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How does winning feel?

What is it like to be a winner in the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition?

Some stories from our winners

If you've been a winner with UPY we'd love to hear from you - tell us about what its like to be a winner!

Copyright Kat Zhou

Kat Zhou

- 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year

I just got back from an amazing diving trip to Triton Bay, and I can't thank Triton Bay Divers enough for sponsoring this prize trip from UPY 2023. I was blown away by the beauty of the reefs and the variety of photographic opportunities, and I highly recommend adding Triton Bay to every photographer's must-visit list. From diving with whale sharks and dolphins to vibrant reefs teeming with fish, an endemic species of walking shark, captivating macro critter life, and the spectacle of multiple flasher wrasse species at the famous "Flasher Beach" site, divers and photographers alike will never get bored. Special thanks to Leeza and the entire Triton Bay Divers team for supporting UPY!

Copyright Kirsty Andrews

Kirsty Andrews

- 2017 British Waters Macro, Winner (prize taken in 2023)

The team at Agulhas House were kind enough to welcome me even though the small matter of a global pandemic and a fair bit of time had passed since I initially won my prize. It was a tough choice trying to decide what time of year to visit as Aliwal Shoal offers a variety of enticing attractions depending on the season. In the end I arrived in June, hoping for large aggregations of ragged tooth sharks. They come to Aliwal to mate and are quite docile during the day, allowing passing photographers to get close.

The ragged tooths did not disappoint but in the end the real highlight of my trip was undoubtedly a fleeting but memorable visit from a 5m long female great white shark. No bait or cage, just the curiosity of a wild and truly awe-inspiring animal. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to photograph such a scene. Thank you to Agulhas House and the team at Underwater Photographer of the Year for granting me my prize and a memory I will cherish forever.

Copyright Kirsty Andrews

Copyright Kirsty Andrews

Steve Jones

- 2017 International Wrecks category, Commended

The remains of the co-pilot of a USAAF B17 bomber that featured in an image commended in Underwater Photographer of the Year, have been recovered by a specialist team led by archaeologist Dr Brendan Foley of Lund University.

The publicity surrounding that image in the weeks following UPY2017 was key to establishing contact with the descended family. The deceased airman's nephew, Robert Vienneau got in touch with competition organiser Pete Rowlands after spotting the co-pilots name Ernest Vienneau in the image caption when it appeared in US news outlets. Pete promptly passed his details onto photographer Steve Jones, who had also been directly contacted by Ernest’s great niece, Chelsea Carbonell. Until that point the Vienneau family were not aware that Ernest’s aircraft had been discovered years earlier in 70 metres of water near the island of Vis, Croatia.

Further joining the dots, Steve put the family in contact with Croatian historian and author Danijel Frka who was not only amongst the first to have dived the wreck back in 2001 but had since carried out the vital research and actually met some of the surviving crew members in the years that followed. Danijel and the family were able to share their historical knowledge of Ernest’s life and the events that led to his tragic death at the young age of 25. The whole group have remained in regular contact since as the journey continued towards this incredible conclusion. Ernest was buried in his hometown of Millinocket, Maine in early October, an outcome that has meant so very much to the Vienneau family who can finally lay this brave man to rest.

Renee Capozzola

- Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021

"Being named the overall winner in the 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition has been a tremendous experience and the absolute highlight of my career! When I received the congratulatory email from Alex, I was completely astonished and could not believe the news. I had to keep my award a secret until the official announcement in February, and as soon as the results were posted, the news coverage was beyond what I could have ever imagined. I was featured by numerous media outlets such as CNN, BBC, USA Today, People, and The Guardian, and I was interviewed on television by the Today Show and KTLA News, among others.

Having my work recognized at this elite level is extremely rewarding. I believe that UPY is the most prestigious underwater photography competition in the world, each year receiving thousands of entries, which are then reviewed by highly respected judges. It is also the only underwater photo contest that I know of which gives valuable feedback to every entrant, sharing how far each picture advanced through the rounds.

It is a real honor to be the first woman to have won the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition. During my development as a professional photographer, I had many female role models in the business to look up to so I hope that my success will inspire other women to pursue their goals. It is also very special to me that my winning image was that of a shark, as the extensive media coverage that UPY receives has helped raise awareness for the additional protections these beautiful animals need throughout the world.

