Snapshots of time, passports to other worlds and instruments for change, photography is the most powerful tool. We might be biased, but underwater photography truly trumps on the nature scale; it allows us to explore the ocean's greatest (and still largely undiscovered) depths, celebrate its mysterious inhabitants and shine a spotlight on its fragility and the need for ocean conservation. We challenged photographers across the world to show us their most original diving photo, and without further ado are delighted to share the top 20 Original Dive Photographers for 2019…
IN THEIR WORLD by David Valencia
The winner of the Original Dive Underwater Photographer of the Year, David captured the seasonal aggregation of mobula rays off the coast of Baja California in Mexico. This phenomenon occurs every May, when current changes usher in nutrients from the ocean's depths attracting tens of thousands of mobula rays.
BLUE SPOTLIGHTS by Alex Dawson
This eerie capture of a freediver under pack ice was captured in the Someriq fjord in eastern Greenland. The water averages at a chilly (understatement alert) minus two degrees Celsius and in this image she had just completed a 90-second dive to an underwater canyon under an iceberg 15 metres below the solid ice.
NUDIBRANCH ABSTRACT by Ian Kay
Taken in The Meadows dive site at Little Cayman, Ian Kay certainly has an eye for detail with this beautifully delicate macro back shot of a Lettuce Leaf Slug. Despite being the smallest island in the Cayman Islands, Little Cayman boasts some of the best diving with beautiful coral gardens, dramatic walls and colourful marine life.
GOBY ON WHITE by Nick More
Capturing a subject against a beautiful backdrop can be the biggest challenge to getting the perfect photo. Photographer Nick More will have had the patience of a saint to get this shot of a goby resting on a white encrusting sponge in Lembeh in Northern Sulawesi. Known as the 'muck diving capital of the world', Lembeh is home to some of the most extraordinary macro creatures to roam the ocean - Nick used a wide aperture to focus on the eyes of the goby for this head-on portrait.
MOUTHFUL by Sander van der Heijden
Captured in Bonaire by Sander van der Heijden, a male yellowhead jawfish protects its fertilised eggs by holding them in its mouth until they hatch. The shore diving capital of the world, Bonaire is surrounded by a fringing reef with beautiful corals and fascinating wrecks just a few fin kicks from the shore. Plus, the tiny island is outside of the hurricane belt so it can be explored year-round.
FAMILY TIES by David Valencia
Did you know that a pod of orcas is led by an older female and consists of her offspring and her daughters' offspring? This family was captured off Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Read all about Original Diver Lauren's wild encounter snorkelling with orcas here.
GLOWING STARS by Charlie Hwang
A beautiful capture of a whale shark's back taken at Doljo Point in Bohol in the Philippines. Did you know that the stripe and spot pattern on a whale shark is completely unique to the individual? Think of it as a whale shark's fingerprint. Find out our favourite places to swim with whale sharks.
DAWN PATROL by Jim Catlin
Proving that the early bird really does catch the worm, Jim captured this beautiful split shot as the sun was rising at Sting Ray City in Grand Cayman.
WATCHING FIREWORKS by Nur Tucker
Another magnificent capture from Indonesia's Lembeh, Nur Tucker used a narrow beam torch to capture the intricate detail of the seahorse, which, combined with a second shot of the sun (san strobes) created one of the most glorious double exposures we've seen.
FIERCE OR FRAGILE by Joel Wilson
Certainly fitting the 'original' brief, Joel placed a light behind the egg case to reveal an unborn swell shark to create this remarkable image.
Look out for Part II of this blog to see the rest of the best....
We'd love to see your underwater photos, just follow and tag us on Instagram @originaldiving.
To organise your own photography diving trip, get in touch with one of our experts.