The Underwater Photographer of the Year competition attracts thousands of entries each year, and showcases some absolutely stunning results from photographers all over the world, with 12 diverse categories to enter.
Sea creatures captured in their natural habitats can make for some remarkable viewpoints that we seldom get to see, and a chance to connect with the underwater world in new ways through the power of photography.
• Take your own underwater photographs with the best waterproof cameras
Photographer Kat Zhou from the US has been awarded the prestigious title of Underwater Photographer of the Year for her stunning image of a pink river dolphin emerging from the water, with a sunset background, titled Boto Encantado (below) Interestingly, this phrase in mythology relates to traditional Amazon River folklore about a dolphin shapeshifter who at night transforms into a handsome young man.
River dolphins (botos) are an endangered species, and as Zhou explains, "Many river dolphins have been killed for use as fish bait, drowned in gill nets, or poisoned by mercury pollution from mining. I fear that one day botos will truly become no more than mythical creatures.
"Though I did not witness the transformation, I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way. After seeing how botos would sometimes bring their beaks above water, I wanted a split shot at sunset. Though the water was so dark that I was shooting blind, this dolphin gave me a perfect pose and smile!"
Chair of the competition judges, Alex Mustard, spoke glowingly of Zhou's winning shot. "Kat has created a striking composition capturing this rarely photographed and endangered species in a precision composition. This is by far the best image we've ever seen of this species, whose numbers are declining at an alarming rate and whose IUCN’s Red List status was worryingly uprated to Endangered in 2019."
Spanish photographer, Alvaro Herrero, was named the Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023, with his winning image Hopeless (below) being captured in Mexico. Herrero's photograph depicts a humpback whale dying of starvation, as a result of its tail being broken after getting entangled in ropes and buoys, making it unable to swim properly.
"Taking this photograph was the saddest moment I've experienced in the ocean, especially because I have spent so much time with humpbacks underwater, experiencing eye contact, interactions, and seeing how the whales are such intelligent and sentient beings," said Herrero.
"The photo is a reflection of how our oceans are suffering, the product of man's selfishness and lack of responsibility. But I am, at least, happy that I could capture this moment and can now share it with the world and hopefully drive some real changes.”
The competition also crowned another photographer, Ollie Clarke, as the British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 for his image The Swarm (top of article) featuring a whale shark – the largest fish in the world.
Being a UK-based competition, there are four British Waters categories whereby submitted entries must have been captured in UK waters. This image was shot by Clarke in Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, where the British-born photographer now lives.
The Most Promising British Underwater Photographer title was awarded to Theo Vickers, from the UK, for his image of Himanthalia algae titled An Island's Wild Seas (above) captured at a conservation zone on the Isle of Wight.
Be sure to check out the full winners gallery and collection on the Underwater Photographer of the Year website, with over 130 amazing images and video interviews featured from the competition.
Each year, the contest creates a free-to-download yearbook showcasing the complete collection of winning images. You can check out and download the 2023 yearbook from the competition website while you're there!
• You may also be interested in the best underwater drones, as well as the best waterproof phones, plus the best underwater housings for cameras and phones, and not forgetting the best fisheye lenses.