Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019 Winners Announced

upy 2019 title

The winners of the 2019 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition have been revealed, and this year, British photographer Richard Barnden takes the crown with 'The Gauntlet', an outstanding picture of a parrotfish daring to brave the schooling sharks of French Polynesia and, sadly, the last picture of that parrotfish that will ever be taken. The winning entries were selected from more than 5,000 individual entries from 65 different countries and were judged by world-renowned expert photographers Peter Rowlands, Martin Edge and Alex Mustard. For a complete run-down of all the winners and runners-up, check out the UPY 2019 Website and download the free, 175-page UPY 2019 Yearbook.

Winner –  Behaviour

Richard Barnden, UK, 'The Gauntlet'

As the sun sets on Fakarava South Pass, the estimated 700 sharks that are patrolling the mouth of the channel by day, begins to hunt at night. The gauntlet is about to unfold. Descending into the darkness I can feel my heart beating a little faster than normal as hundreds of sharks are now covering the bottom. This unlucky parrotfish dodged in and out of the patch coral heads looking for somewhere to hide as swarms of sharks followed in hot pursuit. One grey reef shark suddenly grabbed the parrotfish by its head as the another twisted underneath it to get a better grip. In desperation it hurtled straight towards me as I snapped a few passing shots and curled up into a ball as the frenzy of sharks shot past, leaving only but a few falling parrotfish scales behind.

behaviour and upy 2019 Richard Barnden

Taken at Fakarava South Pass, French Polynesia. Nikon D810 with 15mm Sigma lens,  Inon Z240 strobes, Dive Pro /Big Blue video lights and Nauticam NA D810 housing (Richard Barnden/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'Photography is about preserving moments and what an unforgettable instant this is. Using a wide angle lens, the photographer takes us into the full drama of the hunt, as a melee of grey reef sharks rise like a breaking wave to tear apart their prey, truly revealing the ocean’s wilder side' – Alex Mustard.


Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2019
Winner –  Marine Conservation

Eduardo Acevedo, Spain, 'Caretta caretta turtle'

The Caretta caretta turtles spend much of their life in the open ocean. They come to the Canary Island after crossing the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean beaches. In this trip of many years they often have to avoid many dangerous traps like plastics, ropes, fishing nets etc. In this particular case, it got trapped in a net and it was practically impossible to escape from it... but this day it was very lucky and could escape thanks to the help of two underwater photographers who were sailing near her.

marine conservation winner acevedo

Shot in Los Gigantes, South Tenerife. Canon5D MKII with 15mm lens, Inon Z240 lighting and SEACAM housing (Acevedo/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'The problems of plastic pollution and ghost fishing are both illustrated by this struggling loggerhead turtle. I am happy to learn this individual was lucky enough to survive this deathtrap thanks to the photographer.' – Alex Mustard.


Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019
Winner –  Up and Coming

Taeyup Kim, Korea, 'Paradise'

Overwater, beautiful resort and palm trees in a super clear sky. Underwater, nearly 1m depth, colourful and untouched hard corals with some reef fishes. For the first dive here, I was running out of time for preparing ascent. And I request only diving this specific area for the nice split shots. I worked for about 30 minutes. I met two difficult points. The surface was not that calm because of the surrounding boat which made waves. Secondly, my posture was really unstable in such a shallow depth. I was waiting for some grey reef shark and black-tip reef shark that were near to come into the composition. I failed, but I like this paradise I did get.

up and coming winner Taeyup Kim

Taken in South Fakarava, French Polynesia. NikonD850 with Nikon AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm lens, Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes and Nauticam NA D850 housing (Taeyup Kim/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'Beautiful split shot with both a perfect under and over split. A very strong favourite with all the judges and one of the best examples I have seen of this type of image for some time. Just superb!'  – Martin Edge


Most Promising British Underwater Photographer 2019
Highly Commended –  British Waters Wide Angle

Malcolm Nimmo, UK, 'Marine Compass'

