THE PHOTOGRAPH OF A HUNTING OCTOPUS has seen Gabriel Barathieu named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2017. The French diver’s image triumphed over some 4500 other entries from photographers in 67 countries.
The annual UPY competition, founded by Alex Mustard and tracing its origins directly back to the competitions previously run by DIVER, is in its third year and now has 10 categories. Three of these were devised specifically to recognise photographs taken in British waters.
“With over 4500 images we are 35% up, and with entrants from 67 countries, that is a 25% increase,” said Peter Rowlands, one of the three judges, along with Mustard and Martin Edge. “The most pleasing increase, for me, came from the number of entries in the Compact category, and especially the British Compact category.
Both of these are aimed at encouraging those users to feel included and given their own space away from SLR users.
“Take a detailed look at the winners in both of these categories and you will see that their results are equally as impressive as the others.
“What is not possible to quantify statistically is the standard of entries this year – and these have definitely gone up another gear.”
In an innovation this year, Barathieu’s overall winning photograph was pulled out of its category altogether (there were three top places and seven highly commended images in each category).
The title Most Promising Underwater Photographer of the Year 2017 went to Orca Pod, taken by Nicholai Georgiou and highly commended in its category.
As with all the top shots, we have included the photographers’ and judges’ comments.
Two other special prizes went to images that also scored in their categories, and these can be seen further on. One of these won the title British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2017 for Nick Blake (Out Of The Blue, taken in a Mexican cenote) while Argentinian Horacio Martinez was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2017 for Oceanic In The Sky, taken in Egypt.
To see Alex Mustard presenting the awards and to find out more about UPY (you might want to consider entering next year!) go to

Underwater Photographer of the Year: GABRIEL BARATHIEU (FRANCE)

Photographer’s comments: “In the lagoon of Mayotte, during spring low tides, there is very little water on the flats – only 30cm, in fact. That's when I took this picture. I had to get as close as possible to the dome to create this effect. The 14mm is an ultra-wide-angle lens with very good close focus, which gives this effect of great size. The octopus appears larger, and the height of water too. I didn't need flash because I had lots of natural light.”

Technical: May 2016, lagoon of Mayotte Island, Indian Ocean. Canon 5DS, 14 mm f2, 8II lens, Subal housing, natural light. ISO 100, 1/250th @ f/16.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”Both balletic and malevolent, this image shows that the octopus means business as it hunts in a shallow lagoon. The way it moves is so different from any predator on land – this truly could be an alien from another world. A truly memorable creature, beautifully photographed.”

(Peter Rowlands): “Vibrant contrasting colours, detailed delicate textures and a perfect pose. Add the right choice of lens for the situation and they all combine to produce a champion.”

(Martin Edge): “I cannot praise this photograph enough. As soon as I first set eyes on it as we worked our way through the wide-angle category, I knew it was destined for a huge success. One amazing image!”

Most Promising British Underwater Photographer of the Year: NICHOLAI GEORGIOU (UK)

Photographer’s comments: “Orcas are easily the most beautiful, intelligent and confident animals I’ve ever had the honour of spending time with. This photo was taken during an amazing week freediving with wild orca in Norway. The days are quite short in winter and the water was around 5° but we wore thick wetsuits and, of course, with orca around, the cold was quickly forgotten. The light had a really nice colour from the setting sun as this graceful pod swam by nice and close.
It was a moment that will be hard to top, and I’m glad to have this image to share it.”

Technical: November 2016, Tromso, Norway. Nikon D750, Sigma 15mm 2.8 Fisheye lens, Ikelite housing, natural light. ISO 1600, 1/160th @ f/4.5.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): ”Most underwater photographers would be happy to get a shot of a single killer whale in its environment, but Nicholai had the composure not to panic and time the shot perfectly as a pod passed by, heading into the setting sun. I’m jealous.”



