Winners of The Underwater Photography Guide's 2020 Competiton Revealed

ocean art title graphic

The winners of the Underwater Photography Guide's 2020 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition have been announced, with an impressive array of high-quality photographs submitted to the judges despite global travel restrictions and the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ninth instance of the annual competition invited photographers to submit photos from their own backyards, the few destinations that are open to travel, or search through their archives for previously unseen eye-catching photography. An assortment of high-value prizes from luxury dive resorts and liveaboards and high-end photographic equipment manufacturers was made available by the competition's sponsors, who also helped to raise funds for the WHO and CDC during the UPG's additional 'Safe Under the Seas' competition held over the summer of 2020.

Thousands of photographs from 80 countries were submitted across 12 different categories for evaluation by the judges. This year's Best of Show is a once-in-a-lifetime moment of an octopus taking a selfie with the help of the photographer and his curious family in the background. The photo was captured by photographer Gaetano Dario Gargiulo close to his home in the tide pools of Kamay Botany Bay National Park, New South Wales, Australia.

Bluewater Photo and Bluewater Travel owner and Underwater Photography Guide publisher, Scott Gietler said: 'The Ocean Art team was thrilled to see that so many photographers were able to get out, dive, and immerse themselves in photography this year. The Best of Show was especially impressive. My only concern is that the octopus should get its share of the prize, as it did assist in taking the shot!'


Best in Show and First Place: Wide Angle

Gaetano Dario Gargiulo – 'The Day of the Tentacles'  

best in show day of the tentacles Gaetano Dario Gargiulo

The Story: On the day of the photo, I remained in the tide pool as the tide was too low to venture outside of its boundaries. In one of the shallowest parts of the pool I noticed an octopus. I placed my camera near its den and the octopus started interacting with it. It came completely out of the den and to our amazement it started shooting pictures! My son (3 y.o. in the background) was very curious about the octopus. | Location: New South Wales, Australia | Equipment Used: Nikon D850+ Camera, Nikon 8-15mm Lens, Isotta Housing, Dual Backscatter Mini Flash | Camera Settings: 1/20, F22, ISO 320


First Place: Macro

Galice Hoarau – 'Seahorse'

1st Macro galice hoarau seahorse

The Story: Pontoh’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi) is one of the smallest and most recently discovered seahorses. They lived on reef walls and can be challenging to find. This particular individual was hanging out from the wall, allowing the use of a snoot to backlight it. | Location: Siladen, Indonesia | Equipment Used: Olympus E-M1 II Camera, Olympus 60mm Macro Lens, Nauticam Housing, Nauticam CMC-1 Diopter, Inon Z330 Strobe, Backscatter Mini Strobe with Snoot | Camera Settings: 1/160, F22, ISO 200


First Place: Marine Life Behaviour

Steven Kovacs – 'Mating Crabs"'

1st Marine Life Behavior steven kovacs mating crabs

The Story: Sargassum Swimming Crabs are a fairly common find in the waters off Florida, especially when mats of Sargassum can be found floating on the surface. At night they can be found diving into the depths, well clear of their protective homes, in search of food. On this occasion, as I swept my lights side to side searching through the darkness for subjects to photograph during a blackwater dive, I was surprised to find these two crabs in a mating embrace diving and spinning past me as I swam at 50 feet. This was the first time encountering this behaviour over several years of open ocean diving and I was fortunate to be able to capture a photograph before the amorous couple disappeared even deeper into the darkness. | Location: Palm Beach, Florida, USA | Equipment Used: Nikon D500 Camera, Ikelite Housing, Dual Ikelite DS160 Strobes | Camera Settings: 1/250, F25, ISO 250


First Place: Portrait

Galice Hoarau – 'Anglerfish'

1st Portrait galice hoarau anglerfish

The Story: Large female anglerfish (Lophius piscatorius) can be regularly observed in Arctic Norwegian fjords in the autumn. I was lucky to meet this one when she was swimming up from deeper waters looking for a place to hide and hunt. Anglerfish are not shy and will let photographers come very close. | Location: Saltstraumen, Norway | Equipment Used: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with 30mm Lens, Nauticam Housing, Nauticam MWL-1, Dual Inon Z-330 Strobes | Camera Settings: 1/250, F18, ISO 200 


First Place: Cold Water

Jon Anderson –' Cathedral of Kelp'

1st Cold Water Jon Anderson Cathedral of Kelp

The Story: Blue rockfish and giant kelp are two species more or less guaranteed at Monastery Beach, that is if the conditions allow you to dive this site. The orientation of the beach leaves it fairly exposed to incoming swells from the open ocean, often making it difficult or impossible to dive safely. Many days when it can be dove safely, thick coastal fog blocks out sun almost entirely and nutrient-rich upwellings reduce visibility to just a few feet and cast a green haze into the water. On rare occasions, the stars align at Monastery Beach providing calm seas, outstanding visibility, and cathedral-like beams of intense light that pierce thought the kelp canopy. On these days the kelp forest becomes one of the most beautiful underwater environments on Earth. With brand new strobes attached to my housing, it was difficult but I forced myself to shut them off and focused on capturing the dramatic ambience of the dancing light beams. | Location: Monterey, California, USA | Equipment Used: Nikon D850, Nikon 16-35mm F4 Lens, Nauticam NA-D850 Housing, Sea & Sea Dome Port | Camera Settings: 1/30, F13, ISO 1600


First Place: Nudibranchs

Wen Chou Wu – 'Quarantine'

