Amazing Underwater Photography


The Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition recently unveiled its incredible winning images.

Five thousand underwater photos entered by photographers from 65 countries competed for the title of Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019.

The top prize went to Richard Barnden, who won with his image of grey reef sharks hunting a parrot-fish, capturing the precise moment that the sharks grab the fish in their jaws.

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

The competition currently has 13 categories, with varying themes like Macro, Marine Conservation, Behaviour and Wreck photography. Among them are four categories for photos taken in British waters.

This year, the competition was judged by veteran underwater photographers Alex Mustard, Peter Rowlands, and Martin Edge.

Here are just a few of the incredible images that were awarded and commended in this year’s competition.

Underwater Photography | Overall Winners

Sharks Hunting

The Gauntlet | Nikon D810 | 15mm Sigma | 1/80 f/8 ISO 1000 | © Richard Barnden/UPY 2019

Richard Barnden won the titles of Underwater Photographer of the Year and British Underwater Photographer of the Year with this image of a swarm of grey reef sharks hunting a parrotfish.

One grey reef shark suddenly grabbed the parrotfish by its head as the another twisted underneath it to get a better grip.

“In desperation it hurtled straight towards me as I snapped a few passing shots and curled up into a ball as the frenzy of sharks shot past, leaving only but a few falling parrotfish scales behind.”

Turtle in Fishing Net

Caretta caretta turtle | Canon 5D MKII | 15mm | 1/100 f/8 ISO 160 | © Eduardo Acevedo/UPY 2019

Eduardo Acevedo won the title of Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year with this image of a turtle trapped in a fishing net.

“It got trapped in a net and it was practically impossible to escape from it… but this day it was very lucky and could escape thanks to the help of two underwater photographers who were sailing near her.”

Over/Under French Polynesia

Paradise | Nikon D850 | Nikon AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm | 1/160 f/29 ISO 800 | © Taeyup Kim/UPY 2019

Taeyup Kim won the title of Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year with this over/under image of a coral reef below an island resort in French Polynesia.

Category Winners & Runners Up


Hairy in the Sunrise | Panasonic LX100 | Sony Fisheye Converter, Inon UCL 165 | 1/2000 f/9 ISO 2000 | © Enrico Somogyi/UPY 2019;  Inside the eggs | Reflex Nikon D500 | Nikon 105mm | 1/250 f/22 ISO 100 | © Flavio Vailati/UPY 2019

This image (left), the winner of the Compact category, shows a hairy frogfish beneath a fisher boat in Indonesia. To capture this moment, the photographer used a blue backlight and a double exposure.

On the right, a nudibranch sits on its eggs in the Philippines in this runner up for the Macro category.

Humpback Whale

Gentle Giants | Sony a7III | Sony 16-35mm | 1/80 f/9 ISO 400 | © François Baelen/UPY 2019

To make this Wide Angle category winner of a humpback whale, the photographer had to swim within centimetres of her tail while she rested. Her calf and the photographer’s friend are in the background.

“I told my friend I wanted him to be part of the shot, but didn’t need to ask the playful calf; he was very curious… Humpback whales are amazing and peaceful animals and I still can’t believe they are still being hunted by mankind today.”

Squat Lobster

Beauty in the Mud | Nikon D7000 | Tokina 10-17mm | 1/125 f/13 ISO 200 | © Arthur Kingdon/UPY 2019

This image of a long-clawed squat lobster crawling out of a plastic pipe won the British Waters Macro category.


Curious Crabeater | Canon EOS 5D MK III | Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM | 1/640 f/9 ISO 800 | © Jessica Farrer/UPY 2019

Biologist Jessica Farrer captured this image of a crabeater seal in Antarctica, which made runner up in the Wide Angle category.

602KenKiefer copy

Mercury Tunnel | Canon 5DS R | Canon 8-15mm at 15mm | 1/125 f/2.6 ISO 320 | © Ken Kiefer/UPY 2019; Marine Compass | Nikon D7200 | Nikon 10.5mm Fisheye | 1/100 f/16 ISO 100 | © Malcolm Nimmo/UPY 2019

This image (left) of hundreds of thousands of tiny silversides swimming around a diver in the Cayman Islands made runner up in the Black & White category.

On the right, this image of a compass jellyfish off the Isles of Scilly in the UK won the photographer the title of Most Promising British Underwater Photographer.

Highly Commended Underwater Photos

209MarcelloDi Francesco

Bubbles | Canon 5D MK IV | Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM | 1/250 f/2.8 ISO 100 | © Marcello Di Francesco/UPY 2019

This luminous nudibranch was photographed in the Philippines. The image was commended in the Macro category.