Photographer’s comments: “Last summer I headed to Alaska in search of salmon sharks. We cruised in the boat looking for their dorsal fins for hours, and that is when we came across an enormous moon jellyfish bloom that stretched for several hundred metres. The dense bloom of jellyfish ranged in depth from 2m to more than 20m, and we spent a lot of time in the water with them. It was surreal and more dense than anything I had ever experienced, including Jellyfish Lake in Palau. I came across this lion’s mane jellyfish rising from the bloom towards the surface, and positioned myself directly over it to capture this image.”

Technical: July 2016 near Valdez, Alaska, USA. Nikon D800, Nikon 16-36 mm lens, Sea & Sea housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-250 strobes. ISO 400, 1/250th @ f/10.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”A beautiful and original image, a worthy winner. Its power comes from the contrast in colour, yellow versus blue, and the contrast in shape, star versus circles, between the subject from the background. Most photographers would swim up to the subject, probably shooting it from below. Ron found a far more striking composition with this top-down view, making use of the moon jellies as a background.”

Runner-Up: NICK BLAKE (UK)

Photographer’s comments:
“Kukulkan Cenote on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula forms part of the Chac Mool system, and is noted for the spectacular light effects as the sun penetrates the darkness. I left my strobes behind for the natural-light shot I wanted, and positioned myself in the shadows of the cavern. Moving my eye around the viewfinder, I could see that the rock outline of the cavern around me made for a pleasing symmetry and I adjusted my position to balance the frame. The light show flickered on and off as the sun was periodically covered by cloud and, as it reappeared, I beckoned to my buddy and dive-guide, Andrea Costanza of ProDive, to edge into the illumination of some of the stronger beams, completing the composition. My journey from diver to underwater photographer has brought many amazing photographic opportunities and I feel humbled and privileged that this image has achieved such recognition.”

Technical: March 2016 at Kukulkan Cenote, Mexico. Nikon D810, Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, Sea & Sea MDX housing, natural light. ISO 400, 1/60th @ f/6.3.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”What I really like about this image is the enclosure of the light within the cenote. The author has contained all the sunlight so the eye of the viewer cannot escape. The lone diver is positioned within the beams and I do believe that the author meant for this to happen. Stunning natural-light wide-angle!”

This image also earned Nick Blake the title of British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2017


Photographer’s comments: ”I was lucky to join an expedition aboard Ondina in Raja Ampat. The south is one of my favourite places because few boats go there. We dived the seamount Karang Paradise, with its endless coral fields, congregations of fish and big pelagic passers-by. At the end of one dive, I found this enormous coral field full of different groups of fish. I wanted to show the motion (I’ve taken motion pictures with very slow shutter speeds for a long time), so I set up my camera on top of a rock (I didn’t have my tripod), then after a few minutes completely still, this congregation of bigeye jack surrounded me. A magic moment!”

Technical: November 2016 at Karang Paradise, Indonesia. Nikon D800, Nikon 16-35 mm lens, Hugyfot housing, Sea & Sea YS 250 Pro strobe. ISO 100, 0.4sec @ f/16.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”The jack surging over the corals captures the density of life on Raja Ampat’s reefs. The long exposure contrasts the speed of the predators with the slow growth of the coral, which creates the eco-system that supports them. Healthy reefs are about more than beautiful corals; they are about an abundance of fish, especially big fish. ”



Photographer’s comments: “This photo was shot during a blackwater dive in Anilao. Even though the larvae mantis shrimp is very small, it is still a predator that uses its raptorial appendages to hunt. Has it spotted the prey, and is it ready to pounce?”

Technical: May 2016 in Anilao, Philippines. Canon 5D MkIII, 100mm lens, Sea &?Sea housing, two Inon Z240 strobes. ISO 400, 1/200th @ f/20.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “This shot works on so many levels; like a sci-fi encounter in outer space, the fortuitous (for once) backscatter creates a perfect starry background that makes the main subject seem huge and menacing. Perfect composition leaves you in no doubt and you can only fear for the 'little fella' on the right.”


