooke Pyke, Western Australia.
“This day was special. The kind of day you wish would never end,” says photographer Brooke Pyke. “The ocean was the glassiest I have ever seen it – a dream. I swam alongside this whale shark for around 40 minutes admiring its perfect reflection. Trying to capture this perfection was a challenge – if I dived down it disturbed the water. As I began to let the shark go, I caught a glimpse of a new angle and had to capture it. I will never have this moment again.”
#15 1st Place, The Ocean Photographer Of The Year
Ben Thouard, French Polynesia.
The moment a surfer gets wiped out and worked by the turbulence of one of the heaviest waves in the world. “This is the unseen part of surfing. I have so much respect for both the wave and the surfers – surfing such a heavy wave is a huge challenge.”
#16 Finalist, Conservation (Hope) Photographer Of The Year
Renee Capozzola, Philippines.
“Apo Island is home to a community-organised marine sanctuary. The concept was introduced to the local fishermen in 1982, and has been the inspiration for many more sanctuaries in the Philippines since,” shares photographer Renee Capozzola.
#17 Finalist, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
Simone Caprodossi, Dubai.
“Several years ago, visiting the Dubai Fish market on any day, you would find hundreds of sharks – species I could only dream of encountering underwater – lined-up, lifeless, waiting to be auctioned. Endangered sharks like this smooth hammerhead were often traded from Oman to the UAE, their fins destined to the Asian markets. After their listing on CITES in 2014 much of this trade has become regulated and the UAE has fully protected the species, so these scenes are hopefully a memory from the past in Dubai, but remain a crude reality in many countries where protection is not yet in place.”
#18 Finalist, Adventure Photographer Of The Year
Fabrice Guerin, Mexico.
“In the heart of a silence just interrupted by my air bubbles, darkness gives way to this freediver that goes back and forth from the bottom of this cenote to the surface. This freshwater sinkhole, calm, clear and without current, is ideal for training. A sulfur cloud located about twenty meters below reflects the sun rays which then work a real miracle. Originally the hydrogen sulphide layer is flat, but as we enter it repeatedly, clouds form, giving us an impression of underwater waves,” photographer Fabrice Guerin says .
#19Finalist, Fine Art Photographer Of The Year
Vanessa Mignon, Australia.
“Port Jackson sharks congregate in Jervis Bay during winter and spring in order to breed. I had tried several times to photograph a shark over the kelp but never got the right conditions – until the weather was perfect. I saw several sharks but most of them were quite deep or resting on the sand or under rocks. The water was cold and after 45 minutes I started shivering. But I persisted. Eventually this shark swam slowly on top of the kelp, possibly looking for a mate, a place to lay an egg, or a place to rest.”
#20 Finalist, Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Sean Scott, Cape Arid National Park, Western Australia.
“This is a drone image taken in Cape Pasley in Western Australia. This is a remote part of the incredible Western Australia coastline. The beauty and ruggedness of the Cape Arid National park is second to none and is one of my favourite places in the world to explore. With my outback photography 4WD I camped out down here for more than a week to photograph and watch the beautiful southern right whales as the families socialised in some of the clearest water in the world. They travel up from Antarctica and hit the coast here before heading back.”
#21 Finalist, Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Rafael Fernandez Caballero, Bermeo, Spain.
“Mako sharks are the fastest animal in the ocean,” says photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero. ” Spending sunset with a predator like this is magical. Not only for creating pictures, but for witnessing it speeding along amongst the orange rays. It makes your heart beat a little faster. Mako sharks are endangered and, according to some scientific studies, face extinction in just a few decades.”
#22 Finalist, Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Magnus Lundgren, Philippines.
A beautiful juvenile scalloped ribbonfish. “This image was captured in open water while earthquakes were rolling like thunder underwater. As an adult this fish looks like another species, much bigger, shiny silver, with red markings. Sometimes ribbonfish are called “earthquake fish” because they have appeared as adults on the ocean’s surface following major earthquake events,” photographer Magnus Lundgren specifies.
#23 Finalist, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
Florian Ledoux, Svalbard, Norway.
“Spring had arrived and the ice was melting during this shoot,” states photographer Florian Ledoux. “This male bear went through the ice on a couple of occasions, swimming for stretches, but he had a quest – he was tracking the scent of a female.”
#24 Finalist, Human Connection Award: People & Planet Ocean
Joshua Munoz, French Polynesia.
“Every winter humpback whales migrate north from Antarctica to French Polynesia, to warmer waters to give birth and mate,” says photographer Josh Munoz. “Calves are curious and often leave their mother’s side to interact with us in the water – the mother always keeping one eye on her newborn.”
#25 Finalist, Human Connection Award: People & Planet Ocean
Brook Peterson, Egypt.
“I was waiting for sunset so that I could take some split shots showing the beautiful corals under the water when several snorkelers came down the pier and prepared to get in. I realised the best story my image could tell was how people enjoy the sea and its beautiful corals, so I made this image with that intent,” says photographer Brook Peterson.
#26 Finalist, Fine Art Photographer Of The Year
Gabriel Barathieu, Mayotte.
“I took this photo during the first test dive of a new rig – Canon R5 in a Seacam housing. It was also the first time I used a wide angle lens during a night dive. I was secretly hoping to meet a squid for long exposure tests with rear-curtain synchronisation. That’s why I took the 14-35mm lens, to be closer to the subject. After 15 minutes of diving, I came face-to-face with this squid and spent 30 minutes having fun with long exposures and flashes in stroboscope mode.”
#27 1st Place, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
Simon Lorenz, Sri Lanka.
