Nadia Aly, a professional wildlife and underwater photographer from Los Altos, recently received recognition for her work. She was named the 2020 Ocean Photographer of the Year and also won the Collective Portfolio Award from Oceanographic Magazine, in partnership with SeaLegacy.
“It was an amazing feeling to win,” Aly said.
Thousands submit their work each year for the awards, which are judged by some of the world’s leading ocean photographers. The winners were announced in late November.
Aly’s winning portfolio features a wide range of marine life, from cuttlefish to a hairy frogfish. She selected the photos based on how many “likes” they received on Instagram, where she has more than 166,000 followers.
Her photo of an aggregation of mobula rays, which she took freediving in Mexico, earned her the top prize of Ocean Photographer of the Year.
“The photograph is perfectly exposed, compellingly dramatic and deeply intriguing,” said Cristina Mittermeier, judge and co-founder of SeaLegacy, in a statement. “I know from experience that this image was not easy to create.”
Originally from Canada, Aly said she’s always had a passion for photography and developed an interest in diving later in life. She said that after a close friend died in 2012, she realized life was too short. She quit her corporate job and began working full time as a photographer.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way – you just need to figure out the path that will get you there,” Aly said.
In addition to photography, Aly maintains her blog and news site, Scuba Diver Life (scubadiverlife.com), and leads private diving expeditions on many of her trips around the world. She added that she uses the best equipment, facilities and skippers to set her guided tours apart from others.
Aly has gone on thousands of dives – most recently in Mexico and the Bahamas – but her favorite was last year in Tonga, where she encountered 12 humpback whales. The dive lasted six hours – Aly said she was “on cloud nine” for days afterward.
“It’s an amazing feeling; being underwater on a tank is meditative, then being able to interact with animals is another level,” said Aly, who earned a master’s degree in digital media from the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, B.C. “I feel honored to get to be a part of their world.”
Not even the pandemic has stopped Aly from diving, though each place she visits comes with its own set of regulations. She has seen increased caution when it comes to traveling, with more social distancing and rampant COVID-19 testing.
“But that’s OK, because I’m really out there with the animals underwater,” she said.
In the years to come, Aly aspires to garner even more recognition for her photography while contributing to ocean conservation efforts by exposing people to diverse marine life.
“I only hope to gain more attention for my work,” she said. “It will help give more of these amazing underwater creatures a larger voice as well.”
For more information on Aly’s work and expeditions, visit nadiaaly.com.