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Entries open for kelp forest photo competition

Brown seaweed underwater, rising towards the surface
Bull kelp. Photo: Ocean Imaging, Great Southern Reef

Grab your camera and head to the ocean to capture the magical underwater world of kelp forests - and lodge your entry in the Kelp Forest Alliance's new photo competition.

The Kelp Forest Alliance is an international collaboration working to enhance, protect and restore kelp forests around the globe. The inaugural kelp forest photo competition aims to highlight the ecological, economic, and cultural significance of these essential ecosystems, which are found across a third of the world’s coastlines.

The theme of the 2024 competition is the "Hidden Forests Around Us". Photographers are invited to capture the way kelp forests are connected to our daily lives and how society can build a new relationship with our ocean to save them.

Entries are expected to showcase the multi-faceted essence of these unique ecosystems and inspire affection and recognition for these often underappreciated underwater worlds. And while the ocean will undoubtedly feature in many entries, images will also capture connections beyond the water.

"We aim to illuminate our human connection to kelp forests, the rich diversity of life they sustain, the economies they bolster, and the cultures they influence," says competition director and Kelp Forest Alliance founder Dr Aaron Eger. "We want to unveil the vibrant colours of the kelp forest tapestry that blankets our planet's oceans.

"By doing this, we hope to elevate kelp forests in the conservation conversation and to achieve the goals of the Kelp Forest Challenge, a global mission to protect and restore 4 million hectares of kelp forest by 2040."

The competition is open to amateur and professional photographers, with the major prize for the Kelp Photographer of the Year valued at up to $3500.

Competition categories:

  • Kelp and Connections to People

  • Kelp For Our Future

  • Kelp Stories (Photojournalism – series of 5 images)

  • Kelp Ecosystems (Wide Angle)

  • Kelp Macro

  • Kelp Wildlife

  • Youth (under 18 as at January 2024)

  • Great Southern Reef (Australia)

The deadline for entries is 19 January 2023, with late entries accepted until February 14, 2023.

Category details

Kelp and Connections to People: Kelp forests are connected to people in more ways than we realize. This category highlights the diverse ways people rely on and are linked to kelp forests around the world. Appropriate images including sustainable harvesting, recreational activities like diving and snorkelling, or artistic interpretations of human interactions with kelp.

Kelp For Our Future: Kelp forests are incredibly resilient but are increasingly threatened and new approaches are needed to save our kelp forests. This category highlights the ways that people are working to protect, restore, or research our kelp forests and ensure these ecosystems persist for generations to come. Images could include researchers in action, scientific instruments, visuals that represent scientific findings related to kelp, restored areas, highlight threats to kelp forests, or any effort working to help our kelp.

Kelp Stories (Photojournalism): This category invites photographers to narrate a story related to kelp through a series of 5 images. These could include stories of survival, the daily life of creatures within the kelp forest, or the impact of environmental changes on these ecosystems or the people and organizations working to protect, conserve, study, or restore kelp forests.

Kelp Ecosystems (Wide Angle): Capture the grandeur and complexity of kelp forests in all their wide-angle glory. This category invites photographers to showcase the beauty and vastness of these underwater jungles, providing an ecosystem perspective.

Kelp Macro: Dive into the intricate details of kelp and its surrounding microcosm. This category encourages photographers to focus on the smaller, often overlooked aspects of kelp life, from the texture of the kelp to the minute organisms that call it home.

Kelp Wildlife: Highlight the diverse array of marine life that thrives within the kelp forests. From playful sea otters to elusive sharks, this category celebrates the biodiversity found in these rich habitats.

Youth: A category dedicated to budding young photographers 18 years and under. This encourages the younger generation to explore, appreciate, and capture the magic of kelp forests, fostering a connection with nature at an early age.

Great Southern Reef: A category dedicated to showcasing kelp forests along Australia’s “Great Southern Reef”, an 8000km stretch of coastline that is intricately linked to kelp forests and over two-thirds of Australians.


Prizes are a mix of monetary goods and vouchers, and will be awarded to the winners and runners-up of each category. The winner of each category will receive approximately $1600 in prizes. The winner of the Kelp Photographer of the Year will receive approximately $3500 in prizes. The runners-up in all categories will receive approximately $600 in prizes.

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