These award-winning photos will transport you to an unfamiliar, otherworldly water landscape. This wide-angle shot of an octopus’ tentacles from Gaetano Dario Gargiulo won best in show.
Gargiulo shot this image in some tide pools in New South Wales, Australia.
“In one of the shallowest parts of the [tide] pool I noticed an octopus. I placed my camera near its den and the octopus started interacting with it,” Gargiulo told Underwater Photography Guide.
Gargiulo’s image also won first place in the wide-angle category.
Off the Pico Island in Portugal, Gilles Auroux captured this image of a blue shark, a species the photographer said is one of “the most elegant species of sharks.”
“Bullet” by Auroux placed second in the wide-angle category.
Auroux said they tried to capture the shark’s elegance and speed by intentionally shooting a close-up of the animal.
“In the photo, it looks like a bullet or a missile, putting the emphasis on its very long nose,” they told Underwater Photography Guide.
Summer is a magical time in Tonga. It’s when mother humpback whales travel from Antarctica to give birth, like this mother and her calf photographed by Qing Lin.
Lin captured this mother and her calf off the coast of Vava’u, an island group in Tonga.
“The image shows the mother humpback whale resting quietly on the surface of the water, while the active calf is playing beside her,” Lin told Underwater Photography Guide.
Their photo, “Mom and Calf,” was awarded third place in the wide-angle category.
Galice Hoarau’s eerie, luminescent photo of a pygmy seahorse captures the creature’s unique shape and body.
In Siladen, Indonesia, Hoarau had the chance to photograph Pontoh’s pygmy seahorse — one of the smallest seahorses.
“They live on reef walls and can be challenging to find,” Hoarau told Underwater Photography Guide. “This particular individual was hanging out from the wall, allowing the use of a snoot to backlight it.”
Hoarau’s image won first place in the macro category.
Bug-eyed embryo angler fish are featured in this image, which took the photographer four hours to capture.
The photographer Sayaka Ichinoseki told Underwater Photography Guide that they’ve been fascinated by the underwater world of the Hokkaido Shakotan Peninsula in Japan.
For this image of embryo angler fish, they said the image “took a total of four hours to shoot as I kept in perfect synchronizing with the tide.”
It won second place in the macro category.
In the darkness of night, Steven Kovacs captured two crabs in a mating embrace off the coast of Palm Beach, Florida.
Kovacs’ “Mating Crabs” won first place in the marine life behavior category.
The photograph features two Sargassum Swimming Crabs mating at night.
Steven Kovacs told Underwater Photography Guide that this “was the first time encountering this behavior over several years of open ocean diving, and I was fortunate to be able to capture a photograph before the amorous couple disappeared even deeper into the darkness.”
This photo features a mother octopus tucking herself into a den where she’ll keep a watchful eye on her fertilized eggs.
Photographer Louise Nott said the current travel restriction encouraged them to explore more of their home country, including the Great Southern Reef in Shellharbour, Australia.
During one dive, Nott captured a female octopus tucking herself into a den to lay fertilized eggs. The mother octopus will spend months protecting the eggs from predators.
“After months of care, the planktonic young emerge from the safety of their mother’s watch, ready to explore the big blue,” Nott told Underwater Photography Guide.
The image “A Mother’s Watchful Eye” placed second in the marine life behavior category.
One photographer managed to snap this up-close-and-personal image of an anglerfish.
From Hoarau’s experience, anglerfish are not shy and often let photographers get up close for a shot.
Thanks to that friendly characteristic, Hoarau had the chance to shoot this image in Saltstraumen, Norway, which won first place in the portrait category.
“I was lucky to meet this one when she was swimming up from deeper waters looking for a place to hide and hunt,” Hoarau told Underwater Photography Guide.
This creepy and mystical image features a tiny larval blenny, which is a group of reef fish species.
Jeff Molder named this image “Mardi Gras Blenny” since it reminded him of the popular Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, Louisiana.
This photograph, which earned second place in portraits, was taken offshore near Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
“These tiny darting subjects are difficult to shoot and I would liken the challenge to skeet shooting fireflies at night…. except underwater,” Molder told Underwater Photography Guide. “This shot captures the blenny in this fully flared instant, revealing it to be a beautifully costumed and masked ‘Mardi Gras Blenny.'”
Jon Anderson’s image of the kelp canopies off the coast of California captures the beauty and wonder that lies just below the ocean’s surface.
Anderson’s “Cathedral of Kelp” won first place in the coldwater category.
The photograph, which was taken in Monterey, California, took patience and luck.
“On rare occasions, the stars align at Monastery Beach providing calm seas, outstanding visibility, and cathedral-like beams of intense light that pierce through the kelp canopy,” Anderson told Underwater Photography Guide. “On these days, the kelp forest becomes one of the most beautiful underwater environments on Earth.”
Johan Sundelin managed to snap this image of a toad happily resting on a water lily searching for love.
Titled, “Waiting for the Kiss,” Sundelin’s photograph earned him second place in the coldwater category.
