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Cruising sharks photo wins best underwater award

Alice Peacock, February 16, 2021 7:00PM Kids News

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“Sharks’ Skylight”. Picture: Renee Capozzola/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021 media_camera“Sharks’ Skylight”. Picture: Renee Capozzola/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021


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A stunning image of sharks at sunset has won the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021 award.

Renee Capozzola took the prize for her photo of blacktip reef sharks cruising beneath seagulls in French Polynesia.

“Sharks’ Skylight” won out over 4500 underwater pictures entered by photographers from 68 countries.

The win makes Ms Capozzola, from the US, the first female photographer to be named overall winner of the prestigious UK-based, international, annual contest.

Ms Capozzola said she was both “honoured” and “surprised’’ by the win and hoped it would help build awareness of how endangered sharks were as a species.

The photograph was taken in French Polynesia, off the tiny Pacific island of Moorea.

“French Polynesia strongly protects its sharks; it’s my favourite place to photograph them,” Ms Capozzola said.

“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.”

Commenting on the winning image, judge Alex Mustard said the photograph showed the ocean “thriving with spectacular life both below and above the surface”.

“This is a photograph of hope, a glimpse of how the ocean can be when we give it a chance,” he said.

“The photographer not only persevered* until this serendipitous* scene unfolded, but more importantly Renee had the talent to capture this precise moment.”

“The gorgeous lighting is sympathetic, but the picture is made by the elegance of the composition as sharks, sunset and seabirds fleetingly* converge*.”

Supplied media_camera“While You Are Sleeping”. Picture: Mark Kirkland/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021

Mark Kirkland from Glasgow was named British Underwater Photographer of the Year for his inner-city wildlife vision “While You Are Sleeping”.

The photo, shot in March 2020, was taken in a local pond that fills with frogs over a few winter nights each year.

Supplied media_cameraKirsty Andrews’ picture of a grey seal swimming out of a gully. Picture: Kirsty Andrews/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021

Another endearing* photo, shot by UK photographer Kirsty Andrews, featured a grey seal swimming out from a gully.

“My buddy showed me this pretty gully full of dead man’s fingers and light coming down through kelp,” Ms Andrews said.

“I waited there for a little while, hoping a seal would turn up. In the end I only had one quick pass from one shy seal, but I was able to take this pleasing portrait.”

Supplied media_camera“Tying In”. Picture: SJ Alice Bennett/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021

And SJ Alice Bennett, who lives in Mexico, was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021 for “Tying In”, an image of divers exploring a cave.

The judges said the image had a contemporary feel, and relied on both advanced scuba diving and photographic techniques.

Other award-winning shots included an image of a gothic* chamber with stalagmites* and stalactites*, and a shot named “jellyfish galore”, of waters teeming* with jellyfish.

This story was first published on The Sun and is republished with permission.

Supplied media_camera“Jellyfish galore”. Picture: Oleg Gaponyuk/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021
Supplied media_cameraTwo blenny going head-to-head. Picture: Jing Gong Zhang/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021
Supplied media_cameraA larval Lionfish off the coast of Florida, US. Picture: Steven Kovacs/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021
Supplied media_cameraA gorgeous French angelfish. Picture: Michael Gallagher/Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021


  • persevered: kept working at something
  • serendipitous: happening by chance in a pleasant way
  • fleetingly: for a very short time
  • converge: come together
  • gothic: gloomy and like the style of churches and other buildings in the late 1700s
  • stalagmites: upward-pointing mound of mineral deposits in a cave
  • stalactites: downward-pointing mound of mineral deposits in a cave
  • teeming: swarming with


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Photos of the world at work in 2019


  1. What two animals feature in the winning photo?
  2. Where was the photo taken?
  3. From how many countries are the photographers?
  4. What does the photo called “Tying in” show?
  5. Which fish are going head to head?


1. Photography Analysis
As you can see all the underwater photos taken for this competition are pretty spectacular! Choose your favourite shot and complete the photography analysis table below:

Underwater photograph analysis media_cameraUse a table like this for your underwater photograph analysis

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts, English, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
Sketch one of the underwater photos in black and white and see how the image looks in a different format. If you find it difficult, draw gridlines over the picture and then the same gridlines on a blank piece of paper so you can sketch it square by square.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Visual Arts

Up-level it
Scan through the article and see if you can locate three words that you consider to be basic, or low level. These are words we use all the time and that can be replaced by more sophisticated words. Words like “good” and “said” are examples of overused words.

Once you have found them, see if you can up-level them. Think of synonyms you could use instead of these basic words, but make sure they still fit into the context of the article.

Re-read the article with your new words. Did it make it better? Why/why not?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Which photo do you like best?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in arts