The skill of the world's best in ocean photography is being showcased by Oceanographic Magazine's Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023 contest along with the breathtaking beauty of our oceans and the life that they sustain.
Out of thousands of drone, underwater, and coastal photos submitted by ocean photographers worldwide, first place was awarded to 25-year-old amateur photographer and marine biologist Jialing Cai, who won the judges over with her image of a paper nautilus floating on a piece of ocean debris. The shot was taken on a blackwater dive after the Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines.
Ms. Cai began taking photos during blackwater dives after learning about the phenomenon of diel vertical migration, where zooplankton move upward from the depths of the ocean to the surface at nighttime. When her professor explained that the deep sea was "within reach," Ms. Cai found it mindblowing and could not resist exploring. She then became "obsessed" with blackwater photography.
Although underwater photographers aim to shoot in clear water, Ms. Cai said this particular image reminds us that the grains of sand, organic matter, or tiny organisms are integral to the underwater environment.
"I aim to accept their presence and seek non-disruptive ways to incorporate them into my images," she said.
Andrei Savin of Russia won second place for an ethereal photo of a crab sitting in the middle of a sea anemone. He snapped the picture while scuba diving in the Philippines.
Mr. Savin views a large anemone "like an apartment building with many different inhabitants, establishing different relationships, and relying on each character." He finds it interesting to watch the same creatures come and go, day after day, and to study them as they evolve.
"On this day I took dozens of shots of an anemone with different settings. Suddenly, as if by magic, a crab came out and sat right in the center," he said. "I just had to press the button."
The third place was awarded to Alvaro Herrero Lopez-Beltran for his distressing but thought-provoking photo of a humpback whale with a broken spine, entangled in ropes and buoys, that was captured while freediving off the coast of Mexico. The photographer said that the whale's "slow and painful death" is a sad metaphor" that we are inflicting upon our ocean planet.
Ocean Photographer of the Year aims to showcase the beauty of our oceans as well as highlight their plight and champion conservation. Photo entries include stunning seascapes, perfectly timed wildlife encounters, and moving snapshots of humans interacting with the ocean.
The contest, produced by Oceanographic in partnership with Blancpain, Arksen, and Tourism Western Australia, will be showcasing all entries in a five-month-long exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, Australia, which will open to the public on Nov. 17.