Deep Blue Sea: Winning Underwater Photographs
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A Spiral of RaysThis trio of spinetail devil rays (Mobula japonica) is the Best in Show winner in the 2018 Ocean Art underwater photography competition held by Underwater Photography Guide. It's also a peek into an utterly mysterious world. Very little is known about the behavior of spinetail devil rays, which can have wingspans extending up to 6.8 feet (2.1 m). But in this award-winning photograph, photographer Duncan Murrell captured two males competing for the attention of a female in Honda Bay, off Palawan in the Philippines. The photo also won first place in the Marine Life Behavior category of the 2018 Ocean Art underwater photography competition. [Read more about the underwater photo contest winners]
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Tail of a WhalePhotographer François Baelen was diving near Reunion Island in the Western Indian Ocean in 2018 when he captured this otherworldly image of a mother humpback whale and her calf (top right). Baelen captured this shot using the natural light filtering down 49 feet (15 meters) under the surface. "Trust" was the word that came to mind in the moment when he swam behind the mother whale's giant tail, he wrote in a description accompanying this image. The photo took the top prize in the Ocean Art 2018 wide-angle category.
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Odd PortraitThis eerie-eyed spotted ratfish normally lives in deep, frigid waters, but ventures into shallow waters in spring and fall, according to photographer Claudio Zori. Zori took this arresting portrait of the ratfish on a night dive near God's Pocket dive resort off Hurst Island, British Columbia. The image won in the portrait category of the Ocean Art 2018 underwater photo competition.
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Mischievous subjectWhy, hello! A curious grey seal spins upside-down in this winning photograph in the "cold water" category of the Ocean Art 2018 photo competition. Photographer Greg Lecoeur of Nice, France, captured this whimsical image. Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) are found along coastal areas throughout the North Atlantic.
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A Shot of ColorA colorful sea slug (Favorinus pacificus) perches within a hammock of its own eggs in this shot from Anilao, Philippines. Taken by photographer Flavio Vailati, this shot won first place in the "nudibranchs" category of the 2018 Ocean Art competition.
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Small is BeautifulGreat patience won Edison So of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this shot of a miniscule hairy shrimp — and first place in the Ocean Art 2018 supermacro category. These tiny shrimp are only a few millimeters in size and typically get around by making little leaps and hops. That makes the hairy shrimp a difficult subject, So wrote in a description accompanying the photo entry.
"Great patience is needed to wait for the perfect moment to press the shutter," So wrote.
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Big is Beautiful, TooA majestic manta ray seems to rear in front of a diver in this winning image from the "novice DSLR" category in the 2018 Ocean Art competition. Underwater photography newbie Alvin Cheung captured this shot near Socorro, Mexico, in 2017. Acting on the advice of a photography instructor, Cheung considered the possible backgrounds of a photograph of the giant ray, realizing that an underwater rock pinnacle and a fellow diver would provide the necessary scale.
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Curious Creatures"Before you enter the water with a pod of dolphins, you never know what the interaction will be like," wrote photographer Eugene Kitsios of the Netherlands about this award-winning image. The day Kitsios captured this photograph, the interaction was friendly and curious. The Atlantic spotted dolphins swam around him playfully, and the resulting photo won Kitsios first place in the mirrorless camera wide-angle category in Ocean Art 2018.
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Big-Belly BabiesThe big-bellied seahorse babies cling to a bit of seaweed near Blairgowrie Pier in Victoria, Australia. Diver Stephen Walsh spent four hours diving and photographing the tiny creatures between night shifts at his job as a firefighter, working hard to focus his lens on the less than inch-long subjects. He used a narrow aperture to keep the background dark despite the daylight filtering through the shallow water. The shot won the mirrorless macro category in the 2018 Ocean Art competition.
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Jellied BeautyThis shot, "dancing jellyfish," took top prize in the Compact Wide-Angle Ocean Art 2018 category. Taken by Melody Chuang of Taiwan near the island's northeast coast, the photo is backlit by the flashlight of Chuang's husband, who was diving with her. The night dive during summer 2018 was the first time Chuang had seen a jellyfish while diving in the area, she wrote in a caption accompanying the entry.