Photographer’s comments: ”Since we found this dive site, which consists of a sea-pen forest at 34m, we have discovered new species to the area. One of my favourite subjects has been the blue sea-pen, which hosts different shrimps and gobies. With its flowing lines and beautiful polyps, any subject inside this orange and blue sea-pen is beautifully offset and lends itself to an artistic composition. Once I learned to dive with sea-pens and their inhabitants, I got to know that they are quick to retract into the sand if threatened. Coupled with this, a deep nitrox decompression dive adds to the complexity. My husband found this sea-pen on a recent dive, and even though he had a camera himself, he was kind enough to give me an opportunity to take some photos.”

Technical: December 2016, Stables, Mozambique. Sony Nex-5, 18-55mm & Nauticam CMC-2 lens, Nauticam Nex-5 housing, Inon D-2000 strobe. ISO 200, 1/125th @ f/10.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”This was a favourite with all three judges, and throughout the process we admired it more and more. It's so simple in its composition within the frame and it has a softness to it that works so well. I anticipate that many others, faced with how to process this shot, would have gone for the pin-sharp treatment, myself included, but the delicate high key lighting, the colour combinations and choice of aperture are all in play with this soft, simple and eye-popping image.”


Photographer’s comments: “The underwater realm is stunning, but most of the time we tend to see only the rare and unique critters, while the most common subjects are set aside. This tube anemone (which you can find almost everywhere) is a shelter to a bunch of juveniles until they can manage on their own. They have an entire universe in there, with plenty of adventures taking place. My purpose was to bring out the beauty not regularly seen. I used backlighting and also a fine touch of strobe from the front to make the juveniles pop-up.”

Technical: January 2016, Dauin Marine Sanctuary, Philippines. Canon 6D, 100mm/2.8 macro lens, Nimar housing, Inon S2000 & Z240 strobes. ISO 50, 1/160th @ F/16.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”A photo that proves that you don’t need a rare critter to produce a winning image. Photographic creativity is a much rarer trait. A simple scene transformed by the mind and skills of the photographer.”



Photographer’s comments: “Beneath the Louilla lies a pile of its anchor-chains, giving the form of a whale. Wrecks become part of the eco-system in no time. Soft corals develop and can become shelter for schools of juvenile fish. But also, they can have a devastating effect on their surroundings. This wreck sits on top of Gordon Reef, battered by the waves and slowly deteriorating. Last summer, part of the superstructure collapsed, and the wreck lost its epic, cinematic look. In a few decades, the reef should be free again from the remains of this once huge freighter.”

Technical: August 2014, Gordon Reef, Straits of Tiran, Egypt. Nikon D7100, Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 @10mm lens, Subal ND7100 housing, natural lighting. ISO 200, 1/350th @ f/9.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): “This image caught my eye in the first round of judging Wrecks. An ideal subject for a split shot, superb and subtle use (I believe) of fill-in flash on both top and bottom of the wreck with the low sun in the far background. The compositional weight of the foreground, both under and over is also very well-balanced. I've seen quite a few attempts at this wreck before but never as well executed as this.”


Photographer’s comments: “Precontinental is not just a wreck. It was a dream of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and humanity about life in the ocean. Fifty years ago, we were closer to that dream than now. Now only fish live in this residential unit.”

Technical: May 2016, Precontinental, Sudan. Canon 5D Mk2, 15mm fisheye lens, Nexus housing, natural light. ISO 100, 1sec @ f/13.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”The wreck category is not just for pictures of ships, but for any image taken on a wreck. This photo perfectly captures the feeling of glassfish sweeping from side to side inside a ship. A creative technique that feels appropriate to the subject and story.”


Photographer’s comments: “Engine-rooms in Truk Lagoon are popular places; I’d made a plan with the group that they would head there at the beginning of the dive and I’d venture in at the end.
I’ve taken an image similar to this before but had never played with remote lighting prior to this trip. Entering through the blast hole at 45m it took about 30 minutes to position the lights, get set up and wait for the silt to settle; being on a rebreather really helps with the rust percolation. I hoped to share the detail and scale with this picture – gauges with the faces still in, light streaming through from above and the video lights illuminating the walkways to give a sense of scale. The light bursting through the gantry like the 'rising sun' seemed fitting.”

