Life Underwater Challenge Nominees
LIFE UNDER WATER CHALLENGE Photography Contest celebrate all of the water babies and ocean lovers who are doing their part to nurture our marine biodiversity.
Read more about the challenge here.
Below is the selection of the incredible snaps submitted for the challenge and the winners in each category. We have chosen the most inspiring photo and stories of the world’s wonderful water spaces and wildlife, and how they are helping to protect marine life.
POSITIVE TRAVEL PRIZE WINNER
I became a divemaster in Utila, Honduras and the mesoamerican reef is the first reef that I ever went diving on. It is where I fell in love with scuba diving.
Once I had the training under my belt I went to Australia to work as a divemaster and underwater photographer on the Great Barrier Reef. I've been in Australia for 2 years now working on a diving boat taking people out to the reef. Through work I go to the reef almost every day and it has become my home. I've become an ambassador for the the reef and I document it every chance I get. I want to show people that the Great Barrier Reef is not dead, but it is struggling. Climate change is our biggest threat and we need to start making environmentally friendly changes. Coral bleaching from rising sea temperatures has been the reefs biggest danger. I have been documenting the bleaching coral these past few months and I hope to work with a conservation group in reef restoration once things get back to normal post COVID-19. If we don't make a change soon those beautiful plate corals and sea fans and dolphins may not be around in the next 10 years. Not to mention the thousands of people that will lose their jobs if the reef ultimately dies, as tourism is such a huge part of Australia's economy. I feel so lucky to be able to share the beauty of the reef and the ocean every day with visitors, it truly is a magical place and I want to keep it that way.
THE PUBLIC VOTE PRIZE WINNER
Victor de Valles Ibañez
Hello! My name is Victor de Valles I am from Menorca, Spain.
I am amateur underwater photographer, ten years ago I moved into Balearic islands, I love the underwater life and I started to freedive and take photos of underwater caves. With my photos I want to share the hidden gems of this amazing world and show to the people what we have to preserve. I want to give them a reason to love them and cooperate taking care of it.
more about Victor @victordevalles
THE JURY PRIZE WINNER
No matter how often you encounter wildlife, nature has an infinite amount to teach us, all we have to do is learn how to listen. This is a skill I have been working on for a lifetime, and a gift I’m passionate about passing on to others.
About this photo
This is the amazing moment a mother and calf gently swam right by me over a coral reef in the tropical paradise of Tonga. The nervous young calf kept one of its enormous pectoral fins on its mother’s back the entire time, in order to feel comforted by its loving & protective mother. The bonds between mother and calf like this are the most beautiful thing you can ever witness underwater.
Wildlife photographer, freediver & environmental scientist with a lifelong love of nature. I was born and raised in Melbourne, attended university in Sydney, and am now based in the Northern Rivers town of Byron Bay. Over the past decade I have dedicated myself to experiencing and discovering unique wildlife encounters, this pursuit has lead me to many incredible places such as Kenya for two years, South Africa, Namibia, Iceland, Costa Rica, Fiji, Sumatra, Azores, Vanuatu, Tonga, and more.
During these wildlife experiences one thing has always remained constant, the difference between simply ‘ticking a box’ and having a real life changing experience, repeatedly comes down to connection. Understanding the wildlife in front of me, being able to interact and connect with it has been absolutely everything. The difference between seeing a whale underwater, and having one spin around me in joy is simply incomparable. This is why my guided encounters and photography focus on connection above anything else.
Along with engaging wildlife to evoke powerful encounters and photography, I also posses a deep love for capturing the relationships between individual animals and their unique personalities. Each encounter I’ve been fortunate enough to have, whether that be with a humpback whale, elephant, lion, bull shark, sperm whale, hyena, leatherback turtle, whale shark or simply a curious octopus, every single one has provided me with a snapshot into the life of that unique individual, and left me in a blissful state of admiration for our natural world.
more about Jono jonoallen.com
MEET THE OTHER FINALISTS
I have worked full time for a An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme in Ireland for almost 20 years, which is about conservation and community action (the core activity is community beach cleans).
One of my keen passions is educating in schools about marine diversity and I have a collection of molluscs and urchins that are shown regularly through the year. I only started scuba-diving in early 2019 with a club, and in September I was lucky to get an opportunity to be part of a coral reef monitoring expedition (Reef Check) at the Maldives as part of the non-profit organization Biosphere Expeditions. This week-long monitoring of the coral reefs of the Maldivian atolls showed me so much, and a special delight was seeing some of the tropical molluscs alive in their habitat. Upon return of this trip, I have presented at various large events in Ireland about the importance of coral reefs and marine biodiversity, including a two-day conference to schools of 600 students, and speaking slot at the Dive Expo Ireland in March this year. I will continue to promote about coastal conservation in Ireland and around the world, and always adding in the wonderful world of molluscs.
