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UPY  Award Winners - Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022

Rafael Fernandez Caballero

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UPY  Award Winners - Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022
'Dancing with the giants of the night'
Rafael Fernandez Caballero

In the ocean magic can always happen. But when magic happens all together, you only can think you’re dreaming. This was the case of that night in Maldives.
At the beginning of the night one whale shark came to the light of our boat BlueForce One, we jumped in the water and then another whale shark came. We were so happy when, a couple of hours later, out of the blue, madness happened and whale sharks started to come in big numbers. I was together with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We counted at the same time 11 whale sharks surrounding us. It was a unique moment that no one there had thought it could even be possible.
Magic happens in the ocean every day, but if we don’t protect the oceans and sharks, these moments will soon be a thing of the past.

Judge's comment: It is said that Jacques Cousteau only saw three whale sharks in his whole life, so a photo of five together is something special. But this stunning image is about far more numbers, although it required precision timing to find a moment that they would all fit in frame and with all their faces visible. In the dead of night, the biggest migration of life on occurs when billions on plankton rise from the depths. And here have aggregated in the golden lights of a boat providing a feast fit for giants. Darkness was the opportunity, but also the photographic challenge for Rafael to see and successfully photograph such a grand scene in the inky sea. What a spectacle, a frame with more life than water. - Alex Mustard

This image took my breath away from the first viewing and I never tired coming back to it. Scale, light and the sheer numbers of big subjects, it was quite obvious from an early stage that this was, by some distance, our winning image. - Peter Rowlands

From the first time I saw this image during the judging I knew for certain that it will be at least a category winner or even the photographer of the year. To capture five whale sharks in one frame is already considered to be super lucky for a photographer, but to get them at night is just incredible. The photographer did an amazing job to not just capture the five animals, but he managed to get them in a very nice formation and also put some excellent light on them. Very well done and a truly deserved winner of this year. - Tobias Friedrich

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