Technical: November 2016, Truk Lagoon, Micronesia. Sony A7rii, 10-18 @ 14 lens, Nauticam housing, two Inon Z240 & two Keldan strobes. ISO 4000, 1/8th @ F/8.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): ”As a keen wreck photographer, the subtlety of this shot really appealed to me. Everything had been carefully chosen – camera position, time of day and additional lighting. When we judged this image we had no idea or intimations as to how deep it was. 45m – wow!”



Photographer’s comments: ”Clown anemonefish and anemones enjoy a symbiotic relationship. The parasitic isopods like to hang out in the mouths of anemonefish, and perhaps because of them, the fish often open their mouths. These three were very curious. As I approached, they danced about the camera lens. It took me six dives, patience and luck to capture the exact moment when all three fish opened their mouths to reveal their guests. Finally, on the last day, on the last dive, I succeeded.”

Technical: December 2016, Lembeh, Indonesia. Canon 5D Mk lll, EF 100mm Macro lens, Nauticam NA-5D Mk III housing, Inon Z240 strobe. ISO 320, 1/200th @ f/25

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”Clownfish make for great images and when combined within a complementary colourful anemone will always stand out. In recent years we are seeing more and more parasites in the mouths of the clowns,and it was this we noticed when judging. I’ve seen many individual clowns with this parasite but never have I seen a parasite in each of three. Add to this behaviour a colourful anemone lined up across the image. Six eyes all in pin-sharp focus, looking into the lens of the author – talk about ‘peak of the action’! This was one of my favourite shots from the entire competition.”


Photographer’s comments: “Every summer, hundreds of humpbacks gather off the Cape Town coast in a massive feeding aggregation. Working as part of a film-crew, I was privileged to have a chance to photograph this phenomenon. Although the water visibility was really good, inside the krill patch it was much reduced. Without warning, the whales appeared just metres away with their pleats distended as they surfaced with huge mouthfuls of krill. Realising that they must be feeding deeper down, I descended into the darker water to find the thickest concentration of krill. Suddenly a humpback appeared right in front of me, its huge mouth wide open as it sieved the water for the tiny crustaceans. I took several images before it disappeared into the gloom, and then I was surrounded by a multitude of massive bodies as the rest of the pod took its turn to feed. Not a little intimidating!”

Technical: November 2015, a few miles offshore from Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. Nikon D4, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, natural light, ISO 800, 1/640th @ f/8.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “What an amazing shot and how must it have felt actually being there! The framing is well timed with great eye contact. All I can really add is: Wow!”


Photographer’s comments: “I found this cleaning station at 26m. On the first dive, I took a few front-facing photos with cleaner shrimps in the moray eel’s mouth. When I surfaced, I came up with an idea of a side-face moray eel, widely opening its mouth with the cleaner shrimp inside. So I tried a second dive and it turned out to be how I had imagined it.”

Technical: December 2016, Tulamben, Indonesia. Canon 5DS, 100mm / f2.8L Macro lens, Nauticam NA-5DSR housing, Inon Z240 with Retra LSD strobe. ISO 400, 1/125th @ f/14.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”I'm sure that the majority (including myself) would have been more than happy to capture the cleaner shrimp within the moray eel’s mouth. However Liang Fu went one step further. He came up with the idea to progress the exact same subject but to introduce some imagination and creative lighting between dives. This is creative thinking both in and out of the water at its best. A well-deserved third place in a challenging category.”


Winner: LORINCZ FERENC (Hungary)

Photographer’s comments: ”We were photographing a big school of batfish in front of the fully blue background at Shark Reef, but it’s extremely hard to capture a school of fish in a nice position, especially with divers swimming by all the time, so I gave up trying. Not so far from the others I noticed a crevice in a rock, which fish used as a cleaning station, and slowly, very slowly, I swam into the gap, switching places with the cleaning fish. This made it possible to photograph this batfish front-on.”

