Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021 winners capture ‘mind-blowing’ imagery

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

Skilled photographers have plunged the depths of the world’s oceans, rivers and lakes – and a pond in Glasgow – to reveal the beautiful scenery of the underwater world.

The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest announced Renee Capozzola as its first ever female winner last week (FEB8), for her stunning shot of blacktip reef sharks cruising beneath gulls at sunset.

© Renee-Capozzola/UPY2021

Renee captured the “mind-blowing” wide shot ‘Sharks’ Skylight’ on a Canon 5DMIII with an 11-24mm f/4 lens while visiting the island of Moorea in French Polynesia last August.

“Moorea is my favourite place to photograph sharks,” Renee said.

“During the trip, I spent several evenings in the shallows at sunset, hoping to capture something unique. I dedicated several evenings to photographing in the shallows at sunset, and I was finally rewarded with this scene: glass-calm water, a rich sunset, sharks and even birds.”

Competition judge Martin Edge said: “The first time I set eyes on this image I was nothing short of mesmerised. Mind-blowing underwater imagery at it’s very best.”

Californian Renee hopes that the publicity of the photograph will help to improve awareness for shark protection worldwide.

The UK based contest also crowned Mark Kirkland as its British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021, for his inner-city pondlife photo, ‘While You Are Sleeping’.

© Mark-Kirkland/UPY2021

The image captured in a patch of Glasgow woodland “squeezed between a housing estate, supermarket and factory”, was taken with an Olympus OMD EM5 MKII and Panasonic 8mm Fisheye Lens in March 2020.

“This final shot is a culmination of 25 hours over four nights of laying in darkness, covered in mud, waiting on natures unpredictable elements to align,” said Mark.

“Was it time well spent? Absolutely.”

The froggy capture also won the My Backyard Award (MBY), introduced this year to highlight that underwater photography is abundant even for photographers forced to stay close to home.

“Even in the centre of Glasgow, frogs and world class underwater photography can thrive,” said judge Alex Mustard.

Underwater Photographer of the Year is an annual competition celebrating all that is beautiful about photography beneath the surface of oceans, lakes and even swimming pools.

This year the contest received more than 4,500 entries from photographers in 68 countries.

Alex Mustard said: “Judging this year’s competition was a pleasure, a much-needed escape into the underwater world. I hope everyone enjoys immersing themselves in these fabulous images.”

Other winners included SJ Alice Bennett, who won British Up and Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year and Karim Iliya, who won Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year for their photographs titled, 'Tying In' and 'Aerial View of a Crowded Island in Guna Yala', respectively.

© SJ-Alice-Bennett/UPY2021

© Karim-Iliya/UPY2021

Alice used a SONY A7S II camera and SONY FE 24-700mm f/2.8 GM lens for her photo.

While Karim captured this stunning aerial shot using a DJI Phanton 4 ProDJI Phantom 4 Pro drone.

The complete 2021 yearbook of winning photographs is available here.

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