“When searching for whales in the open ocean we always inspect islands of flotsam as they can be interesting wildlife aggregator. This large ghostnet island was a death trap for an Olive Ridley sea turtle which we found entangled and struggling. She still looked healthy and strong so, when approaching her we had to be careful not to aggravate her. Getting her disentangled took a machete and more than 30 minutes of hard work. When all the netting was removed we checked the turtle over and sent her on her way.”
#281st Place, Human Connection Award: People & Planet Ocean
Steve Woods, Dominica.
“This particular female sperm whale kept falling asleep in front of us, then waking up and investigating us again,” says photographer Steve Woods. “On one occasion, as she did this in a patch of Sargassum seaweed, I managed to capture this image of a good friend who dived down for a moment with her.”
#29 Finalist, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
André Musgrove, Bahamas.
“This photo shows how we have become engulfed by our own destruction as a result of poor climate change practices,” specifies photographer André Musgrove. “I wanted to bring attention to the issue of coral reef death due to both natural and human causes. With the rise of climate change, nations like The Bahamas have become increasingly susceptible to stronger hurricanes that have wreaked havoc on Bahamian islands.”
#30 Finalist, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
Ishino Shota, Japan.
“Due to the high water temperatures in the summer, the entire coral reef system in this area was seriously damaged,” photographer Ishino Shota says . “Almost all of the zooxanthellae that aids the coral’s biological activity has gone. A turtle swims past, as if observing the human destruction inflicted upon the reef.”
#31 Finalist, Human Connection Award: People & Planet Ocean
Tom Vierus, French Polynesia.
“During fieldwork, the young sharks are captured with a gillnet, measured, tagged and released and some individuals received temperature loggers as seen in this photo. These loggers will record the surrounding water temperature for as long as they are attached and once retrieved will aid the scientists in understanding how warming waters affect the physiology and ecology of young sharks,” photographer Tom Vierus shared.
#32 1st Place, Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Rafael Fernandez Caballero, Strait Of Gibraltar, Spain.
“Pilot whales are incredibly special and intelligent beings that enjoy tight family bonds,” photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero states. “They are curious and territorial, so most encounters involve them coming close to see what you want. With love and respect most moments are about a unique interaction, playful moments with different members of each family. This particular picture represents one of the first encounters of that day. A whole family came together to welcome me and to make sure I wasn’t a threat.”
#33 Finalist, Adventure Photographer Of The Year
Christophe Mason-Parker, Seychelles.
“My wife and I were snorkelling over the vast seagrass beds that surround Desroches Island in Seychelles. I wanted to capture an image of her snorkelling close to shore that highlighted the healthy Thalassodendron meadows, along with the coconut palms, which fringe the shoreline.”
#34 Finalist, Adventure Photographer Of The Year
Khaichuin Sim, Malaysia.
“I always wanted to create an image of a human ‘coexisting’ with the underwater world,” photographer Khaichuin Sim says. “My wife is a skilled freediver, so on this shoot I asked her to dive towards the middle of this school until I got this beautiful image of her surrounded with storm of jackfish.”
#35 Finalist, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
Pasquale Vassallo, Italy.
“This winter, I collaborated with AMP Regno di Nettuno from the islands of Ischia and Procida, to produce a guide of the most beautiful dives on the two islands. During a dive at one of the sites, I was on the boat and noticed something strange on the surface. I decided to check what it was. As I swam closer, through the jellyfish, I realised, to my great sadness, that it was a sea turtle carcass. Its carapace was broken, most probably by the propeller of a boat. The animal was also lying in a large amount of rubbish, abandoned in the sea by us humans.”
#36 Finalist, Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Simone Caprodossi, Baja California, Mexico.
“Brown pelicans gather is numbers in ports and landing sites for fishing boats along the coast of Baja California. We spent two days at a historical shark landing site off Bahia Magdalena engaging with the pelicans as they approached the fishing boats ready to take advantage of the fish scraps that are disposed of from the nets. The competition for the discarded catch is fierce with several pelicans swinging their beaks at the same time, pouch open to catch the easy meal. This clever pelican managed to push back its rivals with his open wings, protecting his catch at the same time,” photographer Simone Caprodossi points out.
#37 2nd Place, Conservation (Impact) Photographer Of The Year
Rafael Fernandez Caballero, Mexico.
“Seeing a dead animal is always sad,” photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero admits, “but seeing a huge mammal dead, like this sperm whale, is indescribable. From land the scene was terrifying, but from the air the situation was even more shocking and dramatic. The river of blood stretched for perhaps more than a mile.”
#38 1st Place, Adventure Photographer Of The Year
Tom St George, Mexico.
“Safety, conservation and team diving are integral to cave diving, and cave diving photography is no different. It is very much a team effort. Featured in this photograph is Ellen Cuylaerts, who hovers motionless and awestruck after passing through a series of small passages and emerging to a view of these gigantic formations, that took millennia to form, and that she is seeing for the first time!,” photographer Tom St George remembers.
#39 3rd Place, Young Photographer Of The Year
Julian Jacobs, United States.
“Ten weeks after rupturing my eardrums in a scuba diving accident, I got the ok to head back into the ocean,” states photographer Julian Jacobs. “On my return to my favourite reef, I was met with the king tide. The visibility was almost nonexistent so I began to think about heading in. At that moment, hundreds of seabirds took to the skies around me – they were chasing bait balls. I swam over to the aggregation, carefully inching closer to the seabirds. As the waves washed over me, I framed the moment, an over/under shot of a juvenile brown pelican and its turbulent home.”
#40 Finalist, Human Connection Award: People & Planet Ocean
Thien Nguyen, Vietnam.
The protected mangrove forest of Ru Cha, in the Tam Giang lagoon, Thua Thien-Hue Province, Vietnam. “This aerial image of the mangrove forest expresses the connection between humans and nature, and how we rely on nature to survive,” photographer Thien Nguyen Ngoc shares.
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