Bottled Blenny by Kirsty Andrews
Bottled Blenny by Kirsty Andrews Copyright Credit: Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2024

Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024: Take a dive into the stunning winning images

By Theo Farrant
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From abandoned tank shipwrecks in Jordan to dive-bombing gannets in Shetland, the winning images of the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 are better than ever.

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Swedish photographer Alex Dawson has been crowned the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024, for his mesmerising image of a free diver examining the aftermath of whaling.

Selected from over 6500 submissions worldwide, Dawson's work stood out not only for its artistic merit but also for its emotional narrative.

The Underwater Photographer of the Year competition is an annual event based in the UK that celebrates photography beneath the surface of oceans, lakes, rivers, and even swimming pools. 

It attracts entries from around the world and features 13 categories, including Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour, and Wreck photography, as well as specific categories for photos taken in British waters. 

Here are all the stunning winning entries from this year's competition: 

Wide Angle

Winner - Whale Bones by Alex Dawson

Whale Bones by Alex Dawson
Whale Bones by Alex DawsonCredit: Alex Dawson/UPY 2024
In eastern Greenland the local hunters bring their catch and share it among each other. From a stable population of over 100 000 minke whales in the North Atlantic the hunters of Tasiilaq typically take less than a dozen. The whale is pulled up on the beach during high tide and many families gather to cut the skin, blubber and the meat off at low tide. Almost all the whale is consumed, however the skeleton is pulled back into the sea by the next high tide and the remains can be found in shallow waters where various marine invertebrates and fish pick the bones clean.
Alex Dawson

Macro

Winner - An abstract portrait of a Potbelly Seahorse by Talia Greis

An abstract portrait of a Potbelly Seahorse by Talia Greis
An abstract portrait of a Potbelly Seahorse by Talia GreisCredit: Talia Greis/UPY 2024
I was drawn to this particular seahorse because it had especially distinguished markings around the eye, and the jaw-dropping colour palette made a striking contrast with the surrounding coral. Whilst seahorses are not rare on Sydney dive sites, photographing one that can really stand out has always been a dream for me. I chose to open the aperture all the way down to f/3.5 which transformed the coral into an out of focus cloud-like effect, but also embraced the ominous green waters of Sydney summer diving. To me the seahorse’s striking red eye, and posture conveys power and strength, arising from the smoky underbelly of the ocean.
Talia Greis

Wrecks

WinnerChieftain Tanks by Martin Broen

Chieftain Tanks by Martin Broen
Chieftain Tanks by Martin BroenCredit: Martin Broen/UPY 2024
Together with an amazing group of photographers I had the honour to be invited to compete in the 1st Aqaba underwater photo competition in Jordan, where a highlight is the underwater military museum. An unusual sight of war machines sunk in 15 to 28 meters of water and stationed along the reefs in tactical battle formation.

I wanted to capture the symmetry of the Chieftain Tanks and strong presence of their 120mm guns, but the position where I could shoot that image with my fish-eye lens was occupied by a military ambulance. Therefore, I experimented with a 6 shot panorama from a point between the guns, which allowed me to recreate the virtual position further back, and achieve and elegant symmetry of the tanks, supported by the central focal point of my dive buddy in the back.
Martin Broen

Behaviour

WinnerThe End Of A Baitball by Rafael Fernandez Caballero

The End Of A Baitball by Rafael Fernandez Caballero
The End Of A Baitball by Rafael Fernandez CaballeroCredit: Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY 2024
I was fortunate enough to experience this unique spectacle in the open Pacific waters in Magdalena Bay at the end of 2023. Due to the warmer water this year caused by the climate phenomenon “El Niño”, more species than ever joined this hunt. Bait balls of sardines attracted a variety of predators, but the main stars of the show, visiting Baja in perhaps larger numbers than ever, were the Bryde's whales. They patrolled the waters, searching for bait balls to get their bellies full of hundreds of kilograms of fish.

