The winners of the Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023 have been revealed

Today, the winners of the Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023 were revealed. Jialing Cai has won the overall title with her stunning blackwater shot of a paper nautilus sitting on a floating stick.

Written by Oceanographic Staff

Today, the much-anticipated winners of the Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023 have been revealed. This year’s winning photographs reveal the full spectrum of ocean life through a wealth of drone, land and underwater images. They include a stunning blackwater shot, a skilful anemone portrait, as well as a shocking image of a whale in peril. 

A total of nine categories were judged, with the overall winner crowned the Ocean Photographer of the Year 2023. First up, here are this year’s three overall winners…

FIRST PLACE: Jialing Cai, Philippines

A paper nautilus takes a ride on a drifting wooden stick. “Following the Taal Volcano eruption in the Philippines, the water column filled with particles from the stirred-up sediments,” remembers Jialing Cai. “Navigating through the low visibility and dense fog during a blackwater dive, I found this female paper nautilus. When I pressed the shutter, the particles reflected my light. The scene felt unusually serene following the natural disaster and reminds me of a fairytale set in a snowy night. As underwater photographers, we aim to shoot in clear water but this image reminds us that grains of sand, organic matter, or tiny organisms are integral parts of the underwater environment. I aim to accept their presence and seek non-disruptive ways to incorporate them into my images.”

In second place…

SECOND PLACE: Andrei Savin, Philippines

“Sea anemones and their symbiotic inhabitants are my favourite targets. A large anemone is like an apartment building with many different inhabitants establishing different relationships and relying on each other’s character,” explains photographer Andrei Savin. “It’s insanely interesting to watch the same creatures day after day and I love to study them as they evolve. That day I took dozens of shots of an anemone with different settings. Suddenly, as if by magic, a crab came out and sat right in the centre. I just had to press the button. For this kind of shot, it is necessary to shoot in almost complete darkness as the light immediately attracts a lot of plankton and the anemone begins to feed actively which spoils its perfect shape.”

And in third place…

THIRD PLACE: Alvaro Herrero Lopez-Beltran

A humpback whale dies a slow and painful death after being entangled in ropes and buoys, rendering its tail completely useless. “The image is a sad metaphor for the slow and painful death that we are causing to our planet and the oceans,” says the photographer. “This has been the saddest moment I have experienced in the ocean. On the one hand, I felt great sadness and hopelessness. On the other hand, I’m glad I had my camera to capture this sad image to show the world what we’re doing. I hope that this image generates  enough impact to produce real change.”

Next up, we introduce the winner of the Female Fifty Fathoms Award…


Merche Llobera, a Spanish photographer, has dedicated her career to capturing the beauty and essence of wildlife and the underwater world. “My love for animals is reflected in each of my images, transporting the viewer to a world full of life and emotion,” she says. Her winning portfolio aims to convey an important message about the importance of animal conservation and their natural habitat.

And the Ocean Adventure Photographer of the Year is…


While surfing North Shore’s famous Banzai Pipeline, a rainbow appears. Photographer Todd Glaser says: “I have photographed the Pipeline from every angle but have never seen it from above with a drone. I managed to get the swell, weather, wind, tide, and talent all in one shot. The rainbow at the edge of the wave is what made this one so special to me.”

Moving on to the Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year (Hope)…


A manatee enjoys the crystal-clear waters of the Homosassa River. Photographer Sylvie Ayer explains: “The manatee on the picture came close to look at me and was suddenly perfectly positioned in front of the sun’s rays. I hope this photo helps raise awareness of the need to protect these mammals. In Florida several hundred manatees die annually because there isn’t enough food due to river pollution.”

And here comes the Ocean Conservation Photographer of the Year (Impact) winner…


In the breathtaking Arctic landscape of Svalbard, Norway, a poignant scene unfolds. An innocent polar bear cub dances upon the ice’s fragile embrace. In April, even as the cubs frolic, the ice fractures, its fragility laid bare. In this impactful capture, we glimpse both beauty and fragility, a stark reminder of the urgent need to preserve this majestic realm urging us to safeguard our precious Arctic for generations to come.

Introducing the Ocean Wildlife Photographer of the Year next…


A lizardfish’s open mouth reveals its last meal. “It seemed like the lizardfish was trying to swallow the other fish with its tail first before it got stuck” remembers photographer Jack Stefan Pokoj. “Both fish looked to be in some distress. The behaviour was unusual as lizardfish are ambush predators and swim away if a diver gets too close. This one kept its mouth open like it was trying to allow the fish inside its mouth to escape.”

Next up, the Ocean Fine Art Photographer of the Year…


A whale shark and its entourage of remoras is attracted by the bright lights of fishermen. “While they were a nuisance to the fishermen in the past, a positive solution has been found by combining tourism and fishing,” says photographer Jade Hoksbergen. “While taking this photograph, I was enveloped in darkness. I felt dwarfed in the shark’s presence.” 

The Human Connection Award winner is up next…


Artisanal fishing fences stand proudly in the sea. “Humans have enjoyed the gifts of the sea for generations. I tried to capture this in my image,” says photographer Jingyi Wang. 

And here is the Young Ocean Photographer of the Year…

THE YOUNG OCEAN PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR: Jarvis Smallman, Western Australia

A bodyboarder paddles out to sea, while big storm clouds block the sun and create an electric blue colour effect on the wave. “For a few years, I’ve watched this wave from land just about any chance I could get. I studied the forecasts meticulously, learned about the swell sizes and directions, tides, and wind conditions,” says photographer Jarvis Smallman. “One day, it all lined up perfectly and I finally went out to photograph the wave from the water. Big storm clouds blocked the sun and an electric blue colour came through the wave. I was stunned by the beauty of the scene. When this perfect set came rolling in, I pressed the shutter.”

Last but not least, the Ocean Portfolio Award…

OCEAN PORTFOLIO AWARD: Sirachai Arunrugstichai

Sirachai (Shin) Arunrugstichai is a Thai photojournalist, based in Bangkok, Thailand. Formally trained as a marine biologist, he studied community-based coral reef restoration and shark fisheries. After witnessing detrimental changes in the marine environment he loves, he shifted his career toward conservation photojournalism to tell the stories of our intertwining relationships with the oceans. Sirachai now works with conservation organisations, including IUCN, Save Our Seas Foundation, WildAid, Ocean Conservancy and his images have been published by National Geographic, the Smithsonian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Guardian, amongst others. Although Sirachai now works as a photojournalist, Shin is still active within the scientific community and regularly collaborates on shark and ray research in the Southeast Asia region which he calls home.


To view all second and third places, as well as all highly commended images, click here


Written by Oceanographic Staff

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