ON THESE PAGES, DIVER brings you some of the winning images from Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY). This is the first instalment of this new competition that brings a world-leading underwater photography contest back to the UK, 50 years after the original Brighton Festival was launched by DIVER magazine’s founder Bernard Eaton.
Three esteemed judges, Alex Mustard, Martin Edge and Peter Rowlands, had the pleasure of going through 2500 entries to select the award-winners. “It was highly enjoyable, but something we took very seriously,” said Mustard, chair of the judging panel and the driving force behind UPY. “Every judge saw every picture multiple times – we probably know some of the images better than the photographers who took them.
“The quantity and particularly the quality of the images entered left us all astounded. It was a privilege to be part of something so special, heart-warming to see the competition so enthusiastically embraced by the community, and heartbreaking at times when we just couldn’t squeeze some truly amazing images into the winners’ circle.”
“I’m really excited to be presenting the images and the prizes on stage at LIDS, where we’ll also have a display of super-sized prints,” added Mustard, talking before the London International Dive Show, held at ExCeL, where the prize-giving was set for 14 February. “But I’m most looking forward to the feedback session afterwards, where we will pass on our comments, positive and negative, to any entrants who come along.
“With all the PhotoZone talks running on both days, I hope LIDS will now become the must-attend gathering for underwater photographers in Britain and beyond.”

THE TITLE OF UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR goes to Portuguese photographer Nuno Sá, for his exquisitely lit close-up image of a short-snouted seahorse, taken in the Algarve.
Sá was documenting a seahorse-breeding programme for National Geographic and achieved the beautiful lighting with help from two of the seahorse scientists holding his flashes. He hopes the success of his photo will highlight the plight of seahorses and the value of captive breeding.
UPY revived two long-standing titles from the days of the Brighton Festival: the British Underwater Photographer of the Year and the Most Promising British Underwater Photographer 2015, awarded for the best photos by UK-based photographers or British nationals, wherever they live in the world.
Peter Rowlands delighted in reminding the other judges – regularly – that he is a former
British Underwater Photographer of the Year!
Marine biologist and underwater wildlife photographer Matt Doggett from Southampton wins the title of British Underwater Photographer of
the Year for his action-packed photo of gannets feeding in the Shetland Islands. Peter Rowlands described it as “quite literally, breath-taking”.

MARIO VITALINI FROM SURREY wins Most Promising British Underwater Photographer 2015, which is awarded to a rising star who has yet to register any major competition success.
Mario’s creative image employed backlighting to make a goby seem to glow against the dark sponge.
In addition to these three special awards, the competition was divided into eight categories, testing photographers’ skills in macro, wide angle, wrecks and behaviour.
There were categories for UK waters and overseas, one for up-and-coming photographers who have yet to be published or won contests, and even a category for images taken with compact cameras in British waters.
The best photographers collect high-quality prizes from some of the industry’s best-known brands: Scuba Travel, Nauticam, Apeks and Fourth Element. Their support of this new
venture was fundamental to its successful start, said Alex Mustard.
The UPY winners’ circle includes professionals with international reputations, well-known competition specialists and a host of new names who clearly have a very bright future.
UPY was a truly international affair and not simply dominated by photographers from southern Europe and the USA. It had winners from places as diverse as Bahrain, Kazakhstan and the Philippines, demonstrating how global underwater photography has become.
“I was particularly pleased to see female photographers doing so well in UPY,” added Mustard. “Photography is definitely a discipline in which the sexes can compete side by side, and everyone knows that women make the best divers!
“We had 14 different female photographers among our winning and commended entries, and in my favourite category of Behaviour, it was a clean sweep of the podium for the ladies, with Montse Grillo, Tammy Gibbs and Cathy Lewis.”
British photographers were well represented, with Trevor Rees and Matt Doggett carving up the spoils in the British Waters categories, Charles Hood and Cathy Lewis
both scoring podiums in the International categories, and Polly Whyte, Arthur Kingdon and Steve Jones featuring with multiple images.
“Warren Williams at 79 was our oldest winner,” added Mustard. “That resonates with me, as I have a copy of Triton (DIVER’S predecessor) from the month of my birth, and Williams is dominating the competition results in that issue.
“The UK has a rich history of underwater photography from William Thompson to Peter Scoones. Even James Bond took photos with a Nikonos! I feel that UPY has definitely recaptured the spirit of the Brighton Festival,” concluded Mustard. “It has brought a world-class festival of underwater photography back to Britain.
“I’m already excited to find out who will be winners in Underwater Photographer of the Year 2016. Watch this space!”