Technical: August 2016, Shark Reef, Ras Mohammed, Egypt. NIkon D7200, Tokina AF 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X DX Fisheye lens, Subal ND7100 housing, two Ikelite DS160 strobes. ISO 100, 1/160th @ f/13.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands):
“Here is a great example of what really works as a portrait. The eye contact is immediate and they are pin-sharp, but it is the mouth and lips that deliver the character. The lighting and colour contrast lifts the subject from the background and, for me, the four little fish in the background are the icing on the cake.”


Photographer’s comments: “I found a fishing-net in which many fish were trapped alive, struggling to get free. Using a slow shutter speed and zooming during the exposure, I wanted to emphasise the attempt to break free from the net.”

Technical: September 2014, Giannutri Island, Italy. Nikon D7100, Tokina 10-17 lens, Isotta housing, Inon Z 240 strobe. ISO 100, 1/10th @ f/16.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”Portraits don’t have to be cute or quirky. This one tugs the heartstrings, as the scorpionfish strains against the net. The long exposure and zoom really adds to the drama of the scene.”


Photographer’s comments: ”Strobes and strong light are not to the liking of pygmy seahorses, and most of the time they turn away. My goal was to use as little light as possible, so I built my own snoot to create a ‘needle’ of light. Not bothered by flashes or torches, this pygmy looked straight into the camera, offering me one of the most rewarding hypnotic portraits I have ever shot.”

Technical: September 2016, Angel’s Window, Lembeh, Indonesia. Canon 6D, 100mm/2.8 macro + Inon UCL-165M67 lens, Nimar housing, Inon S2000 & Z240 strobes. ISO 125, 1/160th @ f/18.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”This is one of the best pygmy shots I have judged in recent years. Simply excellent.”


Winner: JENNY STROMVOLL (Mozambique)

Photographer’s comments: ”I have shot many whip gobies but this particular shot was taken with the Inon compact bug-eye lens, which added a lot of character to the goby’s eye.
The trick was to get close enough without the goby moving away. I was fortunate enough to find a very forgiving goby who allowed me into its private space. I knew I had to get down low and shoot up to include the surface of the water. I shot this scene many times before getting the image I was after.”

Technical: February 2014, Frekkie, Mozambique. Canon S95, 5.2-26mm & Inon Underwater Micro Fisheye UFL-M150 ZM80 lens, Recsea S95 housing, D-2000 strobe. ISO 320, 1/400th @ f/8.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”For me this was an instant first place. The compact bug-eye lens is not easy to use, but Jenny got the better of this tool. I think it was important to create some depth within the image and this has been done so well by opening up the background water column. Try to imagine this image with a black background! There would have been such little depth, it would have been all about the goby and nothing else. Instead, the blue water background situated towards the top left of the frame allows the eye of the viewer to wander back and forth again and again.”

Runner-Up: FABIO RUSSO (Italy)

Photographer’s comments: ”John-Dory (Zeus Faber) normally live very deep. However, at night, in winter, they may climb into shallower water to feed. I was very thrilled to find one at less than 10m of depth.”

Technical: December 2016, Sant'Agnello, Italy. Sony RX 100, Nauticam NA-RX100 housing, two Inon S2000 strobes. ISO 80, 1/250th @ f/7.1.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication wrote Leonardo da Vinci. Great job.”


Photographer’s comments: “I travelled 350km inside the Arctic Circle to dive with orcas, having trained for more than six months to improve fitness levels and get used to the specialised freediving equipment and 4° water.
On our last attempt to dive with them a large male with a dorsal fin approximately 2m tall turned round and then, as if to bid us farewell, swam calmly right past us. In January the sun never rises much above the horizon, and it was in the last few moments before sunset that I took this photo. One cannot use strobes because the older females still recall the days when flashes of light meant harpoons. So this natural-lighting effect is dramatic!”

