2022 Ocean Photographers Contest Winners Dazzle from the Depths

The results of the 2022 Ocean Photographer of the Year Contest are in! This year’s 1st place winner is French photographer Ben Thouard. Thouard snagged the top prize with a strangely hypnotic underwater image of a surfer in French Polynesia getting decked by a huge wave.

a man spreads his arms underwater as above him a giant wave crashes down

The 1st prize winner of the Ocean Photographer of the Year contest. Photo: Ben Thouard/Oceanographic


“This is the unseen part of surfing,” said Thouard told Oceanographic. “I have so much respect for both the wave and the surfers — surfing such a heavy wave is a huge challenge.”

Second place went to U.S. photographer Katherine Lu for her image of a blanket octopus, which she took while diving in the Philippines.

“I was very sick during this dive,” she said. “I spent a lot of time trying to equalize near the surface. When my guide frantically signaled for me to come down, I hesitated for [a] moment, but went for it, pushing myself down. Luckily my ears equalized, and there before my eyes was this beautiful blanket octopus. We swam alongside her, and then, like magic, she opened up her blanket to show herself in all her glory.”

a colorful blanket octopus spread out against a black background

Photo: Katherine Lu/Oceanographic


The third-place winner is Brook Peterson, a U.S. photographer whose image of a cormorant and baitfish taken under an oil rig seems to form the shape of a human eye and face.

“There was a large school of baitfish under the platform for several weeks and, as a result, numerous other animals there to feed off the baitfish — sea lines, bonita, and cormorants.”

a swirling school of bait fish is hunted by a cormorant

Photo: Brook Peterson/Oceanographic

An intimidating panel of judges

The Ocean Photographer of the Year contest has nine categories: wildlife, fine art, adventure, conservation (impact), conservation (hope), human connection, young, and ocean portfolio. Contestants may enter as many up to ten images per category. Each category entry costs £10. The entry fee is donated to SeaLegacy.

This year’s panel of judges included such photography luminaries as Paul Nicklen and Christina Mittermeier. Sadie Quarrier, Deputy Director of Photography at National Geographic, also sat on the panel.

This year’s Ocean Photographer of the Year 1st place prize comes with £1,500 in prize money and a trip to UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

Below, other remarkable images from the contest.

approaching great white shark, camera partly above water, partly below

Great white shark. Photo: Matty Smith/Oceanographic

a snugglefest of three polar bears

Two polar bear cubs and their mother. Svalbard, Norway. Photo: Nadia de Lange/Oceanographic

whimsical purple seahorse-like creatures

A school of weedy seadragons. Photo: Steve Walsh/Oceanographic

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at www.andrewmarshallimages.com, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).