“On a previous visit to this lake, I had noticed the very colorful water lilies striving for the surface in the rising spring temperature. When returning I hoped to get a shot of a pike in between the beautiful leaves. I instead ended up in the middle of mating common toads and this guy made a short stop-over before continuing his hunt for a female,” Sundelin told Underwater Photography Guide about the image he snapped in Halland, Sweden.
The salmon’s aggressive nature was captured in this image by Matthew Sullivan.
Sullivan set out to capture salmon in Port Fidalgo, Alaska, and was successful. They ended up with this image, which won third place in the coldwater category.
“The big males are wound up with all sorts of sexual aggression and this large individual must have caught his reflection in my port and made a lightning-fast strike,” Sullivan told Underwater Photography Guide. “It clamped down on the shade of my lens, mercifully stopping it from dragging its gnarly teeth down the glass. Thankfully, I was quick enough to snap a frame during the moment of chaos.”
This otherworldly image features a nudibranch, which is a soft-bodied, marine gastropod mollusk.
Wen Chou Wu was diving off the shore of Green Island, Taiwan, when they snapped an image of this nudibranch.
“I dove in an abandoned port in Green Island last October. Suddenly, I noticed a crystal bubble algae,” Chou Wu told Underwater Photography Guide. “I waited patiently for it to turn around. Many people have experienced this kind of quarantine life this year, and I think this photo is suitable for this difficult time.”
The image, “Quarantine,” placed first in the nudibranchs category.
A vibrant purple nudibranch with yellow spots was photographed off the coast of Italy.
This photograph of a luterosea, another species of nudibranchs, was shot by Luca De Pauli in Sistiana, Italy, where vast biodiversity lives.
De Pauli named this image “Queen of Sistiana” and won second place in the nudibranch category.
“While it is not difficult to find a luterosea, it is quite challenging to spot the ideal angle to do her justice and represent her royal composure, for which she has received the well-deserved title of ‘Queen of the Sistiana nudibranchs,'” De Pauli told Underwater Photography Guide.
This blackwater image features a luminescent, whimsical Acanthonus Armatus larva.
According to the photographer Kovacs, the larva of Acanthonus Armatus is “one of the most highly sought after blackwater subjects off the coast of Florida.”
“Even though the rather dull-looking adults live very deep, the younger developing fish can occasionally be found much shallower and are much more exotic in their appearance with stunning filaments extending from their bodies,” Kovacs told Underwater Photography Guide.
The image earned him first place in the blackwater category.
A tiny, larval swordfish will eventually become one of the fiercest fish in the big blue sea.
Kovacs also shot this image titled “Attitude” off the shores of Palm Beach, Florida.
“This tiny larval inch swordfish almost seems to know that it will grow into one of the fiercest predators in the ocean. If it reaches adulthood it can easily grow to 10 feet in length and become one of the fastest fish in the ocean,” Kovacs, who won second place in the blackwater category, told Underwater Photography Guide.
Unsurprisingly, one winner this year features a powerful image of a floating mask, captured by Christophe Chellapermal in Antibes, France.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I believed we were living in a world where youth like Greta Thunberg were illuminating that the fact that they were left with the burden of the environmental damage that preceding generations had created,” Chellapermal told Underwater Photography Guide about their first-place win in the underwater conservation category.
“Just at the moment when a movement was galvanizing to take action, COVID-19 hit and many people’s priorities shifted. Sadly, these masks, a symbol of our irreverence for the environment, will be left in the ocean long after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, further damaging an already fragile environment resulting in an even heavier burden on the next generation,” they continued.
A curious and playful California sea lion got ahold of a piece of plastic off the coast of Coronado Island, Mexico.
Celia Kujala snapped this shot of a California sea lion and won second place in underwater conservation.
“When I was diving in the Coronado Islands this fall photographing their development, it was not uncommon to observe them playing with rocks, sticks, and seaweed. Tragically, it is becoming much more common to see them playing with another type of toy,” Kujala told Underwater Photography Guide referring to human garbage. “One day this sea lion pup was playing with a large plastic tie. I was able to grab this “toy” when the opportunity arose and remove it from the water.”
“Cindy vs. Lionfish” by Stephanie Doniger features a successful spearing of the eccentric-looking invasive species.
In Roatan, Honduras, Stephanie Doniger captured an image of a diver hunting invasive lionfish and won third place in underwater conservation.
“The Roatan Marine Park has developed a program to train dive professionals to kill lionfish in order to decrease the negative impact on the reef. Here, Cindy a PADI instructor with Native Sons dive shop spears a lionfish,” Doniger told Underwater Photography Guide.
This image of a crocodile’s gnarly, toothy smile will leave the viewer with chills.
“Whilst snorkeling with this crocodile in Cuba, I was dazzled by his jagged teeth,” Jenny Stock. told Underwater Photography Guide.
Doniger snapped this image, “Crocosmile,” using a macro lens and earned first place in underwater art.
“Mirroring this toothy capture produced a unique image reminiscent of a Rorschach test. For me, intriguing faces appear in the water’s reflection. What do you see?” she continued.
