Former Wollongong photographer Matty Smith has been honoured in the 2021 Ocean Photography Awards hosted by international magazine Oceanographic, finishing second in the Collective Portfolio category at his first attempt.
Smith recently moved to Newcastle but said many of the images in the portfolio were taken in the Illawarra and South Coast. He said the awards were significant because they featured many of the world's best photographers.
The awards are only in their second year and are already considered important as "a celebration of our beautiful blue planet, as well as a platform to highlight the many plights it is facing".
Smith said they featured images of what most people would never see if ocean photographers weren't out there in all weather conditions capturing marine life in their element.
"I found out Wednesday morning I had won silver. It was a nice surprise," he said.
"There were 10 images in the portfolio, eight of them were taken in NSW and five were taken in the Illawarra. I think the pictures did quite well in the awards because a lot of them were quite unique. Some of them are photographs that have not been seen before which always do well in competition. Particularly the Bobtail Squid at Wollongong Harbour."
There was also a good variety of techniques and different wildlife behaviour in his portfolio.
Smith is no stranger to being recognised for his work. He took out the Ocean Geographic/Brian Skerry Award of Excellence in 2020, the Australian Geographic Portfolio Prize in 2018, National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year in 2018 and Natural History Museum WPY Prize in 2020.
"I have been shooting since I was 18 and ocean photography brought me to Wollongong," Smith said.
"I was into surfing a lot and what got me into photography was surfing trips I did around Europe when I was living in the UK.
"I did a few trips to Australia and that is what led me to migrate to Australia in 2007. That is when my photography career started to really take off because of all the beautiful ocean here. My photography evolved organically into more underwater shots. From 2012 I ware predominantly shooting scuba, underwater and more ocean wildlife."
Smith shares what he loves by teaching underwater photography and designing/manufacturing underwater photographic equipment.
"When we are not in lockdown I organise overseas trips. In the new year I am taking one over to Western Australia for 10 photographers. I also love coming back to Wollongong Harbour. Night photography is incredible so I love doing night dives there."