The Underwater Photographer of the Year is back once again with a whole new reel of images showcasing the beauty of the oceans and its wonderful inhabitants, along with the many challenges they face.
British photographer Richard Barnden snapped up the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019 prize for his action-packed shot, “The Gauntlet,” which sees a gang of sharks hunting on a parrot fish on the moonlit reefs of French Polynesia (above).
"As I descended, hundreds of sharks covered the bottom. This unlucky parrotfish flinched – and that tiny movement alerted the swarm of sharks," explained Barnden.
"The mayhem hurtled straight towards me and I instinctively pressed the shutter, moments later all that remained was a rain of parrotfish scales in the darkness – and this photo on my camera."
Dr Alexander Mustard MBE, marine biologist and underwater photographer, who chaired the judges, added: “Photography is about preserving moments and what an unforgettable instant this is.”
“Using a wide angle lens, the photographer takes us into the full drama of the hunt, as a melee of grey reef sharks rise like a breaking wave to tear apart their prey, truly revealing the ocean’s wilder side.”
Eduardo Acevedo from Tenerife, Spain was named Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2019 for his color-soaked photo showing a loggerhead turtle in the Caribbean entangled in a discarded plastic fishing net. Given the increasing awareness of plastic pollution, this heartbreaking photograph is all the more relevant.
“Plastic pollution and ghost fishing are ever increasing serious issues threatening the ocean, this sad image highlights both issues,” said Dr Mustard.
A runner up in the Marine Conservation category was was João Rodrigues for his brutal documentary-style photograph of a Mobula ray being chopped in half in the Munca fishing port of eastern Java, the second largest port in Indonesia. Although widely eaten in many parts of the world, members of this animal genus are threatened with extinction. Rodrigues shot the image while on assignment for National Geographic Portugal, hoping to highlight the exploitation of these beautiful animals and raise awareness of their plight.
“All the judges found this to be probably the most distressing image to view but its uncompromising message must be seen by as many people as possible,” judge Peter Rowlands commented on the photograph.
Taeyup Kim was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2019 for his photograph "Paradise," a technically challenging image buried half in the reefs of French Polynesia and half above the water line.
“A perfect under and over split. One of the best examples I have seen of this type of image for some time," praised judge Martin Edge.
You can check out a selection of the other winners and runners-up in the gallery below. You can see last year's winners right here too.