The best of the 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year Awards
A stunning shot looking up at a pair of reef sharks during sunset has won the prestigious 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest. The spectacular highlighted images this year span everything from surreal undersea wrecks to rare glimpses of little-seen sea creatures.
This year’s contest was the biggest to date, comprising more than twelve categories covering every kind of underwater photography imaginable, including Wide-Angle, Black & White, Wrecks, and Macro. An additional four categories focus especially on British Waters, celebrating the origins of the competition.
US photographer Renee Capozzola snagged the overall Photographer of the Year prize with a gorgeous shot taken in French Polynesia. Capozzola, the first woman to ever win the top prize, spent days trying to find a unique angle on these oft-photographed sharks.
“Instead of focusing on split-level images as I often like to do, I decided to try something different,” Capozzola says. “I envisioned and aimed to capture the sharks underwater with the sunset seen through Snell's window. It took many attempts, but on this one particular evening, the water was calm, the sunset was vibrant, and I got extremely lucky with the composition as well.”
Martin Edge, one of the judges this year, says he was mesmerized when he first saw Capozzola’s photograph.
“The stark bellies of the sharks create a kind of union with each other just above there reflections,” says Edge. “The birds above are particular dominant in the sunset night sky and it looks like they are queuing to take their turn to feast. Mind-blowing underwater imagery at it’s very best.”
Mark Kirkland won the British Underwater Photographer of the Year prize for an image the judges deemed nothing short of a masterpiece. Kirkland took more than two years to capture the shot he wanted after first conceiving the image when he came across a small muddy pond that is alive with frogs for only a few nights every year.
“Technically assured, artistically innovative and revealing an original and valuable view of the life of frogs,” says Alex Mustard, one of this year’s judges. “Every aspect contributes to the story, spawn shouts what’s happening, bare trees show season, the sky demonstrates time of day, tower blocks reveal location, even the droplets on the dome look like stars!”
Take a look through our gallery at all the top shots from this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year contest.