Being a passionate diver and snorkeler, I spend much of my spare time in UK waters particularly around Plymouth Sound, Torbay and the Isles of Scilly. All are beautiful and diverse marine environments. Towards the end of July, you may be lucky enough to encounter a compass jellyfish, pulsating gently through the surface waters. Not only are they fascinating creatures but they make potentially beautiful photographic subjects. This photograph was taken whilst snorkelling in the Isles of Scilly in only a few metres of water, shooting directly upwards to capture the surface features and a partial Snell’s windows. Maintaining both the surface features and subject illumination requires high strobe power settings and hence careful strobe positioning. Hopefully, this image highlights the beautiful marine environments we are lucky to have around the UK.

most promising british malcom nimmo

Shot in the Isles of Scilly, UK. NikonD7200 with Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens, 2 x INON 240 lights and Nauticam housing (Malcolm Nimmo/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'This image stood out on many levels. Composition, colour vibrancy and contrast combined with an unusual angle kept us coming back to it and helped it rise in the rankings with each viewing.'  – Peter Rowlands



Winner –  Wide Angle

François Baelen, Reunion, 'Gentle Giants'

At the very end of the day, this humpback whale was resting 15 metres down and allowed me to free dive centimetres away from her tail. I told my friend I wanted him to be part of the shot, but didn't need to ask the playful calf: he was very curious. From down there, the scene looked unreal and I'm glad that this photograph has captured this moment. Humpback whales are amazing and peaceful animals and I still can't believe they are still being hunted by mankind today.

wide angle winner François Baelen

Shot in waters of Saint-Gilles, Reunion Island. Sony A7III, Sony-Zeiss 16-35 mm lens, natural light and Nauticam NA7RIII housing (François Baelen/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'The first moment I viewed this image I knew it would be a strong contender. For me it's the symmetry of the Humpback and the balance between the diver and calf. Everything about it is in perfect alignment. The shape of the tail in relation to the four corners of the frame, not to mention the position of the free diver and calf. Superb imagery at its very best.'  – Martin Edge


Winner –  Macro

Fabio Iardino, Italy, 'Fast cuttlefish'

In the first three months of the year, I often go to the Gulf of Trieste in the north-east of Italy where I do night dives to take pictures of small cuttlefishes. The hope, given the period, is to find the cuttlefish during the mating phase. During the research, I found this Sepiola that moved about a half meter from the bottom. Looking at his way of moving, I was reminded of the idea of trying to make a panning shot and to photograph the effect of the movement to give dynamism to the image. Using the slow sync flash technique, after some unsuccessful attempts and after changing the parameters of my camera, I managed to capture an image that represents the movement and good visual impact.

Macro Winner Fabio Iardino

Taken in the Trieste Gulf of Italy. Nikon D850 with Micro Nikkor AFS 60mm lens, Inon Z330 lights and Hugyfot HFN-D850 housing (Fabio Iardino/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'Fabio’s use of long exposure and panning has turned a classic portrait of a Sepiola into an unforgettable one. The sharp and ghosted images of the bobtail squid balance pleasingly in the frame and combined with the outstretched tentacles give the feeling of the cephalopod lunging for its prey. An innovative and most deserving category winner.'  – Alex Mustard


Winner –  Wrecks

René B Andersen, Denmark, 'Big Guns'

My inspiration for this picture is Leigh Bishop’s black and white image of the HMS Audacious turret. The HMS Audacious, which is laying on 64 meters in Malin Head, Ireland, was a dreadnought battleship which struck a mine in 1914. After she capsized, the shells magazine exploded and she sank. I used a tripod and 3 Big Blue video lights to illuminate the turret with the majestic 13.5" guns and myself as the model. There was a small current so it wasn't easy to lay still during this long exposure shot. It took some time before achieving this shot and at 64 meters, the clock is ticking fast. That is the challenge with deep wreck photography. When I used the tripod with me as a model, there was a risk that something would go wrong as I am far from the camera so I had to cross my fingers every single shot.