I can’t thank the judges and organizers of UPY enough for supporting this contest and giving photographers an opportunity to showcase their work. I look forward to seeing all the award winners in the years to come!"

Nur Tucker

- 2020 Most Promising British Underwater Photographer of the Year

"I entered this competition twice before and twice I was made a finalist, but 2020 proved to be a very lucky year- not only I was selected as the runner up in “Up and Coming” Category but my image also won one of the top awards. Hearing the results were followed by a whirlwind of media articles, TV interviews and podcasts. My photo was published on every media outlet from BBC, to the Guardian and to the Telegraph and New York Times. I received so many congratulatory notes from all over the world. I felt extremely proud. To me this is the most prestigious underwater competition in the world and the winners are selected among 5-6,000 photos by highly respected judges. I really like this competition as the selection process, rules and the judges are very transparent. UPY Judges go out of their way to help every entrant by webinars and information on social media. No other competition does that."

Robert Bailey

- 2019 British Waters Wide Angle Winner

"As a self-confessed marine life nut, photographing wrecks has never really been a goal of mine. Bob (the skipper) managed to put us some very photogenic sites where you could actually see the entire wreck, some of them resting in white sand. This was a welcome surprise as I'm used to seeing wrecks in instalments through gloomy vis in other parts of the UK. The boat, the crew, the diving experience, and the scenery was a great prize altogether. Being able to share my prize with my close friend Charles Erb was a bonus. We both thoroughly enjoyed the trip, and are planning on returning in the future."

Arthur Kingdon

- 2019 British Waters Macro Winner

"I was delighted to win this fantastic prize and I very much look forward to using it. There have been numerous occasions when I have wished for the ability to switch from macro to wide angle, but without sacrificing image quality, and the MWL1 provides that. A big 'thank you' from me to Nauticam for their generous sponsorship."

Grant Thomas

- 2018 British Underwater Photographer of the Year

"Winning British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 was a huge accomplishment for me. Having my images recognised by some of the best photographers in the business was a huge confidence boost and has really helped me progress my work. The media coverage from UPOTY was far beyond what i could have imagined, i was in New Zealand at the time and i remember seeing my image published in all the local newspapers, i was also interviewed on BBC radio and the STV show. The Underwater Photographer of the year competition changed my life massively and i can't thank the organisers (Dan, Saeed, Alex, Peter and Martin) enough for everything they have done! "

Liang Fu

- 2019 Behaviour Third

"Mr Raymond from SUPE, recommended the model RD90T to me. It is a compact yet very powerful diving torch, perfect as a search light for my blackwater diving! Many thanks again to UPY and Scubalamp for offering this cool prize to me :)"

Grant Thomas

- 2018 British Underwater Photographer of the Year

"Winning British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 was a huge accomplishment for me. Having my images recognised by some of the best photographers in the business was a huge confidence boost and has really helped me progress my work. The media coverage from UPOTY was far beyond what i could have imagined, i was in New Zealand at the time and i remember seeing my image published in all the local newspapers, i was also interviewed on BBC radio and the STV show. The Underwater Photographer of the year competition changed my life massively and i can't thank the organisers (Dan, Saeed, Alex, Peter and Martin) enough for everything they have done! "

Nicholas More

- 2018 British Waters Wide Angle & Portrait Highly Commended

"UPY, for me, is the most important competition in the underwater photography world. The judges command respect and the standard of entries is phenomenal. I have been entering UPY since its inaugural year in 2015. I had been a finalist in recent years but I was finally lucky enough in 2018, to secure two winning images.
Being part of the winner’s circle feels incredible. Seeing my shots in the UPY yearbook collection surrounded by some of the biggest ‘names’ in UW photography makes you feel like you are part of a very exclusive ‘club.’
One of the things that appeals to me about UPY, is the fact that all 3 judges are in the same room for the sorting process. To me, this feels professional, transparent and ethical. I would love to be a fly on the wall for the, no doubt, heated discussions choosing the winners.
The prizes are also a big draw. I was lucky enough to claim a £1000 voucher to use with Blue o Two. Not too shabby!
I look forward to entering again this year and testing myself against the best in the business.
Fingers crossed!!"

Kirsty Andrews

- 2018 British Waters Macro 3rd place

"I look forward to Underwater Photographer of the Year entrance day every year; the quality of images is superb and I’m so proud to have had my name on the list for the past two years. I also like poring over the Yearbook to read the judges’ reviews and shooting information provided, which inspires and motivates me for next year’s shooting projects.

