Slideshow: Winning images from the 2022 Ocean Art Photo Competition

Slideshow: Winning images from the 2022 Ocean Art Photo Competition

DPReview News

Winning images from the 2022 Ocean Art Photo Competition

Recently, Ocean Art Photo Competition announced its 2022 winners and runners up. Put on by the Underwater Photography Guide, the annual contest awarded over $100,000 in prizes to finalists. Kat Zhou's image of an elderly mother octopus spending her final days with her offspring won the Best in Show award.

'The best camera is the one you have with you', as the saying goes. A new 'Mobile Phone' category was introduced this year for those using their smartphones to capture underwater images. This new category joins thirteen others in covering all disciplines in the underwater photography world.

Thousands of images were submitted from underwater photographers from 96 countries. A complete list of winners and finalists can be viewed on the Underwater Photography Guide website.

Best in Show: 'Octopus Mother' by Kat Zhou

The Story: This photo shows a Caribbean reef octopus guarding her eggs, found off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida. Like all other species of octopus, this mother does not eat while she tends to her eggs, and she will die after they hatch. It was a bittersweet feeling to watch her protect her eggs, knowing that this sad end was coming!

West Palm Beach is my favorite diving destination in the USA for the variety of both wide angle and macro subjects it offers, and I visit a few times each year to dive and photograph around the area. I had started seeing photos on social media of this reef octopus with eggs in early March 2022, and I was ecstatic to hear that she was still there when I visited later in the month, as I had never seen an octopus with eggs before. Over the next three weeks, I spent 4 dives observing her.

Though it was fascinating to watch her protect and aerate her eggs, it wasn’t possible to get good photos on every dive, as she was situated in the middle of a tube, and she would often either block the eggs with her arms or move so far back into the tube that it wasn’t possible to get both the octopus and her eggs in focus. On the dive that I obtained this shot, there were fewer divers around than normal, and she seemed much calmer as a result.

Location: Blue Heron Bridge, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

Equipment Used: Nikon D850 Camera, Nikon 105mm Macro Lens, Nauticam Housing, Dual Inon Z330 Strobes, BigBlue Dive Light

Camera Settings: ISO 250, F29, 1/250 sec

Wide-angle, 3rd Place: 'The Blue Abyss' by Martin Broen

The Story: The Blue Abyss is a fascinating sinkhole within a cave, located in one of the tunnels of the biggest underwater cave system in the world, Sac Aktun. A beautiful landscape but quite challenging to capture both simultaneous in one frame - the sink-hole itself going down and the cave passage where is located. That’s what the shot represents.

The diver going down into the Abyss illuminating the Sinkhole, framed in the upper part by the cave ceiling and the speleothems that took millennia to form when the cave was dry.

We have done this dive as a 1 hour traverse in underwater scooters through the tunnels to reach the sinkhole and carefully placed a 33.000 lumen light with a float in the ceiling, while my buddy Nico illuminates the downward tunnel with a 15.000 lumen light in his way down.

The composition of the light spot highlighting the abyss, framed by a concentric semi-circular ceiling of the cave, enhanced by the natural blue tone of the Blue Abyss completes the scene.

Location: In-Cave Sinkhole, Cenote Pet Cemetery, Riviera Maya, Yucatan, Mexico

Equipment Used: Sony A1, Camon 8-15mm Lens, Nauticam Housing, Big Blue Lights

Camera Settings: ISO 6400, F5.0, 1/8 sec

Wide-angle, Honorable Mention: 'Mobula Munkiana' by Adam Martin

The Story: Mobula Munkiana aggregate in large schools off the coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico, each spring, during a period thought to be mating and pupping season. While motoring offshore for a week, our search was guided by breaching rays on the horizon. After many attempts to locate the rays and quietly enter the water, I was able to capture a clean image of this large school.

Location: Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Equipment Used: Canon 5D Mark III Camera, Canon 8-15mm F4L Fisheye, Sea & Sea Housing

Camera Settings: ISO 250, F8, 1/125 sec

Marine Life Behavior, 3rd Place: 'Coral Spawning' by Tom Shlesinger

The Story: A branching coral spawns pinkish bundles of eggs and sperm. Corals are animals, and this is how they reproduce and create new generations of baby corals. Usually, at the exact same time, thousands of corals of a given species along hundreds of kilometers of the reef reproduce by spawning egg-and-sperm bundles altogether into the open sea.