Wrecks winner René B

Shot at Malin Head, Ireland. NikonD7000 with Nikon fisheye 10.5mm lens, 2x Big Blue 15,000 and 1x Big Blue 33,000 lights and Hugyfot HFN-D850 housing (René B. Andersen/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'So simple yet so powerful; the additional lighting of the turret and the main diver perfectly positioned. This was a very strong category this year with a deserved winner and it's refreshing to read the acknowledgement to Leigh Bishop's pioneering work.'  – Peter Rowlands


Winner –  Portrait

Nicholas Samaras, Greece, 'Fly high and smile'

Abandoned by swimmers and divers for many years because of the gold mine just on the edge of the gulf, Stratoni is a well-kept secret for scuba divers and macro photographers.
I visited Stratoni three times in August 2018 for a photo project dedicated to the seahorse colony that managed to survive there. On my third and last visit, I was planning to create a specific group photo of seahorses, before the sunset using natural light. Just on time of the big finale, a small ray came into the scene! Hidden in the sand a few centimetres from my camera, took off swimming in the shallows. I managed to swim with him and place my camera underneath to capture a portrait of his belly with the mouth and nose looking like a smiling happy angel’s face, with the sunbeams on the background softening the colour to emerald.

portrait Nicholas Samaras

Shot at Chalkidiki peninsula in Northern Greece. CanonEOS 5D Mark II with Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM + Kenko TelePlus, Retra Flash and Sea & Sea MDX-5D MKII housing (Nicholas Samaras/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'Superb impact from the very first moment it was presented. Perfect composition within the image frame and the understated colours. To top it off the author's comments above say it all... a Smiling Happy Angel's Face. One of my favourites from the entire competition.'  – Martin Edge


Winner –  Black and White

Henley Spiers, Philippines, 'Between Two Worlds'

10 metres down, I found myself hovering between two worlds. Below, an enormous school of fish covered the bottom as far as I could see. Above, a single Cormorant patrolled the surface, catching its breath and peering down at a potential underwater feast. The cormorant, better designed for swimming than flying, would dive down at speed, aggressively pursuing the fish. The school would move in unison to escape the bird’s sharp beak, making it difficult to isolate a single target. More often than not, the bird returned to the surface empty-handed and peace would momentarily be restored. I would squint up at the sunny surface, trying to keep track of the predator and anticipate the next underwater raid. This image captures the hostile, black silhouette of the cormorant as it dives down onto its prey, who for a brief moment, remain unaware of the danger above.

black and white henley spiers

Shot at Isla Espiritu Santo, Baja California, Mexico. Nikon D850 with Nikon 28-70mm and Nauticam W.A.C.P. lens, natural Light and Nauticam NA D850 housing (Henley Spiers/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'It must be 11 out of 10 for this groundbreaking image. Conception, interpretation and perseverance coupled with black and white’s ability to concentrate on the key elements. It gets better with each viewing.'  – Peter Rowlands


Winner –  Compact

Enrico Somogyi, Germany, 'Hairy in the Sunrise'

I woke up early in the morning to get a half and half shoot with a fisher boat and the Sunrise. This was the first picture. The second picture with the Hairy Frogfish I take on Laha 1. Here I was using a Inon S2000 with a Snoot for the Hairy. For the blue backlighting I used a colored Fiberoptic Snoot on a Inon Z240. To get the two Pictures together I was using the double Exposure Setting in the camera.

compact winner Enrico Somogyi

Taken in Ambon, Indonesia with a Panasonic LX100, Sony Fisheye Converter and Inon UCL 165 lens, Inon S2000 with Snoot and Inon Z240 with coloured FO lights and Nauticam LX100 housing (Enrico Somogyi/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'This image was a very popular choice between the panel. Ideal for a split rendition. What makes this a winner for me, notwithstanding the double exposure is the sympathetic balance of light & colour connected between the top half and bottom of the image frame.'  – Martin Edge


Winner –  British Waters Wide Angle

Robert Bailey, UK, 'Off the Wall'

Our dive group was on a private charter with Dive Scilly late last summer. The skipper dropped us on this lovely wall festooned with invertebrate life. I was keen to capture a good wide angle scenic featuring jewel anemones and a diver. When diving in the UK I've found the visibility is rarely good enough for making contrasty wide angle pictures, let alone including a model. On this occasion, the offshore site afforded us with clear water. I took advantage of the opportunity and encouraged my wife and model Paula to work her way into the frame. I took 20 shots in a series on this portion of the wall before settling on this image.

