Close-up Photographer of the Year

Galice Hoarau  | Eel Larva
Galice Hoarau | Eel Larva

‘I spotted this eel larva off the island of Lembeh (Indonesia) during a blackwater dive. Blackwater diving is essentially diving at night in the open ocean, usually over deep or very deep water. Divers are surrounded by darkness, with only a lit downline as a visual reference. Peering through the darkness with your torch can be quite stressful the first time you do it, but it gets fascinating very quickly.

What makes blackwater diving so magical is the abundance of rarely seen planktonic creatures you spot as they take part in one of the largest daily migrations of any animal on Earth. After sunset, small pelagic animals (like this larva) rise close to the surface to feed where the sunlight has allowed planktonic algae to grow. At sunrise, they dive into the depths and stay down there during the day to escape predators.’

Csaba Daroczi  | Spider in the Swamp
Csaba Daroczi | Spider in the Swamp

I was preparing to take pictures of bogbean (Menyanthes)at the Turjanos nature conservation area near Kisőrös, Hungary,when I glimpsed this composition in the marshland. I carefully set up my tripod, and prayed for the spider not to move. It allowed me a few pictures before disappearing into the foliage.’

Mathieu Foulquié  | Bufo Bufo
Mathieu Foulquié | Bufo Bufo

‘This common toad (Bufo bufo) took a liking to me, probably because I looked like a frogman myself. He didn’t stop following me during my two-hour dive in the Buèges karst spring (Hérault, Occitanie, France), so he became the perfect model.’

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