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Canadian entry among the world’s best underwater photographs

Toronto-based Qing Lin’s photo of clown fish shot near Lembeh, Indonesia wins the personality category in the 2017 Underwater Photographer of the Year awards. Entrants from 67 countries submitted 4,500 images to the British-based competition of playful aquatic life, macro images and underwater wrecks in 10 categories.

Parasites like to rest in the mouths of clownfish but judges had never seen a photo where all three fish opened their mouths simultaneously to reveal their guests. It took Qing Lin six dives, patience and luck to capture the exact moment.

Scroll down to read more on how the winning photographers captured their photos.

Underwater photograph of the Year - In the lagoon of Mayotte Island in the Indian Ocean, during spring low tides, there is very little water on the flats. Only 30 cm in fact. That’s when I took this picture. I had to get as close as possible to the dome to create this effect. The 14 mm is an ultra wide angle lens with very good close focus which gives this effect of great size. The octopus appears larger, and the height of water also. Also, I didn’t need flash because I had lots of natural light.

Kukulkan Cenote on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is noted for spectacular light effects as the sun penetrates the darkness. I left my strobes behind; opting for a natural light shot. The outline of the cavern made for a pleasing symmetry. As the sun reappeared, I beckoned to my dive guide to edge into some of the stronger light beams, completing the composition.

The sea pen forest at 34m off the coast of Mozambique, hosts different shrimps and gobies. With its flowing lines and beautiful polyps, any subject inside this orange and blue sea pen is beautifully offset and lends itself to an artistic composition. Sea pens are quick to retract into the sand if threatened. Coupled with this, a deep nitrox decompression dive adds to the complexity.

I shot this photo in the local waters of Singapore where the visibility is 3m on average. I wanted to do something different and turn a nudibranch commonly found in our waters into a piece of art. The inspiration for this photo came about when I was reading about aquatic plants that produce oxygen bubbles from photosynthesis. The images of the bubbles sticking to the green leaves had an abstract quality and hence came the idea to create Nudibranch Art.

I visited Truk Lagoon to dive the infamous “Ghost Fleet”. The resort we stayed in ‘Blue Lagoon’, in WW2 was a Japanese airfield. The Nakajima B6N “Jill” Bomber is around 200m from the bar. I decided to try to map the area using 3d photogrammetry. I captured 408 photos of the aircraft which when fed into some very cleaver whizzbangery resulted in a complete orbital 3d model.

Although the water visibility was really good in Hout Bay, Cape Town, inside the krill patch it was much reduced. Without warning the whales appeared just metres away with their pleats distended as they surfaced with huge mouthfuls of krill. Realizing that they must be feeding deeper down I descended into the darker water to find the thickest concentration of krill. Suddenly a humpback appeared right in front of me, its huge mouth wide open as it sieved the water for the tiny crustaceans. Not a little intimidating!

Sardines are the main food source of many species of marine life. During their migration along the wild coast along Port Saint Johns, South Africa, all the predators work together to hunt sardines but the action is more and more unpredictable. To capture these dolphins hunting, I had spent several days on the ocean to have one chance to witness this behaviour.

I went to Los Islotes, Mexico looking for pictures of sea lions eating on the sardine banks. I was not lucky, because there were no sardines, but I found many interesting things such as this juvenile sea lion playing with starfish. I spent about four hours in the water until finally getting closer and with respect was able to capture this photo.

This image depicts a migratory alewife barrelling through the turbulent flow at the base of a fish ladder in Prince Edward Island. A dam impedes access to the spawning habitat. Alewife need slow-moving pond or lake environments to spawn in and can only access them with fish ladders or similar structures if a dam is present. It was very difficult to see the fish moving through the bubbly water, much less time my trigger finger with their movements correctly. It took dozens of frames to get this one image!

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