In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, as from 2009, June 8th would be designated by the United Nations as "World Oceans Day." We recognize that our oceans are essential to securing food and survival of all life on planet Earth. They power our climate and they are a critical part of the biosphere. Even when people all around the world are dealing with the unprecedented measures to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic, our oceans are still taking care of us!
World Oceans Day encourages you to make a difference in your life, in your community, and in the world by taking action to protect our ocean—for present and future generations. Despite the huge challenges facing the world's oceans such as plastic pollution, overfishing and climate change, by working together we can achieve a healthier ocean that will provide for the billions of humans, plants and animals which depend on it every day.
From Ellen Cuylaerts, UN World Oceans Day Photo Competition Curator:
This is a call-out to all image-makers to enter the eighth edition of the United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition. Who could have imagined a year ago that many parts of the world would still be experiencing restrictions? Many of us are longing for ocean time, encounters that amaze us, humbling experiences we might cherish more than before. The absence starts aching. So what better way to prepare for new, maybe local, adventures and images than diving into your image library and entering the competition while contemplating how we can make a difference and contribute to conservation and preservation of ocean life and livelihood?
In the 2021 edition, we are keeping our classic categories “Above Water Seascapes” and “Underwater Seascapes”; every year, the images entered create a dream value that connects every soul to the cradle of life. “Digital Ocean Photo Art” gives you the chance to be creative with imagination and expression without boundaries within opportunities or processing! The theme of this year’s UN World Oceans Day, “The Ocean: Life & Livelihoods,” and the other new categories, “Faces of the Sea” and “Oceanic Discoveries,” are wide open to the photographer’s interpretation and artistic view. Show us what these words mean to you and give our panel of esteemed judges a hard time choosing this year’s winners!
Just like last year, we are asking every participant to agree to our charter of ethics in underwater photography (see below). We hope that this charter will be an example for many competitions around the world, inviting photographers not just to enjoy the oceans but to lead by example and be true ocean ambassadors.
© Joanna Smart (Australia), Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean and World Oceans Day Theme — Winner (2020)
Photography is a powerful medium to convey a feeling or a message. This open and free photo competition seeks to inspire the creation of imagery capturing the beauty, the challenges and the importance of the ocean and humankind’s relation to it, hoping to contribute to actions to preserve this vital resource.
The photo competition has six thematic categories open for submissions:
Entries must be submitted electronically in accordance with the contest guidelines and subject to the contest rules.
All entries must be submitted by April 30th, 2021 at 12 midnight Eastern Standard Time (EST).
Winning images will be recognized at the United Nations on June 8th during the United Nations’ event marking World Oceans Day 2021.
Recognition and diffusion of the winning images and finalists will be widely exposed throughout the contest websites, the media and the informational materials related to subsequent competitions. Winning photos have been printed for exhibitions around the world.
© Leighton Lum (USA), Rejuvenation — Winner (2020)
I, working in the underwater realm, commit myself to the following code of ethics and bringing education and awareness around my encounters, to help preserve our oceans and blue planet!
© Michael Gallagher (UK), Underwater Life — Winner (2020)
Note on photo manipulation (applicable to all categories except “Digital Ocean Photo Art”): Post-processing images is allowed. This includes global adjustments to exposure, contrast, burning, dodging, cropping, sharpening, noise reduction, and tone. Minor cleaning of images is permitted, including the removal of backscatter, dust and scratches. HDR, panoramas, focus stacking or other techniques that involve using multiple images taken at the same time and place are also allowed.
Adding, removing or moving animals, people, plants or other objects is not allowed. For example, moving a fish, removing a reef element or adding a glow to a divers torch is not acceptable.
While digital manipulation is permitted, please keep in mind this not a Photoshop competition. All images should accurately represent the subject matter and nature. Images that appear to be overly processed may be disqualified at the judges’ discretion.
© Francisco Sedano (Spain), Digital Ocean Photo Art — Winner (2020)
Note: Entrants should retain high-resolution and RAW files, if applicable, of their submissions. In the event your submission is selected as a finalist or winner, you will be asked to submit a high-resolution image for printing and display, and, if applicable, a RAW image to check if adjustments made to the image comply with the rules.
Jennifer Hayes is an aquatic biologist and photojournalist specializing in natural history and ocean environments from the tropics to the polar regions. Jennifer is a contributing photographer, author and speaker for National Geographic Partners and visiting professor of marine ecology, State University of New York.
Jennifer’s passion for the study and conservation of sharks and sturgeons led to graduate degrees in zoology and marine biology. She is an award-winning essayist, photographer, author of numerous publications and books on marine environments, and recipient of the Presidential Award for Environmental Education. Her work has been featured on CNN, ABC Good Morning America, National Geographic TV, Wild, and Disney Channel. She is a trustee of the Shark Research Institute, Explorer Club Fellow, Contributing Editor for Ocean Geographic magazine, and Principal for Elysium Artists for Antarctic, Arctic and Coral Triangle Expeditions.