This photographer’s image, “Drowning in Plastic,” aims to evoke strong emotion about the world’s plastic consumption.
This image was a collaboration with photographer Justin Lutsky, model Linnea Snyderman, designer Deborah Lindquist, and Kolossal.org as part of an “Act On Plastic” media campaign.
“The concept was to visualize the idea that the ocean is choking on plastic waste,” Lutsky told Underwater Photography Guide.
The photo earned Lutsky second place in the underwater art category.
With some editing, Andrey Savin transformed this image of a squid into a kaleidoscopic work of art.
Savin captured this image, “Merry Christmas,” at the Bangkok pier, which is one of their frequent diving spots in Negros Oriental, Philippines.
There, Savin snapped a photograph of a lone squid that earned him third place in underwater art.
“After 5 to 7 minutes, the squid itself became interested in the light of my flashlight and swam up to me at the distance of the shot. Trying to hardly move or breathe, I took about 30 shots,” Savin told Underwater Photography Guide. “During processing, I noticed that the squid shimmers with all colors like a Christmas tree. I decided to enhance this effect in post-production.”
An unusual funky fish, nicknamed the giant frogfish, was caught on camera in Batangas, Philippines.
Enrico Somogyi’s “Giant Frogfish” placed first in the competition’s compact wide-angle category.
“The giant frogfish, Antennarius commerson, is one of the more unusual fish found on coral reefs,” Somogyi told Underwater Photography Guide. “They are exceptionally well camouflaged and can resemble a sponge, coral, or a rock.”
On a cloudy day in Trieste, Italy, Andrea Michelutti shot this photo of a magical barrel jellyfish.
“I began to play with the sun and the jellyfish until I found the desired composition, with the crag on the right and the clouds on the left,” Michelutti told Underwater Photography Guide. “I was lucky because the jellyfish was perfectly positioned in front of the sun like a starship going ‘Ad Astra.'”
“Ad Astra” translates to “thus one’s journey to the stars.”
Michelutti named the photograph “Ad Astra,” which translates to “thus one’s journey to the stars.” The photo placed third in the compact wide-angle category.
One photographer managed to snap an image of five baby seahorses, which were each the size of a pinky fingernail.
In Melbourne, Australia, PT Hirschfield shot this image of baby seahorses and earned first place in the compact macro category.
“Baby seahorses sharing the same leaf or broken piece of seagrass or seaweed (to move around on for safety in numbers against fish and bird predators) take great patience to photograph,” Hirschfield told Underwater Photography Guide. “At the final split-second, one of these five baby seahorses (each as small as a pinky fingernail) turned itself upside down, which only added a bit more charm and humor to this image.”
Believe it or not, but this hairy, unearthly-looking creature is just a shrimp with her eggs.
On a trip to Lembeh Strait, Indonesia, Brian Vaccarella shot an image of a hairy shrimp that placed second in the compact macro category.
“These creatures are difficult to shoot due to their small size and propensity to ‘jump’ around just as the camera focuses, add a little current or surge and the level of difficulty multiplies,” Vaccarella told Underwater Photography Guide.
One photographer managed to capture a garfish and its reflection on a spooky night dive in Melbourne, Australia.
Hirschfield also placed third in the compact category for this image of a garfish in Melbourne, Australia.
“After many prior attempts on previous dives, I had almost accepted that capturing a worthwhile image of a fast-moving garfish could be a near-impossible task. However, on this particular night dive, I came across a juvenile (around the size of my pinky finger) just below the surface of Blairgowrie Pier. It didn’t dart away quickly as most had done previously but seemed happy and relaxed to spend time swimming briefly in my torchlight,” Hirschfield told Underwater Photography Guide.
This otherworldly image is actually just coral spawning off the coast of Longdong Bay, Taiwan.
Chia Chi Chang photographed coral spawning and received first place in the compact behavior category of the Ocean Art Photography awards.
“I was very blessed to witness the coral spawning in Northern Taiwan, and it took me three consecutive days of diving to get this shot,” Chi Chang told Underwater Photography Guide. “I am delighted to witness the coral spawning in my beloved ocean and seeing the next generation live on.”
Just a few inches under the water, shorthead seahorses band together to survive the ocean’s countless predators.
Off a pier in Port Phillip Bay, Australia, Jules Casey captured these shorthead seahorses, which earned them the second-place award in compact behavior.
“For a short time, these juveniles stay together sharing the same piece of weed and feeding just below the surface which allows for the opportunity of capturing reflection shots. This shot was captured during very, calm surface conditions,” Casey told Underwater Photography Guide.
Finally, an interesting image of an octopus and her eggs leaves the viewer mystified by mother nature.
Casey also placed third in the compact behavior category with this image of an octopus with its eggs in an artificial reef in Port Phillip Bay, Australia.
“I checked on her progress over several weeks and watched as her tentacles tenderly cared for every egg,” Casey told Underwater Photography Guide. “Due to lockdown and diving being restricted this was the last time I was able to visit her so I never knew if all her eggs hatched.”