UPY 2023 is Accepting Entries

The 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is accepting entries. It offers 13 categories, including Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour, Wreck and Conservation photography, and four categories for photos taken in British waters. The contest’s rules are available at the deadline for entries is 7 January 2023.


Could you be Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023?

The search is on for the world’s best underwater photographs. UPY - the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 contest opens for entries on 1st November closes on 7th January 2023. The contest is widely regarded as the world’s leading underwater photography competition, attracting thousands of entries, with the winners showcased around the world in the mainstream media. The previous edition was won by Rafael Fernandez Caballero with his nocturnal photo of a gathering of whale sharks “Giants Of The Night”.

Chair of the judges, Alex Mustard said “the previous edition of UPY taught us that restrictions on travel may have stopped many photographers visiting their favourite waters, but it didn’t stifle their creativity. Our entrants showed us how diverse underwater photographs can be, from swimming pools, underwater mines, deep shipwrecks and ocean wildlife spectacles. The last 12 months has seen travel reopen and we are excited to see what images have been captured, especially with photographers returning to work with subjects dear to them.”

A new addition to the contest for 2023, is that exciting underwater photography equipment manufacturer Marelux has joined UPY as a double category sponsor. Marelux are, generously providing UPY’s biggest ever cash prizes for photographers finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in both the Wide Angle and Macro categories. Jun Ouyang from Marelux said “We are delighted to be supporting a contest that is so highly regarded by the underwater photography community, best of luck to all the photographers, we cannot wait to see the stunning winning images”.

UPY is an annual competition, 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 the competition is truly international, has 13 categories, testing photographers with themes such as Macro, Wide Angle, Behaviour, Wreck and Conservation photography, as well as four categories for photos taken specifically in British waters.

The contest incorporates a bespoke results system, providing feedback to the photographers on how far through the contest every single image has progressed, so every entrant benefits from taking part. The experienced judging panel consists of photographers Peter Rowlands, Tobias Friedrich and Alex Mustard.

Four Winning images from the previous edition, UPY 2022.

Rafael Fernandez Caballero from Spain named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022. Fernandez’s photograph triumphed over pictures entered from 71 countries. The photo captures a unique ocean event, taken in demanding photographic conditions.

“Giants Of The Night” features five whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, feeding together on nocturnal plankton that have been concentrated in the lights of a boat. “It was already incredible when one whale shark came to our boat,” explains Fernandez. “But more and more kept arriving. I was diving with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe it as their numbers grew. He counted 11 sharks that night - a once in a lifetime encounter that nobody thought was possible.”

Competition judge, Peter Rowlands, commented, “this image took my breath away from the first viewing and I never tired coming back to it. Scale, light and the sheer numbers of big subjects, this was, by some distance, our winning image.” Judge Alex Mustard added, “photography needs light and simply recording these giants in a dark ocean is a massive achievement. To do this with such beautiful light and careful composition of the five sharks is outstanding.”

The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is based in the UK, and Matty Smith, an Englishman now living in Australia, was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 for a portrait of a great white shark taken in the Neptune Islands, South Australia. To produce “Great White Split” Smith build a special supersize dome port for his camera, as well as a carbon pole and remote trigger to allow him to get this revealing perspective. “I had wanted to shoot a charismatic over/under portrait for years,” explained Smith. “Some techniques I had previously tried failed terribly, so this time I designed and constructed my own equipment to get the camera exactly where I wanted. Surprisingly, the sharks were instantly attracted to the camera, in fact it was a battle to stop them biting it!”

Competition judge, Tobias Friedrich commented “this split shot of the most famous fish in the sea, truly captures its character. An excellent reward for the perseverance of the photographer, experimenting with different techniques until he got the result he wanted.”

Thien Nguyen Ngoc from the Vietnam was named “The Save Our Seas Foundation” Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2022 for his aerial photo “Big Appetite”. The photo shows boats straining the waters for anchovies in the Phu Yen province of his country. “Salted anchovy is the most important raw material in traditional Vietnamese fish sauce. But these little fish are also a keystone of a natural ecosystem. Despite increased fishing, the catches of anchovies have decreased by 20-30% in the past 10 years. When they are overfished, the whales, tunas, sea birds and other marine predators face starvation and critical population declines.”

Competition judge Rowlands commented “a stark visual reminder of man’s reach and control over the surrounding habitat and its devastating effect on the natural balance.” Mustard added “the mouths of these nets dwarf the people casting them, and the tight composition speaks about our squeeze on nature.”

The Underwater Photographer of the Year competition also aims to promote new photographic talent. Quico Abadal, from Spain, was named as Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 for a creative image “Supernova In Paradise”. Adabal’s photo was taken at sunset off Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand and is purposely shown upside down. “This photo features Jeniya, who moves so poetically in the water,” explained Abadal. “What I like about this photograph is the imperfection of backscatter in the dark water, creating the feeling of outer space and making it perfect to me.”

Judge Mustard explains the reasons for the photo’s success, “in this category we are always looking for exciting new talent bringing fresh visions to underwater photography. This image is a fabulous example. Simple subject matter, elevated into an artistic image by the imagination, ideas and talent of the photographer and model.”