The Hidden Forests Around Us

This photo competition emphasizes the global reach and impact of kelp forests, highlighting their ecological, economic, and cultural significance across ⅓ of our world’s coastline. It also begs us to ask, how do we create and maintain personal connections to a rapidly changing ocean. The "Hidden Forests Around Us" theme invites photographers to capture how kelp forests are connected to our daily lives and how we as a society can build a new relationship with our ocean to save them. Entries will showcase the multi-faceted essence of these unique ecosystems and inspire affection and recognition for these often underappreciated underwater worlds.

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, unveiling the vibrant colors of the kelp forest tapestry that blankets our planet's oceans. By doing so 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.

Film Freeway Submission Instructions:


Kelp and Connections to People
Kelp For Our Future
Kelp Stories (Photojournalism)
Kelp Ecosystems (Wide Angle)
Kelp Macro
Kelp Wildlife
Youth (<21)
Great Southern Reef

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 snorkeling, or artistic interpretations of human interactions with kelp.

Kelp For Our Future: Kelp forests are incredibly resilient but are increasingly threatened and we need a new approach 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 (<21): A category dedicated to young, budding 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 8,000 km stretch of coastline that is intricately linked to kelp forests and over 2/3s of Australians.


We will award prizes for the winners and runner ups of each category. Prizes are a mix of monetary, goods, and vouchers.

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.

All values given in AUD.

Eligible Photos and Entrants:

This competition is open to both amateurs and professionals over 18 years of age. The Youth Category is open to photographers 18 and under as of January 2024. All photographs must be the original work of the entrant and must have been taken underwater in a kelp forest ecosystem or highlight an aspect of a kelp forest ecosystem (kelp, associated biodiversity, etc).


One photo is permitted per entry, though participants may enter up to 5 photos per category. To enter more photos, simply re-enter the contest after your initial submission.

The exception is for the category "Kelp Stories", participants will submit 5 photos per entry into this category.

File Specifications:
Digital images must be submitted in JPEG format and should not exceed 25MB in size. The longest side of the image should be at least 2000 pixels. Images must not contain any frame, watermark, logo, or identifying marks.

Basic post-processing (i.e., color and contrast adjustments, cropping, sharpening, noise reduction) is allowed. However, alterations that materially change the content of the original image, such as adding, removing, or replacing elements, are not permitted.

Photographs should respect the underwater environment and its inhabitants. Any behavior that damages the environment, stresses or harms wildlife, or violates local regulations is not acceptable. Evidence of such behavior will disqualify the entrant.

Explanation of Judging Process:
Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of experienced underwater photographers based on technical excellence, originality, creativity, and impact. The judges' decisions are final and binding.

Awarding of Prizes:
Winners will be notified via email and announced on our website. Prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives. Winners may be required to verify their eligibility.

Photo Rights and Usage:
By entering the competition, you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide license to reproduce and display your photographs in connection with the competition, in our promotional materials and on our website, for a period of three years. You will retain copyright and moral rights in your photographs. We will always provide credit when your photos are used.

These terms and conditions are subject to change without prior notice. By submitting your photos, you agree to abide by these rules and accept the decisions of the judges as final.