The ‘points mean prizes’ system for UPY is clever and means you get to choose a prize that really suits you. In my case it couldn’t have been more tailor-made; I was already hoping to spend a week on the liveaboard MV Halton in 2018 so was delighted to win a week’s diving for me and a buddy, which I took advantage of almost straight away.

Having done well in the British macro category, it was great to win the opportunity to take more UK shots in some of Scotland’s most remote and photogenic sites. A lot of my photography is UK-based and I love to surprise and impress people with the beauty in UK seas. I already knew the diving would be spectacular but my buddy Mae Dorricott hadn’t been diving in Scotland before and was blown away by the visibility, colour and life on our trip. We were really lucky. Bob Anderson, our skipper, is a very talented photographer himself so knows how demanding photographers can be and what will keep us happy! During the week I shot tiny pelagic crustaceans, soaring arches, caverns and sea walls, diving seabirds and a jellyfish explosion in a sea loch. It was a truly memorable trip and a worthy prize for the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition."

Fan Ping

- 2018 Wide Angle Runner Up

"Compared to the prize that I have won in UPY 2018, a voucher in Malapascua to dive with the Thresher Sharks, which I have done a couple of times in the past, the exposure is even better. Dive Photo Guide, the website I have been following since I stared underwater photography, finally featured me as one of the photographer of the week after I won the 2nd place in Wide-angle category of UPY 2018 and one of their competition DEEP Indonesia. And when I was at DEMA last month, I met many fellow underwater photographers including Mr.Peter Rowlands. As soon as I introduced myself, they were like 'Oh! You are the guy who took the blurry shark photo from above!'.
To be honest, as full-time underwater photographer we all have sent our works to a hundred maybe even more competitions, and it often ends like 'I don't know why he has won'. But not here at UPY. The best of the best were sent to the competition and you will never be disappointed to see the results. I will keep sending my photos to UPY for sure, simply because this is one of the best and most professional underwater photography competition out there."

Henley Spiers

- 2018 British Waters Macro Winner

"Being a category winner in UPY is one of the absolute highlights of my underwater photography career. First learning the news via an email from Peter Rowlands put me on a huge high and I waited with excitement for the results to be officially announced. Luckily the turnaround time from judging to announcements isn’t too long and I could soon shout from the rooftops about those cooperative Tompot Blennies helping to create an image which stood out. Social media these days and the warmth of the underwater photography community meant I was soon feeling the love via lots of kind words of congratulation. The fact that the results were being published in the biggest news outlets in the world meant that this was an achievement my non-diving friends and family could really engage with - finding my image as the Sunday Times ‘Picture of the Week’ was an incredible feeling. Winning a category in itself didn’t lead to any direct leads in terms of underwater photography assignments, however, by leveraging the accolade in pitches to clients I certainly felt it gave me greater kudos, and although difficult to quantify, I believe it meant doors were easier to open.
For me, the prize was a cherry on top after all of the above and I chose to continue exploring British waters via two full days charter with Peter Rowlands aboard M/V Magic. I shared the experience with friends and really enjoyed getting to know Peter. In fact, we took the boat out for an on-the-day shootout and had a few images awarded so the productive cycle continued!"

Tobias Friedrich

- 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year

"Winning Underwater Photographer of the Year 2018 was a big success for me. Not only the honor to get this award and to be chosen from hundreds of other entries, but also the general recognition and perception was growing a lot. People from all over the world congratulated me for the win and the image of the motorcycles of the Thistlegorm was suddenly known in the underwater photography scene, but not only there. Especially a lot of Bike magazines were requesting the image for publication to be printed in their magazines. But the main impact was that I got a call from Red Bull Media. They saw the winning image of the contest and were thinking to publish a book with my images, preferable just with images from wrecks, starting with the winning image of the Thistlegorm. After several calls and discussions, they decided not to publish a book about wrecks with me unfortunately, but more fortunately three books with other topics. The first one has just been released in October 2017 and is about the world above and below water, highlighted with split shots. The other two topics of the books will be revealed after they will be released in 2019 and 2020.
I was lucky enough to win the one and other competition in underwater photography before, but the UPY was definitely the one with the biggest impact for sure. "

Trevor Rees

- 2018 British Waters Wide Angle Commended, British Waters Macro Highly Commended & Commended