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Parental DevotionFabrice Dudenhofer wanted to capture the care that clownfish take with their eggs. It took a half-hour of patience near Amami Oshima Island, Japan to capture this winning entry in the mirrorless behavior category in the Ocean Art 2018 competition. The constant motion of the clownfish as they oxygenated their eggs made the shot a challenge to frame, Dudenhofer wrote in a description of the image.
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Hairy HelloThis was the final shot photographer Sejung Jang captured on a dive near Anilao, Philippines, before his camera stopped working. Luckily, he wrote, he got a nice shot out of it — and a first-place award in the compact macro category of Ocean Art 2018. The subject is a red hairy shrimp.
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Cannibal CrabA spider crab commits cannibalism in this stark shot from Australian photographer PT Hirschfield. Hirschfield took the image near Victoria during the molting season, in which spider crabs gather to find safety in numbers as they shed their shells and await the hardening of their new carapaces. But often, spider crabs are their own worst enemies. Hirschfield stumbled upon such a scene of crab-on-crab crime while diving, discovering one spider crab eating another alive.
"Between bites, the Cannibal Crab and its hapless victim stared back into my lens — one seeming defiant but justified by its need to feed, the other in all the resigned pathos of the final miserable moments of its life," Hirschfield wrote.
Heavy stuff, but the resulting shot won Hirschfield the first prize in the compact behavior category of Ocean Art 2018.
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Nudibranch ArtThe Underwater Art category of the Ocean Art competition rewards photos that have been set up or manipulated. The first-place winner, "Disco Nudi," by Bruno Van Saen, evokes a psychedelic effect by justaposing a Hypselodoris bullock nudibranch against a swirling background.
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Mangrove MagicThe first prize winner in Ocean Art 2018's reefscape category is not your typical Great Barrier Reef shot. Instead, it depicts a mangrove ecosystem off Raja Ampat, Indonesia, where a brilliant red soft coral grows amidst woody roots. The photo was taken by Yen-Yi Lee of Taipei, Taiwan, who used two remote strobes to illuminate the background and the surface of the water.
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Prehistoric BeastChristina Barringer not only won second place in the portrait category for this striking shot, she saved her dive partner from a snappy attack. According to the description submitted with the photo entry, Barringer was diving near Banco Chinchorro, when this young croc charged toward her dive partner. She lunged between the two, intending to use her camera as a shield – and snapped this stunning photo.
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Underwater GrazerWhat is an iguana doing underwater? Having a snack. The Galápagos Islands are home to marine iguanas, which do their feeding under the sea. The rocky shores where the iguanas feed are rough, with strong surges of current. That made it challenging to hang on to the camera and to position lighting, according to photographer Andreas Schmid. This particular iguana was unconcerned with the nearby photographer, Schmid wrote in his photo description, allowing Schmid to capture a series of wild images. The photo took fourth place in the compact wide-angle category.
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Frills upon frillsThe crested aeolis nudibranch (Janolus cristatus) is found off the coast of western Europe and in the western Mediterranean, including near Taranto, Italy, where this photograph was taken. It took fourth place in the nudibranch category of the Ocean Art 2018 competition. Photographer Giacomo Giovannini wrote in his photo entry that the dive spot is "forgotten and mistreated," but home to brilliantly colored nudibranchs, as well as crabs, feathery marine worms and sea horses.
"Sometimes you're unable to take pictures because there are too many incredible critters to admire," he wrote.
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Burst of lightLight bursting through a bundle of kelp with columns of the seaweed to the side frame a beautiful instant in Monterey Bay, California. Photographer Tyler Schiffman framed the shot and waited several moments for a sea lion to wander into it. One finally did, he wrote in his photo description, and then vanished as quickly as it came: Schiffman got off only three shots, including this one. It took second place in the cold water category of Ocean Art 2018.
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Above and BelowA quartet of stand-up paddleboarders is silhouetted against the sunset in this wide-angle image at a shallow reef in Ha'apai, Tonga. Photographer Grant Thomas took the photo to demonstrate the innate bonds between people and the ocean. He won second-place in the wide angle category of the 2018 Ocean Art competition.
"Our inherent relationship with the ocean is eternal, and we must care for it in a way that ensures sustainability for the future," Thomas wrote.