While traveling to remote places around the world, Jessica Farrer began taking photos to record her adventures. Little did she know that her hobby would lead to winning runner up in the Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition’s 2019 wide-angle category.
“It’s really competitive, so I really did not expect the email,” Farrer said, explaining how she discovered she won. “The announcement somehow went to my junk email, which I just happened to check that day.”
The Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition was founded in 1965 by British diver and magazine editor Bernard Eaton, according to its website and receives approximately 5,000 entries from around the world each year. Winners choose their own prizes — Farrer chose swimming with Thresher sharks around Malapascua Island in the Philipines, which is also a perfect location to see rays. The package is only for one, according to the Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition’s website, but includes diving, lodging and restaurant deals. Other prizes included sea safari cruises, a seven-night stay at Crystal Blue Resort also located in Philipines and other vacation options.
“Diving with sharks was more appealing to me than foofy drinks and coral reefs,” She laughed when asked why that was her pick.
Farrer is a marine biologist who works for the National Atmospheric Oceanic Administration, which keeps her globe trotting. She and her family have lived on San Juan Island since 2013. She entered the contest on a whim after a friend of hers – a Texan crocodile researcher – encouraged her.
The subject of Farrer’s professional research is seals. A crabeater seal is subject of her winning photo, “Curious Crabeater,” which she took in the Antarctic.
“Seals are more interesting than we think,” Farrer said, adding that pinnipeds are amazing predators with the capacity to hold their breath underwater for an incredibly long time.
“This shot puts you right in the picture and records a special encounter in a very special place,” competition judge Peter Rowlands wrote in the judges comments, “Every element contributes and the lucky or intended curve of the split creates great spatial depth.”
For more information about the contest and other winners, underwaterphotographeroftheyear.com/awards-and-prizes/2019-sponsors-prizes.