This photo shows the very moment of attack, with the whale’s ventral pleats wide open and filtering the prey from the water using their baleens after engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines in one bite — simply unforgettable.
Rafael Fernandez Caballero

Portrait

WinnerGrey Whale Connection by Rafael Fernandez Caballero 

Grey Whale Connection by Rafael Fernandez Caballero
Grey Whale Connection by Rafael Fernandez CaballeroCredit: Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY 2024
Encounters with gray whales in Pacific saltwater lagoons are extremely special. Known for their friendly and curious nature, gray whales often approach boats, allowing observers to witness distinctive behaviours like spy-hopping. This photo was taken from the boat, where the whale displayed a friendly gaze toward my camera, resembling a human look of curiosity and innocence.
Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY 2024

Black & White

WinnerWater Dancers by Jasmine Skye Smith

Water Dancers by Jasmine Skye Smith
Water Dancers by Jasmine Skye SmithCredit: Jasmine Skye Photography/UPY 2024
This image was from a creative shoot from my first underwater portrait exhibition "Underneath" (held in August 2023). I challenged myself to be outside of my comfort zone and push myself creatively. I approached some girls from the synchronised swimming team to do a shoot and I booked the heated dive pool as it was our winter. I was expecting to be using the 3m depth side but at last minute they said we would be using the 5m end which was amazing to play with in such a controlled environment- but also came with the challenge of a slanted edge down the bottom which proved very difficult to keep my black backdrop in place with my usual weights.
Jasmine Skye Smith

Compact

Winner - Nudi on Fire by Enrico Somogyi

Nudi on Fire by Enrico Somogyi
Nudi on Fire by Enrico SomogyiEnrico Somogyi/UPY 2024
This picture of a nudibranch (Hypsolodoris apolegma) with a emperor shrimp on the head was taken in Tulamben. To create the fire-like background I built a special tool which took me a long time to get it to work. But in the end I got the picture I was looking for.
Enrico Somogyi

Up & Coming

WinnerWindow of Opportunity by Lisa Stengel 

Window of Opportunity by Lisa Stengel
Window of Opportunity by Lisa StengelCredit: Lisa Stengel/UPY 2024
The moment of ambush amidst a blur of evasion! This photo captures the instant of the attack.

We spent an exciting week looking for bait balls, which provided many opportunities. The season’s unique water temperatures kept the marlin farther from reach, but brought an interesting phenomenon: an unprecedented amount of mahi mahi.

I honed in on the sound of mahi attacks and followed this unmistakeable sound with my camera. This technique, coupled with serendipitous conditions gave me the window of opportunity to capture this special moment.
Lisa Stengel

British Waters Wide Angel

WinnerDivebomb by Kat Zhou 

Divebomb by Kat Zhou
Divebomb by Kat ZhouCredit: Kat Zhou/UPY 2024
I took this photo during a trip to dive with Northern Gannets in Shetland. The experience of being amidst dive-bombing gannets is both chaotic and adrenaline-fueled, and it was hard to choose where to aim my camera! I tried to photograph any bird that zoomed by, and I was pleasantly surprised when I later saw how this shot was able to depict the dynamic motion of the experience.
Kat Zhou

British Waters Macro

WinnerStar Attraction by Jenny Stock 

Star Attraction by Jenny Stock
Star Attraction by Jenny StockJenny Stock/UPY 2024
Loch Leven is a Scottish dive site near Oban that can be can easily be accessed via a lay-by on the A82. As I descended into the dark green depths of the sea loch, on a dusk dive, I approached an area where my torch picked out the vivid colours of a living carpet of thousands of brittlestars.

Captivated by the variety of hues and patterns each star took, I felt this was an incredible encounter with a species I’d never seen before. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I got really excited.
Jenny Stock

British Waters Living Together

WinnerBottled Blenny by Kirsty Andrews 

Bottled Blenny by Kirsty Andrews
Bottled Blenny by Kirsty AndrewsCredit: Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2024
Butterfly blennies naturally choose abandoned whelk shells as their home but it seems they can get creative. On the seabed of the river Fal, amongst beautiful pink maerl, many have chosen to use discarded glass bottles as a shelter. Waste not want not.
Kirsty Andrews

British Waters Compact

Winner - Catshark in Bootlace by Jon Bunker 

Catshark in Bootlace by Jonathan Bunker
Catshark in Bootlace by Jonathan BunkerCredit: Jonathan Bunker/UPY 2024
The bootlace weed can sometimes completely blanket the pebbles overlooking the reef at Chesil Cove in the summer. This sleepy catshark was, as you can see, unsure what to make of me, poking its head tentatively through the weed to establish if I was either threat or food. Whilst it was considering this, I managed to play around with my strobes a little in an attempt to diffuse some of the light through the tresses of early summer algae. My subject let me to take three shots before swimming off into the night.
Jonathan Bunker
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