Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024

by   Profile Alex   When 24th April 2024
Alex Dawson's winning Whale Bones photo.
Alex Mustard (r) presents Alex Dawson with his trophy. a version of his winning image in glass.
Alex Mustard (r) presents Nuno Sa with his trophy. a version of his winning image in glass.
Nuno's winning shot, Saving Goliath.
Rafael Fernandez won the Behaviour Category.
Western toad (Anaxyrus boreas) tadpoles among lily pads in a lake on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Shane Gross was awarded in Wide Angle.
Jon Anderson was awarded in Portraits.

One of the highlights of my year is chairing the judging panel and presenting the winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition. Known as UPY to its friends, the contest is the most important underwater photography contest on the calendar, attracts the very best photographers and is always packed with astounding underwater images that haven't been seen before.

This year, two of the biggest winners were well known Mares Ambassadors. Before anyone makes any jokes about favouritism, I'll point out that I am the only Mares Ambassador on the judging panel and, of course, we cannot see who has taken the photos during the judging process!

The overall winner of the contest, and Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 is Alex Dawson for his stunning image Whale Bones. As I said at the time, this image was photographed in the toughest conditions, and shows a breath-hold diver descending below the Greenland ice sheet to bear witness to slaughtered whales. The masterful composition invites me to consider our impact on the great creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today, just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock. Our way needs to change to find a balance with nature.

The other big award, the Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year, 2024, sponsored by the Save Our Seas Foundation, went to Nuno Sa for his image Saving Goliath. Sadly, although the beachgoers are heart-warmingly trying to save the whale, it was already mortally wounded by a collision with a ship. Something that claims up to 20,000 whales each year.

Once again I was also really pleased to see female photographers do so well in the contest. There have always been plenty of great female shooters, but they are often less contest focused and don't always get the recognition they deserve. Especially because my young daughter, Isabella, attends the awards, I am very pleased that two of our last 4 overall winners have been women, and this year 6 out of the 12 categories were won by female photographers. The photography being produced underwater has never been as impressive as it these days, and I believe this is clearly because we are now seeing the talent of a wider diversity of people taking images.

This was the 10th year of the modern UPY, the contest first ran in 1965, but after been absent for several years, a decade ago I was keen to bring it back with the help of the UPY Team. One curiosity in the UPY results is that neither the overall UPY or the British UPY award has had a repeat winner in the last decade, and indeed few of our categories have any repeat winners, all of which reaffirms the exceptional strength in depth in underwater photography. It is fabulous that such inspiring imagery is being produced from the underwater world.

See the winners here, or download our free Yearbook.

Written by
Profile Alex
When 24th April 2024
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