Review: 2019 Ocean Art Underwater Photography Competition

The Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition is an annual event hosted by Underwater Photography Guide with support from Bluewater photo & travel. Now in its 8th year it is one of the biggest marine photography competitions in the world. Photographers from 78 countries submitted entries last year in 16 different categories including two new fields, conservation and blackwater. In total $85,000 of sponsor prizes where given out to the lucky winners selected by world-renowned judges Tony Wu, Martin Edge, Marty Snyderman and Scott Gietler. We are going to take a look at some of the winning entries, as well as some of our personal favourites (It is a subjective list and is by no means representative of how well the pictures performed in the competition). Enjoy!

‘Crab-Eater Seal’

Crab-eater seal by Greg Lecour

We will kick things off with not only the winner of the coldwater category but also the picture voted best in show. This amazing shot by Greg Lecoeur was taken on a sailing expedition in the Antarctic Peninsula. It was taken in waters that were -1oC, but which are unfortunately rapidly warming. Fun fact – despite their name crab-eater seals don’t actually eat crabs, but actually have specially adapted teeth that let them filter krill from seawater like a baleen whale!

‘A Blur of Sweetlips’

A Blur of Sweetlips by Nicholas More

This excellent shot by Nicholas More was taken on a diving holiday in Indonesia on a live-aboard boat to Raja Ampat. It won 1st place in the wide angle category. The scene features a school of yellow ribbon sweetlips swimming over some hard corals with a cloud of convict blennies behind them. “To allow the sweetlips to be centre of attention, I used a slow shutter speed and accelerated panning to blur the background. This effect also helps to reinforce the unity of the school moving as a group, in the same direction.”

‘Treats from Moolah River’

Treats from Moolah River by Jenny Stock

This colourful image by Jenny Stock won 1st place in the nudibranch category. It features Flabellina lotus on of 350 species of nudibranch that reside on the bank of Moolah River in Australia.

‘Bubble Portrait’

Bubble Portrait by Jenny Stock

This follow up photograph by Jenny Stock features the exact same nudibranch from the previous image, only this time focused inside air bubbles. It came 3rd in the underwater art category.


Paradise by Taeyup Kim

This reflective image by Taeyup Kim came in 5th place in wide angle category. It was taken at Tamakohua pass in French Polynesia during an ascent from a famous shark wall diving spot. It is easy to see how it got it’s name.

‘Egg Release’

Egg Release by Steven Kovacs

This honourable mention in the new blackwater category was taken by Steven Kovacs whilst on a night dive on a trip to Bonaire. It features a brittle star spawning its eggs to its surroundings to be fertilised. “This incredible event occurs only a few times during the year and I felt incredibly privileged, not only to witness it, but also to be able to photograph it.”

‘A Friendly Ride’

A Friendly Ride by Paula Vianna

This unique image by Paula Vianna was the winner of the marine life behaviour category. It was taken at the wreckage site of the SS Yongala Wreck in Queensland, Australia, and features pink whip rays catching a ride on a small-eyed ray. They do this to conserve energy and stay protected from predators.

‘Alciopid Worm’

Alciopid Worm by Fabien Michenet

This illuminating image by Fabien Michenet was another honourable mention in the blackwater category. It was taken on a drift dive in Tahiti and was a ‘rare encounter’ for Fabien. This particular species is unusual in having large eyes with irises which is very uncommon in marine worms.

‘The Victim’

The Victim by Shane Goss

This distressing photograph captured by Sean Gross was the winner in the new conservation category. It was taken off the coast of Eleuthera in the Bahamas and features an already dead green turtle tangled in ghost fishing gear. He said he discovered it after “my dive buddy came to me in tears” and that he took it as a “warning for the future”. Although it is hard to look at it is very well shot and one of the most powerful images in this years competition.

‘Clownfish Eggs’

Clownfish Eggs by Paolo Isgro

This up-close and personal shot by Paolo Isgro was the winner in the supermacro category. It was taken in Bali and the clownfish eggs were found by a local dive master and close personal friend. It took “a lot of patience to manually focus and composing this shot” according to Paolo.

‘The Blue Arch’


This imposing encounter captured by George Kuo-Wei Kao was the runner-up in the novice wide angle category. It is the best shot of 3 dives he took in the phillipines following a school of srdines. “A single sardine is small, but a school of sardines is tremendous”.

‘Seahorse Bus’


This incredible shot by Jules Carey was the winner of the novice macro category and runner-up for best in show. Jules also won the ‘rising star photographer’ award at the show and described the shot as extremely “challenging”

To check out all the entries yourself and pick your own favourites check out the full list here. To check out our review of last year’s competition click here.

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