Antarctic Seals image wins Underwater Photographer of the Year 2020


A balletic photograph of crabeater  seals  swirling  around  an  iceberg sees French photographer Greg Lecoeur named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2020.

Lecoeur’s photograph triumphed over 5500 underwater pictures entered by underwater photographers from 70 countries around the world.

© Greg Lecoeur/UPY2020

To shoot “Frozen Mobile Home” Lecoeur travelled to Antarctica on a small yacht, enabling him to document the wildlife on icebergs as they drift at the whim of polar currents.

“Massive and mysterious habitats,” explains Lecoeur, “little is known about how wildlife thrives around these mobile homes. Icebergs fertilize the oceans by carrying nutrients from land that spark blooms of marine life and also provide homes for larger animals, like these crabeater seals.”

Lecoeur lives in Nice, France, but works full time as a photographer, travelling the world documenting life in the oceans.

Chair of the competition judges, Dr Alexander Mustard MBE, commented: “The motion of these seals and the ethereal landscape of the pitted iceberg takes our eyes on a journey through the frame and transports us to the icy ocean of Antarctica.”

In  the  same  contest,  Italian  photographer, Pasquale  Vassallo was  named Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2020 for his photo, revealing the final moments of a tuna’s life as it is hauled up towards a fishing boat.

© Pasquale Vassallo/UPY2020

Vassallo took the photo “Last Dawn, Last Gasp” in the Mediterranean Sea, near his hometown of Naples. “This winter I accompanied some local fishermen,” explains Vassallo. “Diving at dawn, I followed the nets as they were hauled up from the depths, revealing a conveyor belt of dead and dying wildlife, such as this little tunny tuna gasping for life.”

Competition judge Peter Rowlands commented: “If a picture paints a thousand words, then a great one asks a thousand questions.”

Judge Mustard continues: “the ocean faces many threats,  including  climate  change,  overfishing  and  plastic pollution,  and  the  conservation section of the Underwater Photographer of the Year gives a platform for the photographers, who are our eyes in and on the ocean seeing these issues first-hand. Much of what happens in the oceans goes unseen, but such powerful images help make more of us aware.”

The  Underwater  Photographer  of  the  Year  competition  also  aims  to  promote  new photographic talent. Anita Kainrath, from Austria, was named as Up & Coming Underwater Photographer  of  the  Year  2020 for  an  uplifting  picture  of  baby  lemon  sharks  thriving  in  a mangrove in the Bahamas. Her image “Shark Nursery” is not only beautiful, but it shows how important mangroves are, not just for protecting tropical coastlines, but also in the lives of endangered species.

© Anita Kainrath/UPY2020

Kainrath, from Vienna, explains the challenges in producing the image: “I was standing in knee-high water, trying to hold my camera still, waiting for the sharks, while mosquitoes and sand-flies were feasting on me! After about an hour the lemon shark pups finally came into photographic range and I was able to make this image.”

Judge Rowlands commented:  “Her  perseverance  has  definitely  paid  off  with a beautifully balanced and observed image.”

The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and makes two awards specifically to British photographers. Nick More, from Devon, England was named as British Underwater  Photographer  of  the  Year  2020 for  his  pop-art  style  photograph “Rabbitfish Zoom Blur” taken in Indonesia. “I created this effect in camera,” explains More, “by zooming my lens at the same time as I hit the shutter. My flash has frozen the central fish while the ambient light is blurred by the zooming.”

© Nick More/UPY2020

The  title  of Most  Promising  British  Underwater  Photographer 2020 goes to Nur Tucker from Wimbledon, London for an artistic panning photo of a seahorse. Her creative image “Commotion in the Ocean” uses an in-camera  double  exposure  to  create  a feeling of waves surrounding this seahorse. Tucker explains: “I love experimenting and I have tried  many  different  techniques,  with  varying  degrees  of  success!  After  many  attempts, everything came together with this shot.”

© Nur Tucker/UPY2020

Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools.  British  photographer  Phil  Smith  was  the  first  Underwater  Photographer  of  the  Year, named in 1965. Today’s competition attracts  entries  from  all  around  the  world, has  13 categories,  testing  photographers  with  themes  such  as  Macro,  Wide  Angle,  Behaviour  and Wreck photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. This year’s judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Martin Edge and Alex Mustard.

To see all the incredible images that were placed in this years awards, or to learn more about the competition please visit the UPY website by clicking here.

To download the free 180 page downloadable Yearbook please click here.

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