Over 6,000 entries from photographers in 72 countries were submitted for consideration in the U.K.-based annual competition, which “celebrates photography beneath the surface of the ocean, lakes, rivers and even swimming pools,” per a press release, and awarded its first winner in 1965. In addition to claiming the top honor, Zhou was also named Up & Coming Photographer of the Year for her striking shot of the endangered pink river dolphin, entitled “Boto Encantado.”
“There’s a legend among locals that river dolphins, or ‘botos’, can transform into handsome men known as ‘boto encantado’ to seduce women. Though I did not witness the transformation, I was enchanted by these beautiful mammals in a different way,” she shared in a statement.
“After seeing how botos would sometimes bring their beaks above water, I wanted a split shot at sunset,” she said. “Though the water was so dark that I was shooting blind, this dolphin gave me a perfect pose and smile!
Competition judge Alex Mustard called the photo “by far the best image we’ve ever seen of this species,” later adding: “It is appropriate that the Amazon, as the world’s mightiest river, has produced our overall winner.”
Additional winners placed in 12 other categories, including Portrait, Behavior, Wrecks, Wide Angle, and more. Scroll through to see the standouts, or click here to see all of the commended images from the Underwater Photographer of the Year competition.
Marelux Wide Angle
Black & White
British Waters Wide Angle
British Waters Macro
British Waters Living Together
British Waters Compact
Save our Seas Foundation Marine Conservation