World’s best underwater photographers named

Image: Alex Dawson/UPY 2024

A photograph showing a freediver examining the aftermath of whaling sees Alex Dawson from Sweden named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024.

Dawson’s photograph, Whale Bones, triumphed over 6,500 underwater pictures entered by photographers from around the world.

Chair of judging panel Alex Mustard said, “Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions, as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear witness to the carcasses.

“The composition invites us to consider our impact on the great creatures of this planet. Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Our way needs to change to find a balance with nature.”

Image: Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY 2024

Whales dominated the competition, with Spanish photographer Rafael Fernandez Caballero winning two categories with a close-up of a grey whale’s eye and an action shot of a Bryde’s whale engulfing an entire bait ball, both taken in Magdalena Bay, Mexico.

Fernandez Caballero took Grey Whale Connection while drifting in a small boat, holding his camera over the side in the water. The End Of A Baitball required him to dive down and be in exactly the right place at the moment the whale lunged.

He said, “The photo shows the high speed attack with the whale engulfing hundreds of kilograms of sardines in one bite — simply unforgettable to see predation on such a scale.”

Image: Rafael Fernandez Caballero/UPY 2024

Underwater Photographer of the Year launched in 2014 and is based in the UK, with supporters including Save Our Seas Foundation and The Crown Estate. The 2024 winners were announced in an awards ceremony in London, in February.

Jenny Stock, was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image Star Attraction, which finds beauty in species of British wildlife that are often overlooked.

Exploring the west coast of Scotland, Stock explained “in the dark green depths my torch picked out the vivid colours of a living carpet of thousands of brittle stars, each with a different pattern. I was happily snapping away, when I spotted this purple sea urchin and I got really excited.”

Image: Jenny Stock/UPY 2024

Portuguese photographer Nuno Sá was named Save Our Seas Foundation’s Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year, with Saving Goliath, taken in Portugal. Sá’s photo shows beachgoers trying to save a stranded sperm whale.

Image: Nuno Sá/UPY 2024

Lisa Stengel from the United States was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024 for her image of a mahi mahi fish catching a sardine, in Mexico. Stengel used both a very fast shutter speed and her hearing to catch the moment.

She explained, “If you listen there’s an enormous amount of sound in the ocean. The action was too fast to see, so I honed in on the sound of the attacks with my camera to capture this special moment.”

Image: Lisa Stengel/UPY 2024

Judge Alex Mustard said, “Until this year I’d hardly ever see a photo of a mahi mahi, now Lisa has photographed one hunting - action that plays out in the blink of an eye. It is such an exciting time in underwater photography because photographers are capturing such amazing new images, by visiting new locations and using the latest cameras."