Technical: January 2016, Husøy, Fjordgard, Norway. CanonS120, Inon UWL H100 wet fisheye lens, Canon WP-DC51 housing, natural light. ISO 1250, 1/50th @ f1.8.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”An image doesn’t have to be pin-sharp to produce an effect and this shot, taken on a compact camera just before sunset with only natural light, is a prime example of getting the composition right and just taking the photograph. I think it is a remarkable testament to both the photographer and the camera in such testing conditions.”


Winner: HORACIO MARTINEZ (Argentina)

Photographer’s comments: ”This was my first Red Sea experience, and my first liveaboard-based photo workshop, so everything was interesting… but arduous. We were on the last dive of the day, and I ventured a tad deeper to get closer portraits of the oceanic whitetips, when I noticed this shark patrolling in the distance. I took a few shots to expose for the sunbeams and the surface, and was pleased by the dreamlike effect. Oceanics are great subjects for close-ups as they are anything but shy. Yet every now and then it is great to try to capture their apparent loneliness, their wandering, and their independence in the big blue.”

Technical: November 2016, The Brothers, Egypt. Nikon D810, 14-24 @24mm lens, Nauticam housing, Sea & Sea YSD1 strobe. ISO 400, 1/200th @ f/14.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): ”There were a lot of competitive images in this category, as you would expect, but this one was a serious contender right from the start. The photographer has ‘seen’ the light and realised its dramatic effect extremely well, and used it to contrast the small shark in a big, blue, lonely world. Very evocative indeed.”

This image also earned Horacio Martinez the title of Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2017

Runner-Up: SEAN LANDSMAN (Canada)

Photographer’s comments: ”This image is part of a larger project to document the anadromous (adult growth in saltwater, birth/spawning in freshwater) fishes of eastern North America. It depicts a migratory alewife barrelling through the turbulent flow at the base of a fish-ladder. This location in Prince Edward Island has a dam that impedes access to the spawning habitat. Alewife need slow-moving pond or lake environments to spawn in and can access them only with fish-ladders or similar structures if a dam is present. Anadromous fish such as alewife transport high-quality marine-derived nutrients into freshwater eco-systems, providing food for all sorts of aquatic organisms. It was very difficult to see the fish moving through the bubbly water, much less time my trigger-finger with their movements correctly. It took dozens of frames to get this image, but all it takes is one!”

Technical: June 2016, Winter River, Suffolk, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Nikon D700, Tokina 10-17 fisheye lens, Ikelite 6801.70 housing, Inon Z240 strobe. ISO 400, 1/250th @ f/10.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”An eye-catching and novel image of an everyday fish that shows persistence, knowledge and creativity from the photographer.”

Third: CATALIN CRACIUN (Romania)

Photographer’s comments: “The idea came from the need to show people that freediving is not only about going down and up on a line but rather exploring, dreaming and applying it for having fun and to explore. This photo was taken at Freediving Coron in the Philippines where we teach freediving courses all year round in the famous Barracuda Lake, which offers us perfect water and surrounding conditions –warm (and not deeper than 14m) water, good visibility, no waves, no current; a dream for anyone who wishes to learn to freedive. The freediver is Mary Jane Paula Jumuad, Apnea Total freediving instructor and the deepest Filipina freediver. This photo was taken using only natural light at around 9m depth and while freediving as well.”

Technical: April 2016, Barracuda Lake, Philippines. Nikon D300, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Ikelite housing, natural light. ISO 200, 1/250th @ f/5.6

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “A delightful composition and an original concept make this shot truly memorable.”


Winner: MELVIN REDEKER (Netherlands)

Photographer’s comments: “In 2011 I saw my first orcas in the North Sea, the inspiration for our Dutch photo project “In the North Sea”. We needed the iconic killer whales to highlight that the North Sea has many fantastic eco-systems and habitats, but first I needed to learn diving and to handle an underwater camera. We had studied the behaviour of the Mousa pod over a few weeks and decided that the best opportunity would come if I hid on the seabed just below the coastal rocks while the orcas were hunting seals. So I was dropped in an area where we anticipated them to come for seal-hunting. Staring into a wall of water, suddenly the pod appeared, totally silent. Eye to eye with these mighty apex predators, my heart skipped a few beats.”

