Photographers go deep to capture amazing, award-worthy underwater shots

Diving beneath the tides opens up an entirely new world for photographers — and the annual Underwater Photographer of the Year competition highlights underwater composition, from dancing octopuses to shipwrecks. On Monday, the panel of judges named Gabriel Barathieu the top winner for his shot that puts a dancing octopus front and center.

Baratheiu, a French diver, captured the eight-legged sea creature in a lagoon off the small island of Mayotte, a region of France in the Indian Ocean. The photographer waited until the low spring tide so he could shoot in about a foot of water. That water level and a wide angle lens helped make the octopus look larger than life.

“Both balletic and malevolent, this image shows an octopus really means business as it hunts,” said judge Alex Mustard. “The way it moves is so different from any predator on land, this truly could be an alien from another world. It was taken in knee-deep water, showing that underwater photography is open to anyone who is prepared to dip their toe into the water.”

Those same judges also selected Nick Blake as the British Underwater Photographer of the year for 2017. Blake, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, was actually exploring a sinkhole in Mexico when he shot a stunning underwater scene with another diver highlighted by beams of light entering the water. Also in honor of the nationality of the contest’s very first winner from more than 50 years ago, the committee selected Nicholai Georgiou for his shot of an orca pod taken in Norway’s wintry waters.

The annual contest also recognizes the genre’s rookies, recognizing Horacio Martinez, an Argentinian diver, as the Up and Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year for his shot of a shark swimming through waters that appears almost sky-like due to the beams of the sun. Judge Peter Roland said the novice photographer used light extremely well in the image, while isolating the shark in a far off shot created a felling of loneliness.

Along with selecting the photographer of the year, the judges chose 10 category winners and runners-up, from wide-angle shots to portraits of sea creatures. The complete gallery of the winning shots can be viewed at the Underwater Photographer of the Year website.