Intense | Sony a7riii | Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G | 1/160 f/16 ISO 200 | © Yung-sen Wu/UPY 2019

Sockeye salmon swim in the Adams River in British Columbia, Canada in this image that was highly commended in the Wide Angle category.

“[This] river is one of the most important sockeye salmon breeding areas in North America.”


Princess of the Underworld | Nikon D800E | AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm | 1/30 f/6.3 ISO 800 | © Thomas Heckmann/UPY 2019

A model floats ethereally in a cave in Tajma-Ha, Mexico. Highly commended in the Wide Angle category.

“My idea was ‘A model snooted by nature’ with a touch of external light for the cave.”


Final Love Act | Canon 5D MK III | Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 | 1/50 f/22 ISO 500 | © Pekka Tuuri/UPY 2019

This fascinating image shows river lampreys, a type of fish, spawning in Finland. The photo was commended in the Behaviour category.

“I got about 15 minutes of action. Around eight lampreys participated. A lot of digging and fast and ever-changing female-male couples.”


Shark Classroom | Nikon D810 | Nikon 16mm Fisheye f/2.8 | 1/125 f/20 ISO 320 | © Sirachai Arunrugstichai/UPY 2019

A non-profit organisation called Shark4Kids teaches high school students about the mangrove forests of Bimini Island in the Bahamas; here, a teacher shows the students a young lemon shark.

This image was highly commended in the Marine Conservation category.


Butterfish and bristlestars | Nikon D7000 | Sigma 18-50mm | 1/250 f/16 ISO 200 | © Cathy Lewis/UPY 2019

“The colourful brittlestar bed in Loch Carron makes a wonderful backdrop for the creatures that live in it, such as this eel-shaped butterfish, Pholis gunnellus, which is perfectly adapted to weaving in and out of the thick carpet of entwining arms, hunting for food.”

This image was commended in the British Waters Macro category.


The mysterious | Canon 5DS | Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro | 1/200 f/16 ISO 800 | © Fu Liang/UPY 2019

This portrait of a moray eel was commended in the Portrait category.

Argonaut and Jellyfish

The Woman in Red | Nikon D500 | Tokina DX Fisheye 10-17mm | 1/100 f/13 ISO 160 | © Virginia Salzedo/UPY 2019; The Mystery Argonaut | Nikon D850 | Nikon 60mm f/2.8 AF-S Micro-Nikkor | 1/250 f/22 ISO 640 | © Songda Cai/UPY 2019

This image of Sanda Delija (left), a free-diving champion, was highly commended in the portrait category.

“She posed at 18 meters depth among the fish, for several hours, until we were sure we got the right shot.”

On the right, an argonaut (a tiny octopus) hitches a ride on a jellyfish.

“Jellyfish are like trains in the ocean, always full of passengers that want a free ride.”


The Big Groupers of the Medes Archipelago | Nikon D7200 | Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G | 1/80 f/10 ISO 200 | © Damien Mauric/UPY 2019

This image of a grouper in the Medes Archipelago, Spain, was commended in the Marine Conservation category.

“Almost thirty years of protection as a natural marine park have permitted a complete sea-bed recovery, which hosts sea life like no other with hundreds of species such as groupers, lobsters or even red coral.”


Curios bear’s cubs | Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye | 1/250 f/14 ISO 640 | © Mike Korostelev/UPY 2019

The photographer used a remote camera in shallow water to capture this funny image of a bear cub.

“One day a mother bear came close and started fishing. Her 4 cubs 1.5 years old were bored. They started to play with each other and suddenly found a camera under the water and started to explore it.”

This image was commended in the Wide Angle category.


Drowned Turtle | Nikon D500 | Tokina 10-17mm | 1/250 f/14 ISO 100 | © Shane Gross/UPY 2019

This haunting image of a sea turtle that had drowned after being tangled in a fishing line was highly commended in the Marine Conservation category.

“[I wanted] I also brought my camera to document the situation and help raise awareness about our selfish behaviour towards the ocean and her animals. Perhaps this turtle’s death can help save others.”

So what did you think? Pretty amazing, right?! If you want to give underwater photography a shot, check out this article for some advice on what gear to start with, and stay tuned as we feature more and more photographers from this exciting genre sharing their tips.

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.

Jen Guyton is a photojournalist & ecologist, currently completing a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship in Mozambique.


  1. keith Ibsen on March 16, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Excellent images, I’ve been shooting underwater for over 40 years. Starting with early Nikonos up to my Nikon D100 and D200’s in Sea & Sea Housings. I still continue to work for Dive Training Magazine, however, as an Illustrator. While I have not shot Underwater in a few years, I still actively teach photo land workshops along with taking on some photo work.

    • Mark Condon on March 16, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Sounds great, Keith! Best of luck with the workshops ;-)

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