These bundles will be carried away by the currents, mixing in the water, until they finally encounter a match—a sperm will fertilize an egg and new life will be created. Yet catching coral spawning is tricky business as it usually happens only once a year in a certain month of the year, on a specific night of the month, and at a certain hour of the night for a very short time window of only a few minutes.

This Image is part of an ongoing scientific-documentary project documenting the nightlife and unique reproductive phenomena of corals and other inhabitants of the coral reef in the Red Sea. I spent ~300 nights underwater in the last few years during the major reproduction season of corals and other reef-associated animals snorkeling and freediving for hours every night to document the nocturnal behavior and build a calendar of the reproduction of corals and other coral-reef dwellers.

Location: Coral Beach Nature Reserve, Eilat, Gulf of Aqaba and Eilat, Israel

Equipment Used: Sony A7R III, Sony FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G Lens, Nauticam Housing, Dual Retra Flash Pro Strobes

Camera Settings: ISO 200, F16, 1/160 sec

Portrait, 1st Place: 'Mirror Reflection' by Kuo-Wei Kao

The Story: Since the pandemic, I was depressed because I couldn’t go diving abroad. On the chance of going out, I went to the stream and found beautiful little crabs. So, I took my photography equipment and went to different spots every week to observe and try to shoot the ecology of the stream. After multiple attempts in the span of several months, I was able to capture the perfect reflection which was one of my goals. When I shot this photo, I knew I got it!

Location: Pinglin, Taiwan

Equipment Used: Olympus EM1 Mark II, Olympus 30mm Macro Lens, Inon Z330, Retra LSD Snoot

Camera Settings: ISO 400, F13, 1/250 sec

Nudibrachs, Honorable Mention: 'Drifter' by Talia Greis

The Story: Almost every year, the coastal shores of Sydney Australia receive an influx of blue drifters (also referred to as the "Blue Fleet"), which consist of bluebottles, blue buttons, and the infamous Blue Dragon (more commonly referred to as the Glaucus).

This magnificent critter is an organism that relies on the wind and ocean currents to carry them around, which sometimes results in heavy storms casting them ashore. The Glaucus is considered to be a type of pelagic nudibranch that devours bluebottles, and stores their stinging agents as defence against predators.

Location: Maroubra Beach Rock Pools, Sydney Australia

Equipment Used: Nikon D850 Camera, Nikon 60mm Macro Lens, Isotta Housing

Camera Settings: ISO 400, F18, 1/200 sec

Underwater Conservation, 1st Place: 'A Sad Catch' by Lawrence Alex Wu

The Story: Big or small, our ecosystem is a fine balance and all its inhabitants are important to the well being of the Earth.

Seahorses have been fished to near extinction, mainly for medicinal use... but not scientifically proven to have any medicinal properties.

Underwater Conservation, Honorable Mention: 'The Brutal Death of the Crow' by Alessandro Giannaccini

The Story: I photographed this crow strangled by an abandoned fishing net. It was a very gray day. The water was very cold, dirty, there was a lot of current and debris in the river. I was looking for trout fish, when at one point I saw a black spot that flew away with the current. I followed it for several meters, in the current. When I got close I saw something tragic, brutal. A dead crow strangled by a net

Location: Tuscany Serra River, Italy

Equipment Used: Nikon D850 Camera, Nikkor 8-15mm Lens, Isotta Housing, Subtronic Alpha Pro Flash

Camera Settings: ISO 320, F6.3, 1/100 sec

Underwater Art, 1st Place: 'A Happy Bunch' by Sarah Teveldal

The Story: Underwater performer, free diver and four-time World Champion Synchronized Swimmer Kristina Makushenko and I worked together to get this colorful, fun-spirited image. Balloons can be difficult to work with underwater, but we are both underwater enthusiasts who appreciate a challenge! The trick to working with the balloons is achieving a nearly neutral buoyancy. To do this, you must fill them with the right water-to-air ratio which is mostly water and just a tiny breath of air.

It took two sets of balloons to get the balloons just right. The first set was negatively buoyant and Makushenko had a difficult time getting them in the right position. We were successful with the second set of balloons when I left a little more room for air. Makushenko was then able to achieve the playful pose and look we were aiming for with just several submersions.

Post-production on this image included enhancing the colors to make them "pop", removing the tile border and cleaning up the pool debris (as there had been a heavy tropical storm just the day before!). While it might be a slightly "ordinary" image above water, we were ecstatic to bring this concept to life in the water - our preferred medium that always adds a touch of magic, whimsicality and unpredictability!