Jennifer’s National Geographic works-in-progress include reportage of UNESCO Marine World Heritage Sites focusing on “Coral Through the Lens of Time” and multiple-year collaboration to document harp seals in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as a face of climate change. She is a strong advocate of collaboration and giving a voice and platform to #NextGeneration ocean.
Julian Lennon has always felt that he has observed life differently, perhaps because his path through life has been so unusual. Nothing could be more apparent, as he reveals to the viewer his keen eye for composition and his gift for capturing an intimate moment. Julian seeks to depict his personal journey as an artist in the midst of unique life experiences.
Born in Liverpool, England, Julian began his artistic trajectory at a young age with an inherent gift for playing musical instruments. Those abilities would soon broaden into the cinematic and visual arts. As an observer of life in all its forms, Julian developed his personal expression through such mediums as music, documentary filmmaking, philanthropy, and now photography. “Timeless,” his first photo exhibition, staged in Manhattan in September 2010, debuted Julian’s considerable talents behind the camera, as seen in photographs of U2 and his painterly landscapes. Since then, he has had multiple exhibitions throughout the world, his most recent being “Horizon,” which reconciled photography with philanthropy, the results of a Charity: Water and White Feather Foundation initiative, bringing critically needed clean drinking water to parts of Africa. During his travels through Kenya, Ethiopia, South America and beyond, Julian captured a wide variety of images with the intention of inspiring viewers to learn about unique indigenous cultures, meanwhile raising awareness of their plights.
Empathy, notes Julian, is the bond that unites the planet. He offers, “We are all in this together, and hopefully someday, the world will realize that… Photography is one way to share, learn, appreciate, and experience other cultures, which in turn allows us to empathize with other people’s lives…”
Afelandra Glez Cibrián is a Mexican marine biologist specializing in the study of opisthobranchs—sea slugs and nudibranchs. She is responsible for discovering several new species of nudibranchs in the Sea of Cortez—finds that have led to her collaboration with various national and international institutions. Afelandra combines her scientific investigations and publications with work as a field producer in film and television. To date, her broadcast credits include Animal Planet and the BBC, which has led to a dramatic increase in the variety—and size—of animal she studies.
A PADI IDC Staff Instructor, Afelandra is currently setting up her own dive adventure company in La Paz, and she is continuing to undertake courses that increase her dive knowledge. “Taking a diving course with me goes beyond learning to dive,” she says. “In my courses, I like to make my students fall in love with nature and understand the importance of respecting and caring for marine and terrestrial ecosystems. This is achieved by sharing interesting ecological facts about the organisms with which we interact, thanks to my knowledge of marine biology, and also by adhering to sustainable practices when we go diving. Through diving, I can see how people totally change their perspective, and this is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and leave them with a new vision that they can pass on to others. Ultimately, my mission is to ensure more people fall in love with the ocean and help to conserve it.”
Check out what Afelandra is doing by following her on Instagram.
Joakim Odelberg is one of the most contracted and respected conservation photojournalists, producers, and underwater filmmakers in Sweden. His devotion to conservation, both on land and at sea, has taken him far beyond national borders.
As an expert and influencer, he is frequently booked for talks both in Sweden and internationally. Joakim has worked as a popular host for Swedish television show “Surrounded by Nature.” He is also a Fellow of the highly respected Explorers Club.
Ipah Uid Lynn is an underwater photographer and PADI Instructor. A mother of six children, she travels the world with her husband in search of marine life—from the smallest critters to the largest big animals—with the aim of capturing the beauty of the underwater world with her camera.
The award-winning photographer has received more than 19 international accolades in her career, putting her native Malaysia on the underwater imaging map. Ipah is a frequent speaker at international dive shows, sharing her knowledge about the art of creative underwater photography.
Follow Ipah and her work on Facebook.
Goff’s life changed when a British non-governmental organization called Blue Ventures started working in his small fishing village, and he had the opportunity to learn more about conservation and marine protection. He was offered a job, and he began working with the team on a range of projects, including recording the shark catches of local fishers and conducting a series of marine educational programs. During that time, he learned to speak English and became a PADI Assistant Instructor.
In 2014, by chance Goff met a British environmental filmmaker called Chris Scarffe, who was working on a project for a documentary TV series on HBO about overfishing. Goff became the translator and “fixer” for the show, and they became good friends and colleagues. Over the years, Goff has learned the art of filmmaking and photography from Chris, putting these new skills to good use and traveling to some of the most remote and inaccessible places in Madagascar. As Manager of Madagascar Film and Photography, Goff works to capture powerful images of Madagascar’s people and biodiversity.
Follow Goff on Facebook.
If your organization would be interested in supporting the Annual World Oceans Day Photo Contest please contact us here.
Competition curator Ellen Cuylaerts talks to Joanna Smart, the photographer that shot the overall winner of the 2020 World Oceans Day Photo Competition
Travel with David Salvatori to Italy as he reveals the story behind his award-winning image
Christian Vizl describes how he captured his award-winning image shot on expedition to the Arctic
Jonas Thormar tells the story behind his award-winning split-shot leopard seal image