Winning Entries From the Underwater Photography Guide's Lockdown Competition

ocean art safe under the sea winners title

The Underwater Photography Guide has announced the winners of its special 'Ocean Art Safe Under the Sea' Underwater Photo Competition, held while most of the world remained in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Photographers from 79 countries entered images into the competition, and 25 per cent of all proceeds received have been donated to the CDC Foundation and the WHO's Covid-19 response fund. 'Safe Under the Sea' was held in addition to the Underwater Photography Guide's regular Ocean Art competition, which will begin accepting entries from September.

For a complete list of winning entries and runners-up, visit

Best of Show and Underwater Conservation Winner

Edwar Herreno, 'Releasing Hope'


The Story: Eduardo Espinosa, a Marine Biologist and Galápagos island park ranger discovered this unique hammerhead shark nursery area in Galapagos National park a few years ago and it is truly a unique place. He is working on a manageable plan for the conservation of this important species, now critically endangered species (IUCN list). I was on a work assignment for a conservation organization. In order to get there, we can only go in high tide. Eduardo and his team were working tagging and studying hammerheads, that day we captured 12 pups. I've been in different shark nursery areas but I've never seen anything like this one. Besides hammerheads, we saw blacktips, whitetips, babies turtles, eagle rays... it was just like in a movie.

Location: Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Equipment Used: Nikon D850 camera, Hugyfot housing, Nikon 14mm lens

Camera Settings: 1/160s, f22, ISO 800


Wide Angle Winner

Paul Cox, 'Arms Wide Open'


The Story: The quick drop to the pelagic zone on the South Kona, Hawaii coast, will on occasion reward a shore diver or swimmer with a blue water type animal encounter. This was one of those occasions, a female pelagic manta found us and we spent a long six minutes together. A quiet ballet may be a way to describe it, in any way, emotion in this image was the result. Of course, clear water, sunlight, and the compact size of the Sony a6500 mirrorless camera enabling manoeuvrability helped. But mostly, the two dazzling models with arms wide open made my swim gigantic.

Location: South Kona, Hawaii, USA

Equipment Used: Sony A6500 camera, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, Sigma MC-11 Sony E to Canon EF adapter, Ikelite housing, Ikelite 6in dome port.

Camera Settings: 1/500 sec, F7.1, ISO 400


Macro Winner

Lars Michaelis, 'Rumble in the Jungle'


The Story: When we were diving at the famous dive site Arthur´s Rock, I noticed two big skeleton shrimps fighting for territory on a hydroid at 15m depth. All the other smaller shrimps kept a distance and watched the fight. It was like in a boxing ring. The upper skeleton shrimp hit his rival´s head with one of his big claws. The lower one stumbled backwards. The scene reminded me of the world champion-fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman 1974 in Kinshasa. I tried to open the snoot of the S2000 in order to get more of the hydroid in the picture and reduced the light for fading out the other backgrounds.

Location: Anilao, Batangas, Philippines

Equipment Used: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm macro lens, Olympus housing, Sea&Sea YS-D1 Strobe, Inon S2000 strobe with Mangrove snoot, Nauticam CMC-1 diopter,

Camera Settings: 1/100s, f14, ISO 200


Marine Life Behaviour Winner

Yung Sen Wu, 'Mola Mola'


The Story: This is a shot of the cleaning behaviour of ocean sunfish at a depth of 37 metres. They are large and slow-moving. Sunfish - mola -  are susceptible to a wide variety of skin parasites, sometimes more than 40 species on a single fish – they are literally habitats that move. Many of these parasites are hosted by the jellyfish that the sunfish consume. Fortunately, being charismatic has its perks and sunfish have developed some unique interspecies relationships to help them cope with parasites. Mola have a symbiotic relationship with a large variety of species, from seagulls to wrasse. Sunfish signal these species whenever they need a cleaning, to attract cleaner fish.

Location: Lembongan, Indonesia

Equipment Used: Sony A7R III camera, Sony 12-24 F4 FE lens, Seacam housing, Dual Seacam 150D strobes

Camera Settings: 1/100, f8, ISO 640


Portrait Winner

Jacopo Brunetti, 'Vertical Approach'


The Story: I took this shot during one of our mako sharks expedition in Cabo San Lucas, MX. Mako sharks display a strange behaviour called gaping. Mouth gaping in sharks has been considered to be either a threat display or a response to their innate territorialism especially when multiple makos are around. Makos are also attracted by the electricity of the camera, that's why sometimes they gape at divers and bite the camera dome. This mako was a real player, he bit my dome four times on the same dive. This photo is the instant before he struck. This mako was around 8ft, it showed up from the deep on the typical vertical approach, like a silver rocket, amazing, pure adrenaline!

