A BU graduate, who now works as an onboard photographer for whale shark tours in Western Australia, has been named British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2023.
Ollie Clarke, who graduated with a degree in biological sciences in 2013, won the accolade for his photo entitled ‘The Swarm’, which was taken during a day at work in the Ningaloo Reef. He said: “The moment I took the shot I joked that it was going to win me a competition. It was one of those rare moments and the composition is what makes it really stand out.”
Ollie and the tour crew had been alerted to the whale shark earlier in the day, by colleagues flying overhead who help to spot the creatures in the vast expanse of ocean. He said: “We had missed it the first time but then it re-surfaced and provided us with this amazing opportunity to capture some rarely seen behaviour. The shark almost looked as if it was getting fed up with the small fish and was attempting to shake off the swam. It would make steep dives and then ascend again right away, thrashing its tail, but the fish would just swirl even more densely around it. I was hoping to spend a bit more time photographing it, but after some ups and downs he disappeared into the depths of the Indian Ocean.”
Ollie developed a love for the ocean while growing up on the South Coast of England. After completing his studies at BU, he spent almost eight years travelling the world and working in marine conservation, the dive industry and photography. He is now based in Exmouth, Western Australia, which gives him easy access to the Ningaloo Reef.
This year's Underwater Photographer of the Year competition saw over 6,000 photographs submitted by photographers from 72 countries. The competition aims to celebrate photographic talent as well as the beauty of nature that would normally remain hidden beneath the surface of the water.
Ollie said: “I’ve entered a few competitions before, and received some runner-up positions, but this is the first time that I have been selected as a winner. It’s a real boost and has already led to a fair bit of media attention which will be good for my career. For now though I am focused on getting ready for the next whale shark season and doing what I love most, which is to dive and capture images of these incredible creatures.”