The selected photo shows Aiden "sitting below a nurse shark in the Maldives in September 2019 on Biosphere Expeditions Reef Check (the week wasn’t just sitting around, it was actually quite a lot of enjoyable work – study, exams, transect line recording, data entry, and more)."
Chase Darnell with Oceanic White tip - Sharing the sea with an Oceanic White tip (Carcharinus longimanus) October 2019.
An amazing day wher we were lucky enough to swim with this large female shark offshore from Grand Cayman, these sharks are often dismissed as being aggressive and unapproachable but this female was confident and relaxed as we swam with her for about 15 minutes. Trying to show people that sharks are intelligent and important for the marine ecosystem is key to the health of our oceans in the future. This was my second time swimming with them and the first time for Chase with the fin tips of chases freediving fins matching the colours on the shark almost identically - it added a lot to the image.
My photos try to bring about awareness of the Mediterranean sea.
Issues relating to topics that the every day person can relate to, in order to educate and promote sustainability and preservation of our fish stocks, sea grasses and marine life in general. Many of my posts on Instagram also highlight responsible climate friendly travel, reduction of plastics and finding a balance between modern day needs and respect for the environment.
more about Francesca @maltadolphin
Amber has been given the gift of storytelling and with such an innate passion for the environment (especially the sea).
She wants to be telling stories of the companies and brands who have social, environmental and ethical ethos at the forefront of their manufacturing and services to help shift the paradigm towards a more sustainable culture of consumerism and tourism.
She wants the viewer to be transported to the exact location and emotion she was feeling at the time of each photograph and believes that because she has this extremely rare front-row ticket to these ocean moments, feels it as her responsibility to share with the world what she witnesses on a daily basis.
"If people love and value something, they'll do what they can to protect it. And if they can view the ocean the same way I do, then it'll hopefully spark some changes in the way we think."
more about Amber amberandfriends.net
This image of two resident False Percula Clownfish was taken at a dive site called Kaledupa Double Spur, on the north coast of Kaledupa in Wakatobi, Indonesia.
Some of you may have seen this image before, but might not have heard the story behind it. It was taken at the end of a dive with the @operation_wallacea reef monitoring team on Hoga, an island just to the south. We had been conducting surveys of the local reefs to gather data on fish, invertebrate and coral populations. The camera only came out at the end of the dive because we had work to do!
I’ve spent a total of about 5 months volunteering on Hoga as a research assistant and divemaster. There really hasn’t been another place on Earth that has influenced what I want to do more than Hoga. The data we attained there would go on to inform a number of scientific studies, actually making it the most published scientific site in the Coral Triangle. I learnt so much about marine sciences, having to transition from a more lab-based practice of molecular biology to the different demands of field work. It is with a heavy heart that I learnt that the expedition would be cancelled this year due to COVID-19, as I was due to return as part of the monitoring team to continue their important work.
Teaching school and university students from Makassar and around the world scientific diving and reef ecology was incredibly rewarding; so many of them said they’d love to do the same in the future! We also ran two different coral nurseries, seeding multiple species of Acropora (stag horn coral) over a rope tower nursery and reef stars, following the MARRS methodology. We planted over 1000 fragments!
I can’t mention Hoga without a big thank you to all the fantastic local staff too. Getting to work alongside the local Bajau (subject of many documentaries, especially Sampella, a ‘floating village’ next to the site), Kaledupan and other Indonesian staff was nothing short of a privilege. Kampo, Nani, Ola, Ham, Maliani, Ramadin, Yadin, Rowan, Pippa, Maria and Melissa (and all the others): Terimah Kasi!
more about James jamesmatthewsuw.com
Originally from the UK, I travelled the world for many years as a marine biologist. I’m now a freelance photographer based on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
I love to shoot all things based around an ocean lifestyle including surfing, sustainable fashion, travel, and even underwater portraits.
The aim of my photography is to engage your emotions and transport you to a different world – a natural world – to help you find serenity and calm, and to make you want to dive right in!
more about Hannah riptideprints.com
With a background in science, Jordan continues to engage and develop his understanding of marine environments and wildlife, bringing a greater awareness and appreciation to the worlds captured in his award winning photographs.
Jordan Robins is an international award winning, self-taught ocean wildlife and ocean art photographer based in Jervis Bay, Australia. Holding a special place in his heart, Jordan is lucky enough to call this beautiful coastal region of southern NSW his home.
Growing up and living near the ocean, Jordan developed a connection with, and passion for marine environments from a young age – with endless days spent surfing, snorkelling, diving or fishing.
more about Jordan jordanrobins.com.au