Technical: September 2016, east Yell, Shetland. Nikon D800E, 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 at 16mm lens, Nauticam housing, natural light. ISO 160, 1/125th @ f/11.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): ”My heart skips a beat just looking at this image! The eye contact and the close proximity together with the silence – this is a groundbreaking shot for British waters.”


Photographer’s comments: “I was out off the coast making images for ‘Scotland: The Big Picture’, a project about rewilding that produces images to amplify the case for a wilder Scotland. Hundreds of gannets were circling the boat looking for the fish that were being thrown over the side. Suddenly a single bird dives, and with the others seeing it as an indicator, 20, 30, 40 birds are diving at once. Because of this behaviour, competition between gannets is always going to occur, creating several gannets diving for the same fish. I could hear the birds as they hit the water right above my head, just before they appeared in front of the camera. A great experience.”

Technical: July 2016, Shetland. Nikon D4, Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, natural light. ISO 1250, 1/1000th @ f/13.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): “Superb capture by the author. The power of the gannets is so very well emphasised in this particular frame. In the post process it must have been a challenge to decide which specific image to enter into this competition. The author chose well – we all loved this shot!”


Photographer’s comments: “For this photo I travelled to the Lake District for a dive in the River Duddon. An old stone packhorse bridge, called Birks Bridge, crosses over a small but deep gorge in the rock, and there is just enough depth for a dive. For most of the year the water flow is too fast and frantic for taking pictures, but I waited for a period of suitable dry weather to get the shot I wanted. My wife, who I am trying to entice back into diving with some gentle sites, patiently modelled for me. It was fun working together to create this image.”

Technical: May 2016, Birks Bridge, River Duddon, Lake District, England. Nikon D600, Sigma 15mm lens, Sea & Sea MDX-D600 housing, two Sea & Sea YS110a strobes. ISO 640, 1/160th @ f/10.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “A classy image that shows something fresh for UK underwater photographers. Great team work by Mr and Mrs Rees, photographer and model.”



Photographer’s comments: ”This cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) noticed me before I noticed it. As I passed, it was skulking behind a rock and wafting its tentacles in what was either a kelpy camouflage tactic or an attempt to warn me away. Cuttlefish will often make this type of threat display, and retreat only once it's clear that the diving photographer or other recipient has not been appropriately cowed. Although I was not too intimidated, I do love the pose and to me the outstretched strobe-lit tentacles against a dark background bring to mind a fearsome Chinese dragon. Cuttlefish are fascinating, beautiful creatures and I have had some wonderful experiences in British waters watching them breed, fight, feed, or just interact with divers. I find it terribly sad that in some former hotspots, increased use of cuttlefish pots, especially during the mating season, has had a devastating impact on cuttlefish numbers.”

Technical: July 2016, Drawna Rocks, Porthkerris, Cornwall. Nikon D7200, 1105mm lens, Sea & Sea housing, two Sea & Sea YSD1 strobes. ISO 200, 1/250th @ f/11.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “A quirky pose with perfect symmetry reveals the character of one of the UK’s most charismatic macro creatures.”


Photographer’s comments: “While diving in Loch Carron over the New Year we noticed that these tiny, colourful amphipod shrimps occurred in their hundreds among the kelp in a narrow depth-band between around 5 and 8m. They seemed to be feeding on the bryozoan Membranipora membranacea (a colonial animal) which grows on the kelp fronds and provides both the foreground and background to this image. Less than 1 cm in length, the shrimps proved an irresistible challenge to photograph during decompression stops. They often buzzed around in the spotting lamp-beam like a busy swarm of wasps, meaning that I had to be quick to capture one if it sat still for a second.”

