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Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 reveals sea-sational winning images

Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 winning images
Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 overall winner: 'Dancing with the giants of the night', by Rafael Fernandez Caballero (Image credit: © Rafael Fernandez Caballero /UPY2022)

The eighth edition of the annual Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPOTY) competition has revealed the winning images across multiple categories, celebrating the most sea-sational images captured of life in the deep. 

Rafael Fernandez Caballero was awarded the overall winner of UPOTY 2022 with his breath-taking image of whale sharks titled 'Dancing with the giants of the night'.

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Winning the Wide Angle category , Spanish photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero was also awarded the winning title overall for this year's Underwater Photographer of the Year (opens in new tab) competition with an unexpected yet tremendous capture of a cluster of whale sharks. 

Caballero used a Nikon Z7 II (opens in new tab) paired with a Nikon 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5 Fisheye lens (opens in new tab) to snap the perfectly-timed shot, with settings such as an ISO of 5000, f/4.2 and speed of 1/80 in an Isotta Z7II housing. Additional lighting was also used by Caballero in the form of One OrcaTorch D950V.

British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022: 'A 3.5m great white curiously approaches my lens' (Image credit: © Matty Smith /UPY2022)
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Captured on a late night in the Maldives, Caballero recalls a singular whale shark heading towards the light of his team's boat, the BlueForce One, prompting them to jump in the water for a closer look. Another whale shark emerged, and a few hours later multiple whale sharks arrived in large numbers, surrounded by a total of 11 whale sharks. Shark researcher Gador Muntaner was among the team with Caballero who could not believe their eyes, a unique moment unfolding that no one believed possible. 

The judges were also sea-swept away with Caballero's winning image with UPY Chair Dr Alexander Mustard (MBE), former marine biologist and award-winning underwater photographer, suggesting that "It is said Jacques Cousteau [French explorer] only saw three whale sharks in his whole life, so a photo of five together is something special... darkness was the opportunity, but also the photographic challenge for Rafael to see and successfully photograph such a grand scene in the inky sea. What a spectacle, a frame with more life than water."

Additional judge Peter Rowlands, editor and publisher of Underwater Photography Magazine, shared that "This image took my breath away from the first viewing and I never tired coming back to it. Scale, light and the sheer numbers of big subjects, it was quite obvious from an early stage that this was, by some distance, our winning image."

Up and coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022: 'Supernova in paradise' (Image credit: © Quico Abadal /UPY2022)
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Most Promising British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022: 'Diamonds and Rust' (Image credit: © Paul Pettitt /UPY2022)
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Other winners of the competition include Up and coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022, Quico Abadal, also from Spain with his image titled 'Supernova in paradise'. Winning the Most Promising British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 category was Paul Pettitt (UK) with his image titled 'Diamonds and Rust'. 

The category My Backyard features images taken closer to home, with Finnish photographer Pekka Tuuri winnimg with his image of three frogs that appear to be 'hugging', surrounded by bokeh-esque tadpoles forming a unique background. This same image from Tuuri also won the Behaviour category of the competition.

The Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2022 was awarded to Vietnamese photographer, Thien Nguyen Ngoc. The image shows an aerial perspective of busy anchovy fishing activities off a coast in Vietnam. salted anchovy is valuable as the most important raw material to create fish sauce, though when overfished can become a decreased dietary staple endangering whales, sea birds and other marine predators facing starvation. 

Winners, runners up and highly commended images from all 12 main categories can be found on the competition's website, featuring images of shipwrecks, portraits of great white sharks and macro shots from British waters. 

My Backyard and Behaviour Award 2022: 'All You Need Is Love' (Image credit: © Pekka Tuuri /UPY2022)
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Prize pool's work a little differently for the UPY competitions, operating a points system that leads to eventual prizes, with a single photographer taking home only one prize from the prize pool, and as many of the fixed category prizes that they win. Photographers with the most points get first pick of the pool, with some categories offering their own allocated prize-pools, and  the Underwater Photographer of the Year winner is given first choice pick from the pool, regardless of their points total. 

A full run-down of the prize pool and sponsors (opens in new tab) can be found online, but a summary includes seven-night accommodation and diving packages at specified resorts, cash prizes and vouchers from the likes of Scuba Travel, ScubaLamp products, Nauticam SMC-1 and CMC-1 lenses, plus Magic Filter products and a FIX NEO Premium 3000SWRII FS light. 

Each year, the UPY competition creates a free-to-download yearbook showcasing the complete collection of winning images. You can check out and download the 2022 ebook (opens in new tab)on the UPY website.

A full run-down of the prize pool and sponsors (opens in new tab) can be found online, but a summary includes seven-night accommodation and diving packages at specified resorts, cash prizes and vouchers from the likes of Scuba Travel, ScubaLamp products, Nauticam SMC-1 and CMC-1 lenses, plus Magic Filter products and a FIX NEO Premium 3000SWRII FS light. 

Each year, the UPY competition creates a free-to-download yearbook showcasing the complete collection of winning images. You can check out and download the 2022 ebook (opens in new tab)on the UPY website.

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Beth Nicholls
Beth Nicholls

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.