Underwater Photographer (2016 Award Winners).

The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest is a UK-based competition for pictures taken underwater. The artistic champions represented about 50 countries in an intensely competed exhibition.

Alex Mustard was the jury chairman who displayed all the beautiful and inspiring imageries for the judges to score.

The jury chairman Alex Mustard was full of praises for all the efforts and ingenuity shown by the participants in the competition. He said: ‘It was astounding and humbling seeing the quality. Every single image that placed is an amazing moment from the underwater world.’

The winner Davide Lopresti is an Italian photographer.

Davide captioned his amazing image ‘Gold’. It was a golden colored seahorse in an ocean’s waves.

The photographer had this to say about his picture and the award received: ‘Over the years the Mediterranean’s population of seahorses has drastically reduced. Their numbers have only recovered thanks to public awareness and a significant restocking campaign.

‘Areas of the sea have now been set aside, protected from harmful fishing methods, like trawling. This has allowed vulnerable and delicate creatures, like sea horses, to return. This is what I hoped to celebrate with this image.’

This image was taken by Mike Korostelev from Russia.

He said: ‘Cages are more commonly associated with photographing great white sharks, but I constructed a cage to keep me safe as I captured the fishing behavior of the bear. I waited many hours in the cold water for the bear to come close enough to make my photo.

‘The bear’s strategy is to start by sitting down, putting his head under the water and looking for fish. Once the fish start to ignore him, he creeps closer before making his crucial lunge to snare a large salmon in his paws, or teeth.’

Gabriel Barathieu from France took this photograph using a wide angle lens and took home the prize for highly commended.

Greg Lecoeur, who took this image, said: ‘The French Polynesia is an amazing place for nature lovers. In the lagoon of Moorea I was snorkeling with an abundance of marine life, most notably these black tip sharks. The topography of the mountains in the background inspired me to release this half and half photo.’

French photographer Greg Lecoeur also snapped this mesmerising image of a pod of pilot whales circling beneath the surface.

Alejandro Prieto from Mexico, who took this amazing picture, said: ‘Returning from a dive with bull sharks in Playa del Carmen in Mexico, I saw a beautiful flock of seagulls flying very low over a crowded beach.

‘They usually fly low over the people looking for food. This behavior allowed me to try to shoot them from beneath the water.

‘With this photograph I want to show that ordinary subjects can become extraordinary depending on the perspective you see them.’

Helen Brierly shared her picture of marine life ‘suspended in the inky blackness of the open ocean’ (left) and Adriano Morettin from Italy said his image (right) was made using a double exposure technique performed directly in the camera without changing the lens.

Gianni Colucci from Italy also captured seahorses. He said: ‘During a night dive at around midnight, I found this pair of seahorses. I watched, mesmerized as they swam in the shallows holding each other by the tail. The scene was something majestic, a magic only enhanced by the beauty of the location, illuminated by the full moon.’

Photographer Behnaz Afsahi took this picture in Jellyfish Lake in Palau. He said: ‘The thousands of jellyfish in this lake are simply breathtaking to behold.’

Greg Lecoeur captured the moment that a larva lobster (left) drags off a pelagic jellyfish to eat it. Pictured right is a very serious-looking Starry Weever taken by March Casanovas.

Photographer Fabio Galbiati impressed the judges with this image of a pristine mangrove.

South African photographer Pier Mane took this image after deciding to ‘turn away from the action’. He said: ‘Weary of shooting sharks head-on, and keen to avoid bubbles in my shot, I decided to turn away from the peak action and the crowds it attracts.

‘I wanted sun rays, dramatic foreground, background perspective, and – the cherry on top – to capture the ‘master of the house’ in all of its mystique. The three sponges were well-positioned to set the scene beneath the boat and it took countless shots to balance the elements I wanted, but perseverance, patience and practice all paid off.’

Australia’s Ross Gudgeon described how perseverance paid off where this image was concerned. He said: ‘Gobies on sea pens and whip corals are a very common subject for macro photography and I’m always trying to come up with a new way of shooting them. I have had many attempts to get a shot like this.’

Speaking of his photograph, Matteo Visconti from Italy said: ‘Harlequin shrimp (Hymenocera picta) are one of my best critters to shoot because of their colours and shape.’

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