Culture Inspirations

Under-rated! Dive into the world’s top-scoring underwater shots

These worldwide watery shots that have been making a splash

Underwater Photographer of the Year is a competition that celebrates all photography below the water line. It could be the open ocean, inland lakes, rushing rivers, humble ponds in the back garden or even swimming pools – if it’s wet, it’s in. The competition has been running since 1965 and today attracts entries from all around the world, with over 4200 photographers competing across this year’s 13 categories.

© Rafael Fernandez Caballero

This year’s top award went to Rafael Fernandez Caballero from Spain, who was named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022, with a shot entitled ‘Giants Of The Night.’ The image features five whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, feeding on plankton. Rafael shot the image in the Maldives’ Ari Atoll, using a Nikon Z 7II and Nikkor AF-S 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Fisheye in an Isotta underwater housing along with a OrcaTorch D950V LED. The exposure was 1/80sec, f/4.2 at ISO 5000.

© Matthew Smith

With the competition based in the UK, there’s also a prize for British Underwater Photographer Of The Year 2022 – and that went to Matthew Smith in the Portrait category. Shot in Australia, his image, ‘Great White Split’ was shot in Australia’s North Neptune Islands. Matthew used a Nikon Z 6II and Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S lens in an Aquatica Digital housing. Using no more than natural light, exposure was 1/1000sec at f/8 and ISO 2800. He also used a remote trigger and a long pole!

© Thien Nguyen Ngoc

Another award came in the shape of the Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2022 via the Marine Conservation category. This title went to Thien Nguyen Ngoc from Vietnam, with his aerial photo ‘Big Appetite.’ The image shows boats in the Phu Yen province of Vietnam fishing for anchovies, a species that’s been overfished to the point where catches have fallen by almost a third and forced the marine predators who rely on them to decline, too. Shot on a DJI Mavic Pro 2, the exposure was 1/60sec at f/2.8, ISO 100. 

© Francisco Abadal Ramon

Spain’s Francisco Abadal Ramon was named as Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 for their image ‘Supernova In Paradise.’ Shot at sunset off Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand Abadal used an Olympus EM-1 Mark II with Zuiko Digital 8mm f/1.8 Pro lens, and exposure was 1/160sec at f/5 and ISO 200. Abadal also used an Olympus underwater housing and UFL-3 flash. 

© Paul Pettitt

Paul Pettitt picked up the prize for Most Promising British Underwater Photographer 2022 in the British Waters Macro section, with an image called ‘Diamonds and Rust.’ Shot at Swanage Pier off the Dorset coast, he used a Nikon D500 and AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 lens in a Nauticam with an Inon Z-240 flash. Exposure was 1/200sec at f/22 and ISO 250. 

You can see a few more of the winning and highly commended shots below, but make sure you head to the official Underwater Photographer of the Year website for more. 

© Andy Schmid
© Yazid Shaari
© Karlo Macas
© Henley Spiers
© Pekka Tuuri