The Save Our Seas Foundation has announced that Kat Zhou from the United States has been named Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023.
Zhou’s photograph of a pink river dolphin breaching the surface of the Amazon River triumphed over 6,000 pictures entered by underwater shutterbugs from 72 countries.
Zhou’s photo perfectly frames this endangered species, whose numbers are falling year on year, by photographing it simultaneously above and below the surface, at sunset.
According to Zhou:
“There’s a legend among locals that river dolphins, or ‘botos,’ can transform into handsome men known as ‘boto encantado’ to seduce women. Though I did not witness the transformation, I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way. After seeing how botos would sometimes bring their beaks above water, I wanted a split shot at sunset. Though the water was so dark that I was shooting blind, this dolphin gave me a perfect pose and smile!”
Alex Mustard, chair of the competition judges, commented:
“At first glance simple, then simply perfect. In dark, tannic waters, Kat has created a striking composition capturing this rarely photographed and endangered species in a precision composition. This is by far the best image we’ve ever seen of this species, whose numbers are declining at an alarming rate and whose IUCN’s Red List status was worryingly uprated to Endangered in 2019.”
Since the contest is based in the UK, Ollie Clarke, an Englishman now living in Australia, was named as British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023 for his image “The Swarm” showing a whale shark hidden within a bait ball of smaller fish. Clarke photographed this scene in Ningaloo, Western Australia.
Additionally, Spanish photographer Alvaro Herrero was named the Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023, with his photo “Hopeless,” taken in Mexico.
Herrero’s photograph shows a humpback whale dying of starvation because it was unable to swim properly after its tail has been broken from being entangled in ropes and buoys.
The full collection of awarded images can be seen on the contest’s website and in the free
eBook of winners. See www.underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com for more.