Location: Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Equipment Used: Nikon D500 camera, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye Lens, Aquatica housing, Aquatica mini dome port

Camera Settings: 1/400s, f8, ISO 400


Coldwater Winner

Joanna Smart, 'Curiosity'


The Story: As I swam through the dense kelp forest of Anacapa Island, I felt a tug at my fins. Turning around, I found a harbour seal, with large gazing eyes and a tubby, plump figure stared back at me from within the kelp. Its enormous cartoon-like eyes and notable lack of neck was undeniably cute. He stared at me for a moment more, before darting forward. Swimming gently up to me, he grabbed onto my arm with his flippers. I nearly recoiled in shock from this surprisingly human gesture. As I regained my composure, I looked up to find him staring at me, eyes filled with curiosity. He stayed with me for an hour and a half, darting in and out of the kelp, watching me swim. I couldn't help but wonder if he was just as curious about me as I was about him.

Location: Anacapa Island, California, USA

Equipment Used: Panasonic Lumix GX9 camera, Olympus 14-42mm lens (at 14) in a Nauticam housing with a WWL-1 wet lens and two Inon S-2000 strobes.

Camera Settings: 1/100s, f5, ISO 400


Shipwreck Winner

Taner Atilgan, 'Famous Motorcycle of Thistlegorm'


The Story: The idea of backlighting the motorcycle in Thistlegorm wreck is definitely not new – this picture was taken in 2013! Back in those days, I was a novice photographer and I was not able to post-process this shot properly. In the following years, the picture lost its eligibility for competitions due to time restrictions and very successful versions had been published by other photographers. This year, when Ocean Art Safe Under the Sea competition was announced, I noticed that there is a new 'shipwreck' category and no time restriction for submissions. Consequently, I wanted to take my chance one more time.

Location: SS Thistlegorm Wreck, Red Sea, Egypt

Equipment Used: Nikon D7100 camera, Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, Ikelite DS-161 strobes

Camera Settings: 1/80s, f8, ISO 640


Blackwater Winner

Eric Hou, 'Red'


The Story: The most fascinating part of blackwater diving is that you don't know what will happen next second. Suddenly a blanket octopus appeared in front of me, moving in the water like a dancer. It was unexpected.

Location: Anilao, Batangas, Philippines

Equipment Used: Canon 5D MK IV camera, Sigma 50mm lens, Nauticam NA-5DIV housing, Inon Z-240 strobes, Force Light RGBlue System-02

Camera Settings: 1/250s, f25, ISO 640


Underwater Art Winner

Rodger Klein, 'Bubblewand'


The Story: This image was taken during an experimental shoot in my studio pool in Venice Beach, California. I was working with artist/body painter Michael Bui and his wife model Mida. Since the pool is over 10 feet, I was shooting while on scuba while Mida was freediving in the pool. After about six hours of body paint work and several hours of preparation in the pool with fabric backdrops and numerous underwater strobes placed around the pool we made this image. The bubble wand that Mida is holding is a painted piece of PVC pipe attached via a hose to a koi pond aerator which created the bubbles. I removed the hose from the image during post-production in Photoshop.

Location: Venice Studio Pool, Venice Beach California, USA

Equipment Used: Nikon D800E camera, Nikon 16-35mm lens, Nauticam housing, Icon Z240 & Sea&Sea YS-250 Strobes, Nauticam optical glass dome port

Camera Settings: 1/250s, f9, ISO 160


Compact Wide Angle Winner

Yannick Bruynoghe, 'Welcome to Tubbataha'


The Story: It was an exceptional trip to Tubbataha for my birthday. We dived on the site named Delsan Wreck. We first encountered two whale sharks then we decided to dive again on the same spot. Together with my buddy, we decided to jump a little further away, to experience more and avoid other divers. We reached 20m and  saw a mass of barracudas following the whale shark. We have stayed a few minutes before they disappeared. 

Location: Tubbataha Reef, Philippines

Equipment Used: Canon G7XII camera, Nauticam housing, Dual Inon D200 strobes, Inon UWL-H100 dome

Camera Settings: 1/235s, f5.6, ISO 125


Compact Macro Winner

Uwe Schmolke, 'Beauty'


The Story: While diving Bali, I've spent some days in the Tulamben area to run some macro images. This particular nudibranch I found on an orange sponge, which has been attached to an old rotten fishing rope on the sandy ocean floor. 

Location: Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia

Equipment Used: Canon G12 camera, Patima housing, Ikelite strobe, Subsee +10 diopter

Camera Settings: 1/500s, f8, ISO 100


Compact Behaviour Winner

Stan Chen, 'Lemon Goby'


The Story: These lemon goby parents had spawned their eggs on a glass fragment that caught my eyes and I decided to take the shot to record how fish can coexist with human garbage. The gobies were very shy and they kept moving around. I waited about 40 minutes and finally, they gathered together and one also opened its mouth.

Location: Lembeh, Indonesia

Equipment Used: Sony RX100 M4, Inon strobe, & LSD; SMC2 macro lens

Camera Settings: 1/250s, f/11, ISO 250


For a complete list of winning entries and runners-up, visit


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