A striking image of sharks feeding at sunset won this year's Underwater Photographer of the Year contest

A striking image of sharks feeding at sunset won this year's Underwater Photographer of the Year contest
"Sharks' Skylight" by Renee Capozzola won the 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year contest.© Renee Capozzola/UPY2021
  • The Underwater Photographer of the Year awards announced the winners of its 2021 contest.
  • The overall winner of the contest was Renee Capozzola with a photo of sharks feeding at sunset.
  • Capozzola, the first woman to win the contest, said it took multiple evenings to capture the image.

Photographer Renee Capozzola is the newly crowned Underwater Photographer of the Year - the first woman to ever be named the competition's overall winner since it began in 1965. Her photo of sharks feeding at sunset, entitled "Sharks' Skylight," beat out 4,500 entries from 68 countries to take home the top prize.

Capozzola took the photo in Moorea, French Polynesia, in August 2020. In a recorded acceptance speech, she recalled how challenging it was to get just right. "This photo took numerous attempts over several evenings to capture, and honestly, I took the risk of walking away with nothing," she said. "But in the end it all worked out and on one particular night everything came together, as the sunset was vibrant, the water was calm, the sharks came together into a nice composition, and I got lucky with the birds as well."
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Judges admired the photo's composition, use of light, and vibrant colors.

"A sunset ballet of reef sharks and sea birds in a tranquil corner of the Pacific Ocean is a richly deserved winner of the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021," wrote contest judge Alex Mustard. "This is an image of hope a glimpse of how the ocean can be when we give it a chance, thriving with spectacular life both below and above the surface."

Capozzola hopes that her image shows people the beauty of sharks and helps save the endangered species from extinction.
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"It is estimated that 70 to 100 million sharks are killed every single year, and obviously this is not sustainable," she said. "It is my hope that the publicity that this contest will generate will help to improve the awareness of the added protections that sharks need throughout the world."

Due to how COVID-19 has impacted the diving industry, Capozzola and this year's other award winners did not receive prizes. "We do not think that this is an appropriate time for photographers to be asking the wider diving industry for prizes for our pictures," Mustard wrote in a statement. "Many of our sponsors have told us that they would be happy to offer prizes, but out of respect for all of them, we prefer to make this call across the board."
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Mustard said they hope to resume giving out prizes in 2022.

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