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Tony Wu tops Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022 underwater winners

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The Underwater category of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2022 has been won by Tony Wu with his image ‘Shooting star’ (pictured above). Tony, who describes himself as ‘a photographer who takes photos (mostly) underwater’, took the winning image of a spawning sea star in Kinko Bay, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan.

As the surrounding water filled with sperm and eggs from spawning sea stars, Tony faced several challenges. Stuck in a small, enclosed bay with only a macro lens for photographing small subjects, he backed up to squeeze the undulating sea star into his field of view, in this galaxy-like scene.

The ‘dancing’ posture of spawning sea stars rising and swaying may help release eggs and sperm, or may help sweep the eggs and sperm into the currents where they fertilise together in the water.

Technical details: Nikon D850 + 105mm f2.8 lens; 1/250 sec at f18; ISO 320; Nauticam housing; Backscatter Mini Flash 1 + Inon S2000 + Z240 strobes; RGBlue compact tripod

Tony Wu was one of 19 category winners in this year’s competition that saw underwater and marine images feature highly throughout the awards.

Amongst the Highly Commended images in the Underwater category was an image by Belgian photographer Ellen Cuylaerts.

Liquid silver by Ellen Cuylaerts, Belgium

Highly Commended, Underwater

Ellen Cuylaerts / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Ellen Cuylaerts is surrounded by schools of glittering silversides swirling around their predators.

The moment Ellen learnt the silversides were back, she grabbed her diving gear. Surrounded by schools of the small fish zipping apart to let the larger Atlantic tarpons through felt like ‘swimming through silver curtains’.

In summer, thousands of silversides arrive from deeper waters to lay their eggs on the sandy shores around Grand Cayman. By day they hide in grottos between coral reefs – but they are not free from danger as predatory tarpons lurk there too.

Location: Devil’s Grotto, George Town, Cayman Islands

Technical details: Nikon D800 + 16mm f2.8 lens; 1/160 sec at f7.1; ISO 500; Nauticam housing; Sea & Sea YS-250 strobes.

Well-known UK photographer Alex Mustard, a frequent winner at the awards, scored a High Commended in the Plants and Fungi category.

Seaweed symmetry by Alex Mustard, UK

Highly Commended, Plants and Fungi

Alex Mustard / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Alex Mustard finds the perfect conditions to showcase the beauty of seaweed.

Confined to the UK coast during the Covid-19 pandemic, Alex developed a love of seaweeds. This image, showing colourful fronds of bootlace seaweed reaching for the light, took planning and precise conditions: a high tide, clear water, calm weather and sunshine.

Bootlace seaweed is hollow, allowing gas to accumulate towards its tip and keep it afloat. Seaweeds forming underwater kelp forests play important roles as foundations for coastal habitats, feeding and sheltering hundreds of marine animals.

Location: Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, UK

Technical details: Nikon D850 + 28–70mm lens; 1/40 sec at f16; ISO 160; Subal housing + Nauticam WACP-1 lens; 2x Retra Pro strobes.

Winner in the Portfolio category was French photographer Laurent Ballesta with his portfolio of six images – ‘Under Antarctic ice’ – taken in Adélie Land, Antarctica.

Laurent Ballesta endures below-freezing dives to reveal the diversity of life beneath Antarctica’s ice. An underwater photographer and biologist, Laurent has led a series of major expeditions, all involving scientific mysteries and diving challenges, and all resulting in unprecedented images. He has won multiple prizes in Wildlife Photographer of the Year, including the grand title award in 2021.

His expedition to Antarctica, exploring its vast underwater biodiversity, took two years to plan, a team of expert divers, and specially developed kit. His 32 dives in water temperature down to -1.7˚C (29°F) included the deepest, longest dive ever made in Antarctica.

Pyramid of life by Laurent Ballesta, France

Laurent Ballesta / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Living towers of marine invertebrates punctuate the seabed off Adelie Land, 32 metres (105 feet) under East Antarctic ice. Here, at the centre, a tree-shaped sponge is draped with life, from giant ribbon worms to sea stars.

Technical details: Nikon D810 + 13mm f2.8 lens; 1/13 sec at f16; ISO 800; Seacam housing; 2x Seacam strobes.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by The Natural History Museum, London.  In an intensive process, 38,575 entries from 93 countries were judged anonymously by an international panel of experts on their originality, narrative, technical excellence, and ethical practice. Dr  Doug  Gurr,  Director  of  the  Natural  History  Museum  comments:

“Wildlife  photographers  offer  us unforgettable glimpses into the lives of wild species, sharing unseen details, fascinating behaviours and front-line reporting on the climate and biodiversity crises. These images demonstrate their awe of and appreciation for the natural world and the urgent need to take action to protect it.”

The redesigned flagship exhibition which is now open at the Natural History Museum, London, positions the photographs among short videos, quotes from jury members and photographers as well as insights from Museum scientists to invite visitors to explore how human actions continue to shape the natural world. Sponsored by global green energy company Ørsted, it runs until 2nd July 2023 and will later tour the UK and internationally.

The 59th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition will open for entries from photographers of all ages, nationalities and  levels on Monday 17th October 2022.

For more information, please visit here: www.nhm.ac.uk/wpy

Header Image: Tony Wu / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Book Review: Plankton

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Plankton: A Worldwide Guide by Tom Jackson and Jennifer Parker

This is a book that jumps off the shelf at you. The striking front cover demands that you pick it up and delve further, even if you may not have known you wanted to learn more about the most diminutive life in our ocean, plankton!

