Magical reflections and majestic wildlife among Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023 finalists

Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023
A rare encounter: four green sea turtles serenely swim together in a single frame - Wildlife category finalist. (Image credit: Renee Capozzola)

Magical reflections of coral reefs, a curious brightly colored squat lobster and a scuba diver exploring beneath an iceberg are among the finalists of this year’s Ocean Photographer of the Year Award (OPOTY). Next month, the winner’s from each category will be announced and the competition is stiff, to say the least. 

Every year, wildlife and conservation photographers from all over the globe share their unique views of the underwater world and how we as humans interact with it. Divided into eight categories including adventure, conservation - hope, conservation - impact, fine art, human connection, portfolio, wildlife and a young photographers award there are plenty of genres that can be entered.  The competition provides a platform not only to marvel at incredible, colorful underwater creatures but the important projects that are helping protect our oceans and seas as well as demonstrate how people use the sea as an integral part of life. 

• Check out the best cameras for wildlife photography including a range of amateur and professional models

A curious spider squat lobster checks out the photographer’s camera lens - Fine Art finalist. (Image credit: Yung Sen Wu)

Twelve finalists have been selected from each category except for the portfolio category which has been narrowed down to just Renee Capozzola and Sirachai Arunrugstichai and the young photographers’ category where just three budding ocean photographers have been selected.

Photographers entering the adventure category can submit anything from surfers to deep sea divers to people exploring the seas from a kayak. It delves into how we use the ocean not just for fun but to learn and develop a better understanding of it. Both conservation categories focus on projects that are helping to restore coastal areas, safeguard endangered species or respond to disasters such as oil spills and pollution. 

A fisherman places a traditional bubu, a handwoven bamboo and rattan basket, on the seabed to catch fish - Human Connection finalist (Image credit: Max Holba)

The wildlife category is dedicated to any photos of animals that live either in or near the sea so anything from polar bears to sea horses is acceptable. The human connection category tells stories of how fishermen, tourists and photographers that utilize the ocean for their own benefit while honoring and caring for it. The fine art category is open to those photographers who take a more artistic, creative approach to capturing sea life and includes everything from stunning black and white captures to aerial shots and photos that almost look like paintings.

Produced by Oceanographic Magazine, the OPOTY helps shine a light on the beauty of our watery worlds and the many threats it faces. This year’s judges are made up of world-renowned ocean photographers, expedition leaders and award-winning conservations who have played vital roles in protecting and educating on our oceans. To view the full finalist gallery head to the OPOTY website, we’ll be back next month to announce the overall winners. 

Like a bolt of lightning piercing through black clouds, this small common squid shoots off and jets a plume of ink into the water - Young Photographer finalist (Image credit: Aaron Sanders)

If you love these underwater shots, also see the best underwater housing so you can start snapping your own!

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.