PHOTO: Photographer Kat Zhou's image of a pink smiling Dolphin wins 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt


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Friday, February 17, 2023

PHOTO: Photographer Kat Zhou's image of a pink smiling Dolphin wins 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year competition

The Underwater Photographer of the Year competition attracts thousands of entries each year, and showcases some absolutely stunning results from photographers all over the world, with 12 diverse categories to enter.

Sea creatures captured in their natural habitats can make for some remarkable viewpoints that we seldom get to see, and a chance to connect with the underwater world in new ways through the power of photography. 

Photographer Kat Zhou from the US has been awarded the prestigious title of Underwater Photographer of the Year(opens in new tab) for her stunning image of a pink river dolphin emerging from the water, with a sunset background, titled Boto Encantado (below) Interestingly, this phrase in mythology relates to traditional Amazon River folklore about a dolphin shapeshifter who at night transforms into a handsome young man.

Chair of the competition judges, Alex Mustard, spoke glowingly of Zhou's winning shot. "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."

Spanish photographer, Alvaro Herrero, was named the Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2023, with his winning image Hopeless (below) being captured in Mexico. Herrero's photograph depicts a humpback whale dying of starvation, as a result of its tail being broken after getting entangled in ropes and buoys, making it unable to swim properly.

River dolphins (botos) are an endangered species, and as Zhou explains, "Many river dolphins have been killed for use as fish bait, drowned in gill nets, or poisoned by mercury pollution from mining. I fear that one day botos will truly become no more than mythical creatures.

Photographer Kat Zhou, from the US, captured the image in the Amazon, where there is a legend among indigenous communities that the dolphins can transform into handsome men known as "boto encantado" at night, according to a news release earlier this week.

The photo, which beat more than 6,000 images submitted from 72 countries, was hailed by the judges as the best picture they had seen of the species. "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."

The somber image of a humpback whale dying slowly, swimming away from the camera with its tail entangled in ropes and a buoy won the Save Our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation category.

"Taking this photograph was the saddest moment I've experienced in the ocean," photographer Alvaro Herrero said. "But I am, at least, happy that I could capture this moment and can now share it with the world and hopefully drive some real changes."

Other winners of individual categories include a shot of sting rays gliding over the sandy ocean floor, a whale shark feeding on a school of fish, an elephant's curious trunk underwater, and embryonic fish still attached to their egg sacs, as the photos display the brutality, beauty and sometimes other-worldly nature of marine life.

A selection of the winning and highly commended images can be viewed in the gallery above, while all 130 shortlisted images are available to view on the competition's website

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