Small it might be. Much of the imagery in the book has been taken under huge magnification. Revealing stunning beauty and diversity in each scoop of “soup”. There is lots to learn. Initial chapters include interesting facts about the different vertical zones they inhabit, from sunlight to midnight (the darkest and deepest areas). I loved finding out more about the stunning show that divers oft encounter on night dives – bioluminescence.

The black water images are wonderful. So this is a book you can have as a coffee table book to dip in and our of. But, these tiny organisms are also vital to our very survival and that of all the marine life we love. They provide half the oxygen produced on our planet. They are also responsible for regulating the planets climate. And for a shark lover like me – they are food for charismatic sharks and rays like the Basking Shark and Manta Ray, along with a huge number of other species. This book contains great insight into their biology, life cycles, migration, and how the changes in currents and sea temperatures affects them.

This is a book that is both beautiful and packed with information about possibly the most important group of organisms on our planet. Anyone interested in the ocean should have it one their shelves.

What the publisher says:

Plankton are the unsung heroes of planet Earth. Passive drifters through the world’s seas, oceans, and freshwater environments, most are invisible or very small, but some are longer than a whale. They are the global ocean’s foundation food, supporting almost all oceanic life, and they are also vitally important for land-based plants, animals, and other organisms. Plankton provides an incomparable look at these remarkable creatures, opening a window on the elegance and grace of microscopic marine life.

This engaging book reveals the amazing diversity of plankton, how they belong to a wide range of living groups, and how their ecology, lifestyles, and adaptations have evolved to suit an enormous range of conditions. It looks at plankton life cycles, the different ways plankton feed and grow, and the vast range of strategies they use for reproduction. It tracks where, how, and why plankton drift through the water; shares perspectives on migrations and population explosions or “blooms” and why they happen; and discusses the life-sustaining role of plankton in numerous intertwined food webs throughout the world.

Beautifully illustrated, Plankton sheds critical light on how global warming, pollution, diminishing resources, and overexploitation will adversely impact planktonic life, and how these effects will reverberate to every corner of our planet.

About the Authors:

Tom Jackson is a science writer whose many popular books include Strange Animals and Genetics in MinutesJennifer Parker is a zoology and conservation writer and the author of several books. Andrew Hirst is a leading expert on plankton whose research has taken him around the world, from the Antarctic to Greenland and the Great Barrier Reef.

Book Details

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Hardcover

Price: £25

ISBN: 9780691255996

Published: 9th April, 2024

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Marine Life & Conservation

Dive with a Purpose: Shark Guardian’s Expedition Galapagos

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Shark Guardian has just unveiled their largest and most exciting expedition yet: a seven-night, eight-day adventure in August 2026 aboard the Galaxy Diver II, a state-of-the-art
vessel specifically designed for divers exploring the enchanting waters of the Galapagos
Islands. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage deeply with marine
conservation in one of the world’s most revered diving destinations.

Shark Guardian is a UK registered charity dedicated to protecting sharks and marine
ecosystems worldwide. Founded by marine biologists and conservationists, Brendon
Sing and Liz Ward-Sing, Shark Guardian leads educational programs, research projects,
campaigns and expeditions aimed at fostering a better understanding and respect for
marine life. Their work spans several continents and focuses on direct action,
education, and advocacy.

Shark Guardian’s ethos revolves around the concept of “diving with a purpose.” This
philosophy underscores the importance of not just experiencing the wonders of the
underwater world but actively learning and contributing to its preservation. Participants
in Shark Guardian expeditions engage in citizen science projects, which involve
collecting data that supports ongoing research and conservation efforts. These
activities empower divers to make a tangible difference, turning each dive into an act of
conservation.

One of the newer additions to the Galapagos diving scene, the Galaxy Diver II, is
specifically tailored for divers. Its design prioritises comfort, safety, and environmental
responsibility. The vessel boasts modern amenities, spacious dive decks, and the latest
navigational technology, ensuring that every dive is not only memorable but also has
minimal environmental impact.

A highlight of this expedition is the opportunity to dive at Wolf and Darwin islands,
renowned for their vibrant, untouched marine ecosystems and as a haven for large
pelagic species. These islands are famous for their schools of hammerhead sharks,
whale sharks, and manta rays, offering spectacular diving that attracts enthusiasts from
around the globe.

Shark Guardian have developed this trip to ensure a hassle-free experience. The
expedition package also includes internal flights from Quito, Ecuador, to the Galapagos,
plus accommodation in Quito before and after the trip. This allows divers to relax and
enjoy the experience without worrying about logistics.

Participants will join a diverse group of passionate divers and conservationists. This trip
offers a unique opportunity to network with like-minded individuals who are eager to
learn about and contribute to marine conservation. It’s a chance to share experiences,
knowledge, and a commitment to protecting the marine world.

sharks

Shark Guardian is offering an early bird price available until May 31st 2024. This special
rate provides a fantastic opportunity to secure a spot on this exclusive expedition at a
reduced cost. Availability is limited, so interested divers are encouraged to act quickly
to ensure they don’t miss out. All the details can be found on their WeTravel page, where
bookings can be made easily and payment instalments are available.

Expedition Galapagos, aboard the Galaxy Diver II offers more than just a diving
holiday—it is an investment in both personal and planetary well-being. By participating,
divers not only witness the majesty of one of the world’s premier diving locales but also
contribute to its preservation for future generations.

Find out more about Shark Guardian at www.sharkguardian.org.

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