"I’ve done well from taking part in UPY. For 2 years running I was the highest points scorer which entitled me to fist pick of the prizes. I have now had two free trips to the Maldives. Most of my diving is in the UK and I would probably not have made the effort to experience what the Maldives had to offer without my success in UPY.
As the prestige and interest in UPY grows, the number and quality of entries seems to be increasing. Therefore, I am not expecting to have the same level of success next time. I hope to still enjoy taking part and seeing if I can continue to produce new shots that are well received. UPY seems a great place to showcase my shots alongside so many other talented photographers. It’s a nice feeling to be in the mix.
Off the back of one of my Maldives live aboard trips I was commissioned to write a travel special feature for SCUBA magazine. I am a regular contributor to this magazine and the success in a competition such as UPY can only help me getting more of my shots published.
I have been interested to see where the successful images in UPY land up, and am always flattered when people that I have never heard of track me down to ask me about my photography. None of this excitement would of course be possible without the dedicated team working behind the scenes to make UPY such a success. "

Shane Gross

- 2018 Macro category 'Winner' and Behaviour 'Highly Commended'

"Congratulations to Shane Gross, the winner of Photographer of the year macro division 2018. Shane's eye and lighting skills came together for his stunning backlit image of seahorse shot to represent density at one of his favorite dive sites.

Shane won a dive package for a week at CBR and of course the honor and high esteem of winning in such a competitive category and prestigious competition.

Well done Shane! And congrats from everyone at Crystal Blue Resort."

Sylvie Ayer

- 2018 Black & White 'Runner Up' and 'Commended', Up & Coming 'Highly Commended'

The 2018 UPY competition saw Sylvie Ayer from Switzerland do very well, with three images being included in the winners circle. What was even more impressive was that this was Sylvie's very first international competition, so to get a 'Highly Commended' in the Up & Coming category was richly deserved, but also be awarded as 'Runner Up' in the open Black & White category was a huge achievement. Silvie chose the 1500Euro voucher to spend with Siren Fleet to the Philippines. The photo above is a very happy Sylvie with the crew of the Philippines Siren!

Davide Lopresti

- Underwater Photographer of the Year 2016

Being named Underwater Photographer of the Year is a fantastic experience! Not just for the Title, which remains very special, but it also opens up a network of contacts and is an opportunity to increase one's profile in the media. All the biggest newspapers contact you; National Geographic, the Guardian, Focus and Ansa. But it’s not just the printed press who are interested; I have been featured in most important national radio shows too.

Winning the Underwater Photographer of the Year creates a real possibility to step up one's career in underwater photography. It is an opportunity to be grabbed with both hands!

Pier Mane

- Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2016

Winning the Up and Coming Photographer of the Year UPY 2016 has been my most thrilling experience of 2016. I did not want to compete in underwater photography, but friends convinced me to send some shots only a couple of days prior to the deadline. I put all my pictures in the Up and Coming category...mesmerized the judges picked three - I was so excited. I later realized with the three pictures I was also crowned the Up and Coming Title, I think the title made a big difference with the press, as they are always interested in new talent.

After being told of the results, during a visit to the Water Front in Cape Town, I visit the Chavonnes Battery Museum, and talking to the curator about my recent success, we agreed to try to get the exhibition at the WaterFront. With help of the UPY team, we achieved that and a large selection of the winning pictures, including all three of mine, were exhibited at one of the most prominent venues in Cape Town for approximately 6 months.

After the winners were publicly announced, my underwater photography world changed overnight. Suddenly the South African press wanted to know who I was and how I won. The Cape Argus featured a page in their Saturday newspaper, as well as some Italian and South African publications. SABC (South Africa National Television) interviewed me on their Expresso Morning Show. Thereafter, I put out there more of my work and got contacted by a couple of press agencies (ShutterStock and Caters News) with whom I now have contracts.

Probably, the most exciting part, was friends that I had lost touch with over the years, seeing the pictures on various different media publications and online, including CNN, got back in contact through FaceBook to see if it was really me that had taken these photos.

Furthermore, we are blessed that our underwater community, small as it is, is such a good collaborative environment, folks help each other out to learn and improve genuinely - an environment in todays competitive world which is hard to find. I hope this will not change as more people pick up an underwater camera. The contest provides an excellent friendly competitive platform across the community.

I would definitively recommend it to anyone that is seeking more exposure for their work to enter.