Location: Private Residential Pool, Miami

Equipment Used: Canon 5D Mark IV, Sea & Sea Housing, Canon 16-35mm Lens

Camera Settings: ISO 400, F13, 1/250 sec

Underwater Art, 3rd Place: 'Dandelion' by Lilian Koh

The Story: Whenever I see a ghost pipefish, I can’t help letting my imagination runs wild. With the help of a Fractal software I am able to transform it into a close resemblance of a dandelion, which shows it’s fragility and resilience. Ghost pipefishes are masters in the art of camouflage, they can easily blend in with the natural background (normally crinoids or gorgonians). Managed to capture this image by using snooting technique enables me to separate the subject from its environment.

Location: Lembeh Straits, Manado, Indonesia

Equipment Used: Canon 5D Mark IV, Nauticam Housing, Dual Minigear MS-03 Snoot Torch

Camera Settings: ISO 125, F13, 1/160 sec

Black & White, 2nd Place: 'Cruising in the Sand Patch' by Brooke Pyke

The Story: On the clearest day on the Ningaloo I have experienced so far, our spotter pilot called in a whale shark on a shallow section of reef. To see them so shallow is not an everyday occurance, and with the visibility it may have been the best time to see one in such an area.

The whale shark began to cruise slowly over a huge white sand patch at about 15m depth. Looking down on the huge shark from above as it swam below me , made it almost look miniature. It's perfect outline is dark against the white background, showing its shape with perfect contrast

Location: Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Equipment Used: Canon R6, Canon 15mm Fisheye Lens

Camera Settings: ISO 200, F8, 1/200sec

Compact Macro, 1st Place: 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial' by Eunhee Cho

The Story: I considered filming for a short time without strengthening the light because the sea squirt, which does not like the heat, narrows the entrance right away when I start filming. Also, shrimp are sensitive to sea squirts' movements, so I tried to film calmly without rushing.

From the moment I found the shrimp in the sea squirt until just before the sea squirt entrance was closed, this cute little shrimp kept an eye on me without much movement. It was as if this shrimp understood my mind to take pictures while being pressed for time, and I thought of E.T., the big-eyed alien in the movie I saw as a child. It was a lucky day when a small sea creature was considerate of me and I was able to shoot. So, macro is "a small but great world."

Location: Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines

Equipment Used: Olympus TG-6 Camera, Olympus PT-059 Housing, Weefine SmartFocus 1000FR, INON UCL-67 M67 Close Up Lens

Camera Settings: ISO 100, F3.9, 1/500 sec

Compact Behavior, 1st Place: 'A Male Weedy Seadragon Carries Pink Eggs On Its Tail' by PT Hirschfield

The Story: Last year in the judges’ comments, it was advised to find new ways to photograph common subjects. While definitely ‘other-worldly’, male weedy sea dragons carrying bright pink eggs on its tail are not a particularly unusual subject on the south-east coast of Australia. These slow moving animals are typically very happy to pose side-on at close range in only around 4-6 metres depth. But I loved playing with the principles of photography in making this image.

I observed the ‘Rule of Thirds’ and the principle of ‘edge consciousness’, but broke the ‘rules’ of shooting the subject from the front with sharp focus on the eye. Shooting this dragon from the back with its eye down and not as a focal point revealed an angle of this bright beastie that’s rarely seen.

The egg closest to the top right hand side appears to have already hatched (which I did not realise until I saw the image at home on the computer), with almost ninety other eggs nearing their hatching time. I love the yellows, purples, blacks, whites and pinks of the subject against the backdrop blue of the water and green of the seagrass.

I also like the way the ‘paddles’ on the dragon are outlined in black which is more obvious from this angle than when photographed from other angles. I’ve taken many hundreds of images of weedy sea dragons over the years, but my decision to press the trigger from behind the subject in between side-on poses allowed me to produce an image very different to any I’ve taken or seen before, achieving a new way to photograph a fairly common subject.

Location: Flinders Pier, Victoria, Australia

Equipment Used: Canon G12, Single YS-D3 Strobe, Fix Neo 1500 Light

Camera Settings: ISO 100, F8, 1/80 sec

Mobile Phone, 1st Place: 'Cassiopea in the Blue' by Alessandro Buzzichelli

The Story: One day Hundreds of Cassiopea jellyfish appeared. The water was very transparent and the sunlight illuminated the scene.

Location: Sardinia, Cala Liberotto, Italy

Equipment Used: iPhone7, Haoguduo Phone Case