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Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 Results Announced
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, February 17, 2024 @ 09:00 AM (EST)

Wide Angle Category Winner and Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024: Alex Dawson

UPY has announced the winners of the 2024 contest, naming Alex Dawson “Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024” for his powerful image of a freediver examining the aftermath of whaling. The Sweden-based shooter’s photograph “Whale Bones” triumphed over more than 6,500 underwater images entered by photographers from around the world into 13 categories. The winners were announced in an awards ceremony in Mayfair, London, hosted by The Crown Estate. Joining the chair of the judging panel Alex Mustard were underwater photographers Peter Rowlands and Tobias Friedrich.

“‘Whale Bones’ was photographed in the toughest conditions,” explained Mustard, “as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear witness to the carcasses. The composition invites us to consider our impact on the great creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today, just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock. Our way needs to change to find a balance with nature.”

Two more whale pictures were winners this year, both shot in Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico by Rafael Fernandez Caballero: the Portrait category winner, a close-up of a gray whale’s eye; and the Behavior category winner, an action shot of a Bryde’s whale engulfing a baitball. Fernandez Caballero took “Gray Whale Connection” while drifting in a small boat, holding his camera over the side in the water to photograph the curious mammal. “The End of a Baitball” required the Spanish photographer to dive down and be in exactly the right place at the moment the animal lunged. “The photo shows the high speed attack,” he said, “with the whale engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines in one bite—simply unforgettable to see predation on such a scale.”

Portrait Category Winner: Rafael Fernandez Caballero

Behavior Category Winner: Rafael Fernandez Caballero

US photographer Lisa Stengel was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image of a mahi-mahi catching a sardine in Mexico, entitled “Window of Opportunity.” Stengel used both a very fast shutter speed and her hearing to catch the moment. “If you listen there’s an enormous amount of sound in the ocean,” she explained. “The action was too fast to see, so I honed in on the sound of the attacks with my camera to capture this special moment.”

“It is such an exciting time in underwater photography because photographers are capturing such amazing new images, by visiting new locations and using the latest cameras,” commented judge Alex Mustard. “Until this year I’d hardly ever see a photo of a mahi-mahi; now Lisa has photographed one hunting, action that plays out in the blink of an eye.”

Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024: Lisa Stengel

The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Jenny Stock was named British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image “Star Attraction,” which finds beauty in species of British wildlife that are often overlooked. Exploring the west coast of Scotland, Stock explained: “In the dark green depths my torch picked out the vivid colors of a living carpet of thousands of brittle stars, each with a different pattern. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I got really excited.”

Portuguese photographer Nuno Sá was named “Save Our Seas Foundation” Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024 for his photo “Saving Goliath.” Sá’s photo from Portugal shows beachgoers trying to save a stranded sperm whale. “The whale had been struck by a ship and its fate was sealed,” explains Sá. “An estimated 20,000 whales are killed every year, and many more injured, after being struck by ships—and few people even realize that it happens.” The picture gives us hope that people do care and want to help the oceans, but also warns us that bigger changes are needed.

Congratulations to everyone who placed in the competition. Check out the full winners gallery on the UPY website.

British Waters Macro Category Winner and British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024: Jenny Stock

Marine Conservation Category Winner and “Save Our Seas Foundation” Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024: Nuno Sá

Macro Category Winner: Talia Greis

Wrecks Category Winner: Martin Broen

Black & White Category Winner: Jasmine Skye Smith

Compact Category Winner: Enrico Somogyi

British Waters Wide Angle Category Winner: Kat Zhou

British Waters Living Together Category Winner: Kirsty Andrews

British Waters Compact Category Winner: Jonathan Bunker



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