Technical: January 2016, Loch Carron, Scotland. Canon 5D MkIII, 100mm & Nauticam SMC lens, Nauticam housing, two Inon Z220 strobes. ISO 200, 1/200th @ f/32.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “A beautiful capture with every element perfectly controlled – foreground, subject and background.”


Photographer’s comments: “Tiny river fly nymphs are staple food for fresh-water fish and were part of a story for river conservation work. It was an experimental technique with the camera inside an open-top box and me kneeling on the river-bed in waders next to a weed bed. I pre-focussed the lens and searched for the subject using live view on the camera. With such a small depth of field, having found a nymph I slid the camera backwards and forwards inside the box to find the focus point. Even in calm water, small movements meant hundreds of missed shots, and it took almost a month practising the technique to eventually capture this image. I also damaged the camera when a dog jumped into the river and water flooded into the box! Shallow water, bright sun and white reflectors helped to flood light into the scene.”

Technical: April 2016, Whitchurch Silk Mill, River Test. Nikon D750, 105mm with 1.4 teleconverter and +5 diopter lens, homemade housing, on-camera flash with white card reflectors. ISO 250, 1/250th @ f/25.

Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “Original subject. Both it and the weeds are rendered beautifully in the lighting. If the tail wasn’t slightly clipped it could have finished even higher.”



Photographer’s comments: “This was taken on my second shore-diving trip to Scotland at Loch Duich near Inverinate. I had seen images of fireworks anemones (Pachycerianthus multiplicatus) taken by other photographers previously, and wanted to find and photograph them myself. Previous dives were a little frustrating because I hadn't quite realised that these are found in quite deep and dark water, with the best subjects being at 25m or more. This together with a very soft silty bottom presented quite a challenge to get a well-lit image. I am particularly pleased with the ‘glow’ at the centre on the subject. Since this trip, Scottish shore-diving is now an annual event for my wife and myself, with more places on the list to visit and dive than time allows!”

Technical: August 2015, Loch Duich, Scotland. Canon S90, 6mm lens, Ikelite Ultra Compact housing, two Sea & Sea YS110 strobes. ISO 200, 1/320th @ f/4.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “This image leapt out at us as the winner right from the start. This can sometimes be a false start, as the appeal can fade with repeat viewing, but this one just got better and better with all of us. Well-lit and beautiful symmetrical composition – a great champion for compact photography in the UK.”

Runner-Up: Paula Bailey (UK)

Photographer’s comments: ”I am always trying to capture fish, and with the relatively slow focusing of the S95 and no strobe it can be quite a challenge. However, John Dory’s move a little bit slower than some fish and this one was playing hide and seek with me for quite a while in the weed, giving me quite a few opportunities to get that elusive fish portrait. Apart from that they are such a fantastic subject with their attractive and distinctive shape. Just seeing one of these amazing fish can completely make a dive.”

Technical: August 2014, Drawna Rock, Porthkerris, Cornwall. Canon S95, WP-DC38 housing, in-camera flash. ISO 80, 1/160th @ f/4.

Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands):
“I thinks it’s fair to say that the John Dory is one of the most charismatic fish in British water. Distinctly marked and shaped, they make great subjects but they are usually unco-operative, preferring to show their tail than their face. Using the kelp to frame this fish has really lifted it as an image, and the built-in flash has provided just the right amount of illumination.”

Third: Ian Wade (UK)

Photographer’s comments: “Photographing mute swans under water has been a ongoing project of mine that has lasted five years. I found a location where the swans were used to interaction with people, so getting close to them was made much easier. To get this shot, I ended up getting very wet and had to swim out to the middle of the marina. I wanted to show the underwater world of a swan feeding on the bottom of a marina. After a lot of frustration, I managed to capture the moment I wanted!”

Technical: April 2015, Portishead Marina, Somerset. GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition, 2.8mm lens, natural light. ISO 100, 1/147th @ f/2.8.

Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”The composition works well with the diagonal line of the swan. The reflection also adds to this image. Simple yet effective.”