A panoramic photograph of British World War II military vehicles deep inside the wreck of the Thistlegorm in the Red Sea sees German photographer Tobias Friedrich named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018.
“Cycle War” was taken in Egypt and shows Norton 16H motorbikes loaded in Fordson WOT 3 trucks, with soldierfish schooling above. Friedrich explains “I had had this image in mind for a few years, but it is impossible to capture in one photo, because there is not space inside the wreck to photograph this scene in a single frame. My solution was take a series pictures and stitch them together as a panorama.”
Chair of the judges, Peter Rowlands, said “this is a quite extraordinary shot which must be viewed as large as possible. The artistic skill is to visualise such an image and the photographic talent is to achieve it.”
Malaysian Man BD was named as Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 for his image “Roar”, showing a pair of nudibranchs with the jaws of a moray eel in the background, photographed in Indonesia. “When shooting these nudibranchs I was focusing on getting the shot,” explains Man, “when suddenly a moray eel appeared behind. It still took me about 30 minutes to get this shot.”
Competition judge Martin Edge commented “Great photography to use the moray as a background, with its gleaming white teeth, adds so much drama.”
Competition judge, Alex Mustard commented “fascinating behaviour from one of the UK’s top predators and a great advert for diving in freshwater in the UK.”
Winner of the wide-angle category, Greg Lecoeur, explained how his shot came about. “Each year, I go to Tonga to lead a small group of nature enthusiasts to photograph humpback whales. Tonga offers probably the best opportunity to interact with the whales in blue water. This year was very special, with my friends we had some of my best moments in my underwater photographer’s life: Very curious and playful whales came to investigate us and adopt the spy hopping posture in front of our masks. Although weighing several tens of tons this mammal showed incredible agility and power in holding itself vertically in the water. It was very impressive and we could feel the power of nature but we were also invaded at the same time a feeling of gentleness. I had the chance to freeze this moment with a split shot to recreate a spectacular moment.”
Judge Alex Mustard was impressed by Greg’s split level image that truly justified being a split level. The gesture of the humpback reaching out with its pectoral fin completes the moment.
Highly Commended in the wide angle section was this photo of the Cenote Nariz by Herbert Meyrl. This is the entrance to a large cave system in Yucatan, Mexico.
Shane Gross won the macro category. “The pond I was in has the highest density of seahorses on Earth, but I’ve never seen three together like this before. I was camping on shore and had all night to shoot with the idea of backlighting a single seahorse, but finding three together was a real gift. I was super careful not to disturb them because they will swim away if they’ve had enough. I had my off-camera strobe and an underwater flashlight on a small tripod which I placed behind and below the trio. Then I waited for them to all turn in way that you could see their silhouette. The sun was setting and as it got darker the plankton really began to pile up. When the seahorses ate some of the plankton I could tell they were relaxed. We are still working on getting this special place protection so I cannot reveal the exact location.”
Not all the shots were taken in great diving destinations around the world. The title of Most Promising British Underwater Photographer, 2018 goes to Tony Stephenson from the East Midlands in England. His image “How Many Pike?” reveals pike courtship in Stoney Cove, Leicestershire. “I love photographing pike and on this dive during the Easter holidays, these males were looking for a mate,” commented Stephenson.
One of the most striking photos is the portrait of a sand tiger shark by Tanya Houppermans. This was taken whilst diving the wreck of the Caribsea off North Carolina, USA.
This highly commended macro entry is by the 2016 winner, Davide Lopresti. He created this arresting photograph using a long exposure and panning.
Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition, based in the UK, that seeks to celebrate photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes and even swimming pools. British photographer Phil Smith was the first underwater Photographer of the Year, named in 1965. Today’s competition has 11 categories, testing photographers with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour and Wreck photography, as well as three categories for photos taken specifically in British waters. This year’s judges were experienced underwater photographers Peter Rowlands, Martin Edge and Alex Mustard.