The Underwater Photographer of the Year winners for 2018 have been announced, and this year's photos do not disappoint! The annual competition began in 2014-15 and is determined by a panel of judges in the U.K.
The majority of winning photos capture marine animals in their natural habitats — from two swans embracing to two Tompot Blennies fighting in a mating battle. Interestingly, the overall winner barely shows any creatures in the photo, but it's compelling regardless.
Photographer Tobias Fredrich beat 5,000 other photographers and won for his image of an underwater shipwreck in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt. His panoramic photo shows British World War II motorbikes and trucks with soldierfish swimming around it.
"For a few years now I had had this image in mind as the motorcycles on this truck inside the Thistlegorm lie so perfectly together, but you can only barely capture it because the wall is very close and you can't move backwards enough to capture the whole scenery," Friedrich said in his submission. "As a result I had to create a panoramic image of the same scene to capture the whole cargo deck, including some lights that give the image more depth."
The judges agreed saying "It is of a subject which has been photographed literally thousands of times. The artistic skill is to visualise such an image and the photographic talent is to achieve it. Perfectly lit and composed, I predict that there will never be a better shot of this subject from now on."
The annual photo competition welcomes submissions from all over the world, but there are some categories that specifically recognize British photographers. This year's winning British underwater photo is two swans intertwined.
Photographer Grant Thomas captured this image in Loch Lomond in Scotland. He chose the area because of easy access to the water and an abundance of friendly swans.
"My initial idea was to frame a split shot of one swan feeding below the surface of the water but when I noticed how comfortable they were around me I was confident, with some patience, I could get that magical shot of the two," said Thomas. "It was mid-day, sun high in the sky, I waded slowly into the shallow water, allowing the swans to become comfortable with my presence. When they began searching for food below the water line, I just had to wait for that perfect moment of synchronicity."
The competition also recognizes photographers who are new to underwater photography. Photographer Man BD won the Up & Coming Underwater Photographer category for his up close and personal photo of two nudibranches.
If you look close enough, you'll also see a moray eel in the background with its mouth open-wide — inspiring the title 'Roar' for this photo.
It was by luck and patience that Man BD captured this stunning image.
"When I was shooting this nudibranch I was focusing on it's behaviour to get just the right shot. While this happened a moray eel suddenly appeared out from the blue behind the nudi," said Man BD. "To my surprise another nudi appeared right behind the other one maybe to mate. I then decided to wait a while longer for the nudi to be in frame with the moray eel roaring behind. It took about 30 minutes to get this shot and it was well worth it."
Another up and coming category is the Most Promising British Underwater Photographer. This year's winner offers a stark contrast to the nudibranches photo filled bright colors and crystal clear waters. Tony Stephenson's image in murky waters adds to the almost melancholy look on the fish' faces.
Stephenson captured this photo of a group of pike fish at Stoney Cove, the largest dive center in the U.K. In the image, all the fish are looking in one direction. There all male fish who have zeroed in on a female and are trying to get her attention for mating.
"Once they found one, they pursued her relentlessly and were completely transfixed on gaining her attention," said Stephenson. "This allowed me to get close in front of the fish, fill the frame and aim to get lots of good eye contact."
There were also several other categories; the winning images for those can be seen below.
The organization will begin accepting submissions for 2019 later this year. Photographers may submit and delete as many photos as they would like up until the final date of submission.