A Stunning Shot of Sharks Cruising Under a French Polynesian Sunset Wins the 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year
An exquisite shot of blacktip reef sharks circling underneath a jewel-toned sky in French Polynesia tops this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year contest (previously). Captured by California-based Renee Capozzola, the winning entry frames a pair of the white-bellied fish and airborne seagulls, forming a serendipitous composition that combines air, land, and sea. “I dedicated several evenings to photographing in the shallows at sunset, and I was finally rewarded with this scene: glass-calm water, a rich sunset, sharks, and even birds,” she said.
This year’s competition received more than 4,500 entries from photographers in 68 countries, including images of wrecked barges, frogs peering out from a muddy pond, and two ornery blenny mid-tussle. Capozzola is the first woman to ever win the U.K.-based contest since its inception in 1965.
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Between 2014 and 2018, Jem Cresswell spent countless hours submerged in the depths of the southern Pacific Ocean surrounding Tonga. There he captured a group of humpback whales as they gracefully maneuvered around him, allowing the Sydney-based photographer to unveil the details of their grooved underbellies and barnacle-clad skin. The original project has culminated in a new book that documents the creatures’ movements and idiosyncrasies in striking black-and-white images.
Giants spans 220 pages detailing the humpbacks and their calves. To complete the massive book, Cresswell pared down more than 11,000 shots, the majority of which haven’t been published previously. The photographer shares memories and historical details about the massive creatures throughout, including the incredible awareness that comes from swimming with sentient beings so much larger than himself. “You never forget your first humpback experience,” he writes. “The sublime sense of insignificance that it instills in you. It has to be one of the most humbling experiences on Earth.”
Only 1,500 copies of Giants, which are signed and numbered, are available for purchase on the book’s site, which also offers glimpses into Cresswell’s process creating the compendium. To stay up to date with the photographer’s latest underwater projects, follow him on Instagram.
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Rotterdam-based photographer Robert Peek creates ghostly photographic stills of botanical forms that wouldn’t look out of place on Miss Havisham’s festering dining room table. On first inspection, Peek’s work resembles paintings with smoke dripping from the flowers’ petals and leaves. Colors are drawn out and enhanced, while other hues are shrouded in the white veil. With his perception-bending methodology, close-ups of lavender and thistle heads are transformed into mythical creations that peek out from the hazy background.
Having trained at the Royal College of Art, Peek developed an interest in using light as a tool to change the composition and texture of his pieces, turning photographs into painting-like artworks. Many of his projects, which he shares on Behance, are inspired by an interest in loneliness and isolation, and his photographs capture a melancholic rawness of natural blossoms frozen in time.
To create his eerie works, Peek submerges his chosen flowery forms in a fish glass before adding white ink to the water, then employs two Profoto lamps to manipulate the lighting, sometimes using a high speed to freeze the image in time. The results reveal bold, still forms steeped in mystery. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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In the last few months, underwater footage has transported us into the depths of the previously unexplored Ningaloo Canyons and glimpsed the stunning blanket octopus as she unfurls her iridescent web. Now, the San Diego Zoo dives below the surface to capture the unusual ways flamingos eat.
Their pink-feathered heads plunge underwater to suck up mud and other debris from the sandy bottom. Filter-like plates called lamella trap shrimp and other aquatic creatures before dispersing the rest through the sides of their bills. Make sure you turn the volume up to hear the ungainly birds’ equally strange noises.
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The Coral Greenhouse: Jason deCaires Taylor's Latest Installation is an Underwater Sanctuary for Vulnerable Sea Creatures
About 50 miles from Townsville, Australia, an unassuming structure created by Jason deCaires Taylor (previously) rests on the sandy floor the John Brewer Reef. Currently, “The Coral Greenhouse” is in pristine condition with little algae or tiny organisms stuck to its sides. Over time, though, the sculptural work is designed to amass vibrant clusters of the sea creatures as they colonize the submerged form.
Constructed with corrosion-resistant stainless steel and pH-neutral substances, the biomorphic frame is modeled after nature’s patterns. The materials help inspire coral growth and are designed to be absorbed into the oceanic environment as the colonies sprawl across it. Workbenches line its sides and are adorned with simple patterns that create small enclaves for ocean life to hide from predators or rest. To keep divers away from the fragile ecosystems, Taylor tends to install his marine projects in less vulnerable areas.
Weighing 165 tons, the sanctuary is the Museum of Underwater Art’s largest installation to date. The A-frame structure is comprised of triangular sections and a massive cement base, which provide stability from waves and adverse weather. Its slatted sides allow divers, filter-feeding organisms, and schools of fish to swim in and out, and floating spires that protrude from the beams’ apex oscillate with the currents.
Figurative sculptures, which were made from casts of kids around the world, populate the inside to serve as a reminder that the coral needs care. They’re shown cradling planters, peering into microscopes, and watching over the vulnerable environment. “Thus they are tending to their future, building a different relationship with our marine world, one which recognizes it as precious, fragile, and in need of protection. Our children are the guardians of the Great Barrier Reef,” Taylor writes about the piece.
Dives to tour the site-specific installation will begin in 2021. Until then, get an idea of how some of Taylor’s previous works have transformed after being submerged for more than a dozen years on his Instagram. (via Fast Company)
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As a child, Elinleticia Högabo had a troubled relationship with water. Despite a deep fascination with its dreamy qualities, she avoided swimming below the surface or in any areas of considerable depth after two traumatic experiences in which she almost drowned. When she was chosen for an exhibition that centered on rusalka—a female creature similar to a mermaid that’s found in Slavic folklore—Högabo tried to capture shots of her submerged subjects from above before realizing she had to plunge in. “But in search (of) better and better pictures, I finally got myself an underwater camera and went down in the silent world. The silent world concept is from the fact that under the water surface, it’s a silent world where you, as fully hearing people, hear as little (as) me,” says the photographer, who was born with a hearing impairment.
Today, Högabo gladly dives into lakes and other bodies with her camera in tow. She captures singular subjects or duos as they breach the water’s surface or descend to the algae-laden floor. Through ripples and small bubbles, the water disguises the models and their exact positions and gestures, which blurs any distinct features and perceptions of depth.
Based in southern Sweden, the photographer tells Colossal that she outlines the details of most photographs in advance, although she generally alters her plans in the moment. “The location, the water, the models, the bugs that might crawl by—all create conditions for the creation,” Högabo says. A multi-disciplinary artist, she styles and provides makeup artistry on-site, as well.
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