Historically the UK has been home to some of the world’s most prestigious underwater photography competitions.
It all started in 1965 when Bernard Eaton organised the first Brighton Underwater Film Festival. This competition led to the foundation of the
British Society of Underwater Photographers in 1967.
In 2015, fifty years after the original Brighton Festival, it was felt that Britain ought to have a dedicated and international underwater photography competition. The inaugural Underwater Photographer of the Year competition (judged by Alex Mustard, Peter Rowlands and Martin Edge) was a huge success. Over 2,500 high-class underwater images were entered from over 40 different countries.
This year the competition has been as equally tough.
"Selecting the winners is enjoyable, but also pressured. We’re all well aware that nobody’s work is judged as meticulously as the judges! A thorough judging process will always be a central part of UPY’s DNA. Key is bringing all the judges together in one room, all looking at and discussing the images face to face over two days." Alex Mustard
The 2016 award winners were chosen from 3,500 entries from 54 different countries:
* Underwater Photographer of the Year 2016 - 'Gold' by Davide Lopresti (Italy)
* British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2016 - 'Catshark Supernova' by Dan Bolt (UK)
* Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2016 - 'Three Pillars - Practice, Patience & Luck!' by Pier Mane (South Africa)
* Most Promising British Underwater Photographer 2016 - 'Fired up and "almost" ready to go ' by Marty Engels Dunmore (UK)
* Wide Angle - 'Underwater fisherman ' by Mike Korostelev (Russia)
* Macro - 'Gold' by Davide Lopresti (Italy)
* Wrecks - 'A Family Affair..' by Thomas Heckmann (Germany)
* Behaviour - 'Turtle eating Jellyfish' by Richard Carey (Thailand)
* Up & Coming - 'Three Pillars - Practice, Patience & Luck!' by Pier Mane (South Africa)
* British Waters Wide Angle - 'Part of the Illusion' by Marcus Blatchford (UK)
* British Waters Macro - 'Catshark Supernova' by Dan Bolt (UK)
* British Waters Compact - 'Hello Ducky!' by Paul Colley (UK)
Marcus Blatchford - who won 'British Waters Wide Angle with his image 'Part of the Illusion' - described capturing the winning image, which also illustrates this article.
"I am truly overwhelmed." Marcus Blatchford
"The National Dive & Activity Centre (NDAC) is the deepest inland dive centre in the UK. This quarry, like most inland sites, has a number of artificial features to entertain visiting divers. There's an interesting story behind this car. She was deliberately crashed into NDAC as part of the BBC Magicians show, for an illusion starring Craig Revel Horwood. Today this car lies in around 70 meters of water."
The day the photo was taken, the dive plan was to bimble around NDAC's deep end. It was a dive Barry Smith and I had done many times before. Some weeks earlier I had been inspired by photographer Steve Jones to make the most of ambient light and use the camera technology to its full potential. I dived “un-plugged” using no artificial light. With the exception of a variation of camera technique, there were no planned shots that either my buddy or I wanted to achieve. We just wanted to do a fun dive with ad-hoc photos along the way." Marcus Blatchford
"As soon as we were underwater Marcus started firing off shots in a bid to get the allusive photo. We continued our decent to the bottom of the quarry, and as planned, we made my way to the small boat at around 70 meters. After a flurry of photos were taken we started to head towards the far corner. The visibility improved from good to incredible! The natural light permeated through the water and there, before our eyes, was a photo opportunity that Marcus wanted to capture.
At 75 metres it doesn't take long at this depth for the decompression to rack up. Marcus took a number of shots at different settings. After each shot he signalled me to move towards a different position. Then he gave me the OK signal - I knew straight away that he must have got the shot he wanted." Barry Smith
"This was probably the last shot I captured that day. Shortly after this photo was taken, we turned and started the long 2 hour decompression ascent back to the surface in NDAC's 6°C / 42°F water.” Marcus Blatchford
"I hope you enjoy this inspiring feast of imagery as much as we did during the judging." Alex Mustard
It is a pleasure and a privilege to sit down with Peter and Martin and spend two days devouring, digesting and cogitating on the entries. We all have different tastes, which means that UPY will always represent all genres of underwater photography, but we are united by an insatiable enthusiasm for great underwater imagery and respectful of each other’s opinions." Alex Mustard
You can enjoy all 80 winning images from the 2016 Underwater Photographer of the Year awards by following this link. You can also download the FREE 2016 Underwater Photographer of the Year Annual. The foreword is written by Professor Callum Roberts.