Looming Octopus 'Dances' in Winning Underwater Photo

Gabriel Barathieu earned the title Underwater Photographer of the Year for his photo "Dancing Octopus." (Image credit: Copyright Gabriel Barathieu/UPY 2017)

A vibrant and striking photo of an octopus spreading its tentacles in an Indian Ocean tide pool won diver Gabriel Barathieu the title of Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY) 2017.

In the winning photo, titled "Dancing Octopus," Barathieu used a wide-angle lens to capture the colorful cephalopod in shallow water, "which makes the octopus look huge," he said in a statement.

His portrait of the graceful predator was selected from approximately 4,500 images of underwater animals and scenes submitted by photographers representing 67 countries. Over just two days, a panel of three judges pared down the entries to 100 finalists, according to UPY jury chair Peter Rowlands, publisher of Underwater Photography magazine. [Surreal Shots: See the Winning Underwater Photos]  

"From my own point of view, I have been captivated not only by the winning images but also by the stories behind how those images were achieved," Rowlands said in the statement.

UPY celebrates underwater photography in natural and human-made settings, selecting four annual winners: Underwater Photographer of the Year, British Underwater Photographer of the Year, Up and Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year, and Most Promising British Underwater Photographer.

Outstanding photographs are awarded in 10 categories, including Macro, Wide Angle, and Behavior.

To capture the octopus photo — taken in springtime in the Mayotte archipelago between the coast of Mozambique and the island of Madagascar — Barathieu waited for the tide in the lagoon to go out. He wanted the water to be as shallow as possible "so that the octopus would fill the water column," he said in the statement.

In the first-place photo for the Macro category, a delicately translucent mantis shrimp larva stands out starkly against a deep black background — "like a sci-fi encounter in outer space," Rowlands said. Photographed by diver So Yat Wai, the larva's red eyes appear to be fixed on a tiny object in the water in front of it — possibly its next meal, Wai suggested in a statement.

"Prey?", winner of the Underwater Photographer of the Year Macro category. (Image credit: Copyright So Yat Wai/UPY 2017)

Even decaying inanimate objects can appear mysterious and beautiful when glimpsed through the lens of an underwater photographer, as seen in the Wrecks category, which features boats, planes and other vehicles in varying stages of disintegration on the ocean bottom.

"The wreck of the Louilla at sunset," winner of the UPY Wrecks category. (Image credit: Copyright Csaba Tökölyi/UPY 2017)

The winning Wrecks photo shows a visually arresting image of the Louilla, a ship that ran aground and was abandoned at the Gordon Reef in the Straits of Tiran near Egypt in 1981, photographed by diver Csaba Tökölyi in a way that the wreck is visible both above and below the ocean surface.

"Beneath her lies a pile of her anchor chains, giving the form of a whale," Tökölyi said in a statement.

The full list of the 2017 contest winners appears on the UPY website.

Original article on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Live Science Contributor

Mindy Weisberger is an editor at Scholastic and a former Live Science channel editor and senior writer. She has reported on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.