These are a few of the stunning winners from the latest edition of the prestigious Underwater Photographer of the Year competition. It is widely regarded as the world’s top contest for underwater photos and this year saw Spanish photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 for his astounding nocturnal photo of five whale sharks. You can see the full collection on the contest website and in the free, downloadable Yearbook.
Restrictions on travel over the last year may have stopped many photographers from visiting their favourite waters but the winners clearly show it hasn’t stifled their creativity. The contest aims to celebrate underwater photography in all its forms. Many of this year’s awarded images come from home countries and some are even taken in swimming pools. The contest is very international, this year’s winning photographers come from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Caledonia, Oman, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turks and Caicos, USA, United Kingdom and Vietnam!
I am chair of the judging panel and founder of the contest, and being an active photographer myself, I’ve always tried to run a contest that gets all the details right for the underwater photography community. Judging is key. Every entry is seen by all the judges, at the same time, in fact all the judges are together from the very first viewing to the final decision. This should be how all contests are run, but they aren’t. Because we make every decision, we can also provide feedback for every photo, so even if you don’t win, you still get constructive info on how you faired. We also judge straight away after the entry closes and everyone knows how they got on within two weeks, although the results are announced about 6 weeks later once we’ve gathered the back stories and judge’s comments for each picture. We keep our entry fees lower than most, have lots of prizes and whenever a category gets sponsorship, we’ve always made it free to enter. We’ve built an amazing network of over 300 mainstream media contacts and the results really go around the world, which many of our winners have found can transform their lives!
The award of Underwater Photographer of the Year is actually considerably older than me. It started as a national contest here in the UK in 1965. From the late 1970s, it became more international and ran every few years. Franco Banfi (well known in this blog) was overall winner in 1999, one of the last editions before it fell dormant. In 2014, I had the idea to re-establish the contest, and having been successful in or judged most of the contests around, I knew what the community really wanted from a competition. It took a lot of work, ideas and support from a team of friends and lots of love from the community, but it quite quickly snowballed in to the juggernaut it is today. It is a great platform for showing the wonders of the diving world to a huge audience.
I hope you enjoy a few of my personal favourites from this year’s winners here and I’d encourage you to visit the website and see the full collection. Share the pictures with your non-diving friends too!