british waters winner Robert Bailey

Shot in the Isles of Scilly, UK. Nikon D500 with Tokina 10-17 fisheye zoom, 2x Inon Z240 lights and Sea & Sea MDX-D500 housing (Robert Bailey/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'Photographers often feel competition shots must be packed with new tricks to win. At UPY we always appreciate classic technique when it raises the bar of what has been done before. Rob's full technicolour wide angle scenic reveals the richness of UK seas with an elegant simplicity that is incredibly challenging to pull off in British conditions.'  – Alex Mustard


Winner –  British Waters Macro

Arthur Kingdon, UK, 'Beauty in the Mud'

Easter 2018 found me diving in Loch Duich on the west coast of Scotland. My target subject was the fireworks anemone which are found on the muddy sea bed towards the head of the loch. However, while searching for these, I spotted a length of plastic pipe lying partially buried in the mud. Moving cautiously to avoid stirring up the silt, I reached the open end and was delighted to find this collection of marine life. A long-clawed squat lobster posed proudly outside his man-made home, which he shared with numerous brittlestars, while dainty sea loch anemones decorated the entrance. To capture the beauty of this scene I chose to restrict the lighting to one strobe, snooted for a spotlight effect to avoid illuminating the unattractive background and angled to avoid lighting the interior of the pipe and to give a black background to the squat lobster.

british waters macro winner Arthur Kingdon

Shot in Loch Duich, Scotland, with a Nikon D7000, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Inon S2000  strobe and Aquatica AD7000 housing (Arthur Kingdon/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'A mantra of mine is 'it's not what it is; it's where it is', and this long-clawed squat lobster is in a perfect position to make a memorable image. The author, instead of 'blasting' it with light, has gone in the opposite direction by restricting the strobe into a snooted spotlight in order to illuminate just the features of the lobster and the dainty sea loch anemones. It's an example of 'Isolation lighting' at its very best. A great deal of uw photographers invest their time in what they want to illuminate. This is an example which in my opinion illustrates features that they do not want to illuminate, hence the punchy black background and the soft delicate hues of dark sand, facial features topped off by the sea loch anemones.'  – Martin Edge


Winner –  British Waters Living Together

Victoria Walker, UK, 'Morning Tide Mackerel'

This huge shoal of mackerel forgot to check the tide time table! Caught out by the spring low tide in St Ives Harbour, hundreds of mackerel found themselves stuck for a few hours until the tide came back in. I'd been out for a swim, testing my new weight belt with my camera when I came upon this unusual event. The local fisherman told me it very rarely happens so I slowly immersed myself into the pool to capture the spectacle. I had to sit very still not wanting to panic the fish, after just a few minutes they were swimming all around me. I wanted to capture the public watching from above, along with what was happening below. Luckily I had my wide angle lens to get the composition I wanted to achieve.

british waters living together victoria walker

Taken in St Ives Harbour, Cornwall. Canon 5D MK iii, Sigma 15mm lens, natural lighting and Ikelite housing (Victoria Walker/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'Images tell stories but well thought out and executed ones speak volumes. This is such an example which feeds the eye with tales of the seaside on summer days, lively marine spectacles and excited human interaction.'  – Peter Rowlands


Winner –  British Waters Compact

Martin Edser, UK, 'Playtime?'

If ever there was an invitation to play this was it! I love diving with and photographing seals, and have dived with them round the UK but this was my first trip to The Farne Islands and what a 'Sealfest' I was treated to. The younger pups especially were very curious of us, the lumbering black bubble monsters. This is great for us as photographers as we can wait for them to become increasingly inquisitive. This adorable seal pirouetted and arabesqued around me before sliding in and flicking sand over itself in a final attempt to get me to play - and it nearly worked! Using the ambient light and managing the aperture and shutter speed I have tried to focus and lock on the face but also capture a sense of movement, but the irresistible pose and eyes though are all this seal's own work.

british waters compact Martin Edser

Taken at the Farne Islands, UK with a CanonG7X Mk2, Fantasea UWL 09F wide angle wet lens, ambient lighting and a Nauticam NA-G7XII housing (Martin Edser/UPY 2019)

Judge's comments: 
'Does British diving get any better than a fun encounter with a grey seal pup? This youngster’s relaxed and curious face is captured perfectly by Martin, making us all want to be there too.'  – Alex Mustard



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