Best Undersea Photography: 20 Winners Of Ocean Photographer Of The Year 2021 – Forbes

The Ocean Photography Award has announced the winners for its 2021 Photographer Of The Year competition and the images are an inspiring celebration of our blue planet, as well as a platform to highlight the many plights it faces.

Together with the overall winner, the awarded images in eight categories, including the inaugural Female Fifty Fathoms Award (established to provide a platform for inspiring women in ocean photography), are a free-diving journey with humpback whales in crystal-clear waters, gannet dive-bombing for mackerel in the Shetland Islands and adrenaline-infused shots of surfers wrestling with frothing waves.

The Ocean Photography Awards, presented by Oceanographic Magazine is “a platform to shine a light on the beauty of the ocean and the threats it faces,” the organizers emphasize.

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“As we too well know, however, our species’ interaction with the ocean isn’t always positive. The perils of ghost fishing lines and Covid masks communicate an urgent message, while vast trawler nets and melting ice remind us that the ocean’s perils are plural.”


The entrants in 2021’s competition included a number of the world’s leading ocean and wildlife photographers and provided the judges with a significant challenge.

Australian photographer Aimee Jan was selected as the Ocean Photographer of the Year 2021, with a beautiful image of a green sea turtle surrounded by a school of glass fish, captured on Ningaloo Reef, Australia. 

The photos are on display in a free, month-long outdoor public exhibition on the Queen’s Walk along the Thames River in London from September 17 to October 17.

“I was out snorkelling when one of my colleagues told me there was a turtle under a ledge in a school of glass fish, about 10 metres down,” says photographer Aimee Jan. “When I dived down to look, the fish separated around the turtle perfectly. I said to her: ‘I think I just took the best photo I have ever taken’.”

“Diving in amidst the barrage of gannets, I witness the violent synchronicity of these impressive seabirds as they embark on fishing dives,” says the photographer.

“They hit the water at 60 miles per hour, an impact they can only withstand thanks to specially-evolved air sacs in the head and chest. The bird’s agility transfers from air to sea where it also swims with incredible speed.”

Just 3.5 centimeters long and a few minutes old, the baby Hawksbill turtle takes its first swim.

“It had emerged from an egg just minutes earlier with approximately 100 of its siblings,” says photographer Matty Smith. “They quickly made their way into the ocean to disperse as rapidly as they could and avoid predation from birds and fish.”

A lone blacktip reef shark lines up its dorsal fin with the setting sun in Moorea, French Polynesia.

“Sharks are plentiful in French Polynesia due to their strong legal protections and are a sign of a healthy marine ecosystem,” said photographer Renee Capozzola.

“It is a sad realisation when an animal as harmless and as beautiful as the leopard shark is being driven to extinction because their fins are being sold in the shark-finning industry,” says the photographer.

A green sea turtle hatchling cautiously surfaces for air, to a sky full of hungry birds.

“During a shallow night dive in Wollongong Harbour, NSW, Australia, I came across this adult male Southern Bobtail Squid hunting across the sand,” explains the photographer.

“As I approached, it seemed to take interest in its reflection in my camera lens port and began to dance with this curious and colourful display. It’s a behaviour I’ve only witness a couple of times in several years of diving here.”