American photographer Renee Capozolla made history this year by being named Underwater Photographer of the Year, beating out more than 4,500 other submissions from 68 countries, CNN reports.
Her submission, titled “Sharks Skylight,” which stunningly captures an atmospheric shot of black-tip reef sharks in French Polynesia, off the Pacific island of Moorea. In the background of the photo, seagulls can be seen circling underneath a gorgeous sunset, which was taken in August of 2020.
In a statement released by the organizers of the contest, Renee shares:
“French Polynesia strongly protects its sharks, it is my favorite place to photograph them. 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.”
Capozolla announced her big win in a post on her Instagram page saying:
“I am completely blown away and honored beyond words to have received this prestigious recognition. If someone had told me five years ago that I would be the overall winner in 2021, I would never have believed them!”
View this post on Instagram
The competition is based out of the U.K. and has occurred annually since 1965. It highlights photos that taken under the surface of the water, from oceans to swimming pools.
Capozolla’s website, where many of her stunning photos can be seen, states that her specialization is in wide angle and split-level images. Her love for the water and the ocean in particular stems from her upbringing in Southern California.
Renee has used her platform as a photographer and her background in biology to address conservation issues surrounding marine biology. She hopes her images will “help increase awareness of our fragile marine ecosystems and encourage others to help protect our oceans,” her website states.
The chairman of the judges of the Underwater Photographer of the Year contest said Renee’s winning photo 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.”
The competition has a total of 13 categories, with themes such as macro, wide angle, behavior and wreck photography, black and white, portraits, as well as four categories specifically for photos taken in British waters, according to the competition’s website.
A complete list of all the winning photographs from this year’s competition can be found by clicking here.