1st Nudibranchs WEN CHOU WU Quarantine

The Story: I dove in an abandoned port in Green Island last October. The depth of this port is only 3 meters. I found bubble algae on the sand everywhere. Suddenly I noticed a crystal bubble algae. This nudi got into the bubble algae, it hides, eats and lives in the bubble algae. This nudi is only 5mm and it moves very slowly. I waited patiently for it to turn around. Many people have experienced this kind of quarantine life this year, and I think this photo is suitable for this difficult time. | Location: Green Island, Taiwan | Equipment Used: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, Olympus PT-EP13 Housing, Dual Sea & Sea YS-D2 Strobes, AOI UCL900 PRO | Camera Settings: 1/250, F22, ISO 100


First Place: Blackwater

Steven Kovacs – 'Acanthonus Armatus'

1st Blackwater steven kovacs Acanthonus Armatus

The Story: One of the most highly sought after blackwater subjects off the coast of Florida is the incredibly beautiful larva of Acanthonus armatus. This fish is a bathypelagic species of cusk-eel found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. Even though the rather dull looking adults live very deep, the younger developing fish can occasionally be found much shallower and are much more exotic in their appearance with stunning filaments extending from their bodies. This is likely for the purpose of mimicking other organisms for defensive purposes. | Location: Palm Beach, Florida, USA | Equipment Used: Nikon D500, Nikon 60mm Macro Lens, Ikelite Canon D500 Camera, Dual Ikelite DS-160 Strobes | Camera Settings: 1/250, F22, ISO 320


First Place: Underwater Conservation

Christophe Chellapermal – 'French Riviera Corona Mask'

1st Underwater Conservation christophe chellapermal french riviera corona mask

The Story: This picture was taken in Antibes on the French Riviera in the summer of 2020. Every week, activist Laurent Lombard with the NGO ‘Operation Mer Propre’ organizes meetings with local environmentalists in an effort to clean up the coast. Many people don’t realize that the Mediterranean is tragically one of the most polluted seas, where plastic waste drifting and breaking down into microplastic has sadly become the norm. When I captured this photo, I wanted to represent that the simplest of actions, like ignorantly discarding a mask, are resulting in further devastation just under the surface. Similarly, the simplest of actions are required to help amend our failures. I invite everyone seeing this picture to be inspired to take initiative, however they can, to be conscious of the actions they are taking. | Location: La Sallis, Antibes, France | Equipment Used: Nikon D500 Camera, Nikon 12-24mm Lens, Nauticam Housing, Howshot 230mm Glass Dome Port, Dual Inon Z240 Strobes | Camera Settings: 1/60, F5, ISO 250


First Place: Underwater Art

Jenny Stock – 'Crocosmile'

1st Underwater Art Jenny Stock Crocosmile

The Story: Whilst snorkelling with this crocodile in Cuba I was dazzled by his jagged teeth. It prompted me to get in the water with my macro lens. Mirroring this toothy capture produced a unique image reminiscent of a Rorschach test. For me, intriguing faces appear in the water's reflection. What do you see? | Location: Gardens of the Queen National Park, Cuba, Caribbean Sea | Equipment Used: Canon 5D Mark IV Camera, Canon 100mm Macro Lens, Nauticam Housing | Camera Settings: 1/400, F22, ISO 100


First Place: Compact Wide Angle

Enrico Somogyi – 'Giant Frogfish'

1st Compact Wide Angle Enrico Somogyi Giant Frogfish

The Story: The Giant frogfish, Antennarius commerson, is one of the more unusual fishes found on coral reefs. They are exceptionally well camouflaged and can resemble a sponge, coral or a rock. | Location: Anilao, Batangas, Philippines | Equipment Used: Sony RX100 VI Camera, Fantasea Housing, Dual Retra Flash Pro, Raynox Circular Fisheye Lens Behind Mini Dome | Camera Settings: 1/1000, F8, ISO 125


First Place: Compact Macro

PT Hirschfield – '5 Baby Seahorses'

1st Compact Macro PT Hirschfield 5 Baby Seahorses

The Story: I dive regularly for years beneath Blairgowrie Pier before I realised what tiny treasures floated far above my head, just beneath the surface. Baby seahorses sharing the same leaf or broken piece of seagrass or seaweed (to move around on for safety in numbers against fish and bird predators) take great patience to photograph. It is difficult to capture them all facing in the same direction as they are constantly squirming as they move through the water together. Thankfully, a compact camera can synch at a very fast shutter speed in order to capture the moment. At the final split-second, one of these five baby seahorses (each as small as a pinky fingernail) turned itself upside-down, which only added a bit more charm and humour to this image. | Location: Blairgowrie Pier, Melbourne, Australia | Equipment Used: Canon G12 Camera, Recsea Housing, Sea & Sea YS-D2J Strobe | Camera Settings: 1/1600, F5.6, ISO 125


First Place: Compact Behavior

Chia Chi Chang – 'Coral Spawning'

1st Compact Behavior Chia Chi Chang Coral spawning

The Story: Coral spawning is a grand occasion for Taiwan. Especially the coral in Kenting. It always spawns on time just around the birthday of goddess ‘Mazu’. In fact, the earliest record of coral spawning took place in Taiwan. However, this photo was taken at Longdong Bay in the North East Coast. The coral in Northern Taiwan spawns randomly, and the spawning amount is far less than it is in Kenting. I was very blessed to witness the coral spawning in Northern Taiwan, and it took me three consecutive days of diving to get this shot. The underwater environment in Northern Taiwan has been impacted severely due to tourism and pollution. The Coral bleaching situation was the worst this year for Taiwan and it is estimated that 31% to 40% of the coral are not going to survive. I am delighted to witness the coral spawning in my beloved ocean and seeing the next generation live on. | Location: Longdong Bay, Taiwan


The complete list of all winners, runners-up and honourable mentions can be found on The Underwater Photography Guide's 2020 Ocean Art Competition Winners Page at


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