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Photos of Colorful, Majestic Marine Creatures Are 'A Visual Feast'

Into the spotlight

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Bruno Van Saen/UPY 2019)

Photographer Bruno Van Saen travelled to Romblon in the Philippines in search of this tiny sea slug, the Cyerce nigra, after seeing the colorful marine invertebrate on social media. Van Saen used a Nikon D 810 camera with a 105 mm lens, lighting the scene with an underwater strobe light. Judge Alex Mustard, a marine biologist and underwater photographer, noted "this photo allow us to enjoy the visual feast" of a creature too small to appreciate with the naked eye. In the Macro category of the Underwater Photography of the Year 2019 contest, Van Saen collected a Highly Commended award.

Bluebonnet

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Matthew Sullivan/UPY 2019)

To capture an image of a fish called a mosshead warbonnet hiding inside a bottle, photographer Matthew Sullivan took advantage of small white barnacles that were clustered on the bottle's mouth, illuminating them with a strobe light to frame the shy fish. Judge Alex Mustard remarked that the photographer's results "cleans up a messy scene into a graphically powerful portrait." The photographer garnered a Commended award in the Macro category of the competition.

Female pilot whale with dead calf

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Eduardo Acevedo/UPY 2019)

Heartbreakingly, this female pilot whale in waters near the Canary Islands protected her dead calf for days, displaying an unusual behavior in the animal world. Photographer Eduardo Acevado received a Highly Commended award in the Behavior category.

Final love act

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Pekka Tuuri/UPY 2019)

In Lukupuro Creek in Espoo, Finland, photographer Pekka Tuuri found a location to capture river lampreys as they spawned. Tuuri obtained a Commended award in the Behavior category of the contest.

Family portrait

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Mike Korostelev/UPY 2019)

Off the coast of the Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, photographer Mike Korostelev searched for almost a month before finding his quarry — sperm whales congregating in a group. Korostelev took home a Commended award in the Behavior category for the well-timed image.

The mystery argonaut

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Songda Cai/UPY 2019)

Jellyfish are sometimes known as "trains of the ocean" because of the hitchhikers they frequently carry, such as this argonaut — a type of deep-sea octopus. Male argonauts often rely on jellyfish for protection from predators. Photographer Songda Cai collected a Commended award in the Behavior category of the Underwater Photography of the Year 2019 contest.

Glow in the dark

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: ManBD/UPY 2019)

The so-called Shaun the Sheep nudibranch is well-known to divers. Photographer Man Bd lit this individual from below to achieve a unique perspective on the soft-bodied sea creature. The inventive shot captured a Runner-Up award for the photographer in the Compact category.

Grass snake swimming along a garden pond

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Jack Perks/UPY 2019)

Snatching a Runner Up award in the British Waters Wide Angle category, photographer Jack Perks captured a unique image of a grass snake hunting in the water of a garden pond.

Beauty in the mud

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Arthur Kingdon/UPY 2019)

Photographer Arthur Kingdon unexpectedly came upon a lobster guarding his manmade home. The plastic pipe, decorated with delicate sea loch anemones, also housed several brittlestars. Judge Martin Edge labeled the image "an example of 'isolation lighting' at its very best." Kingdon won the top prize in the British Waters category of the competition.

Pipefish portrait

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2019)

Camouflaging coloration offers the greater pipefish (Syngnathus acus) some protection in muddy waters. When disturbed, the serpentine creature freezes and waits for the threat to withdraw. Photographer Kirsty Andrews collected a Highly Commended award in the British Waters Macro category of the contest when this pipefish froze long enough for Andrews to take the photo.

Valentine tank

Underwater Photography of the Year 2019

(Image credit: Paul Pettitt/UPY 2019)

On April 28, 1944 a top-secret rehearsal in British waters for the D-Day landings went horribly wrong, sending several Valentine tanks to the bottom of Studland Bay in Dorset, in the United Kingdom. Photographer Paul Pettitt dove at the site for months to capture a photo of the ocean creatures who now call the tank their home. Pettitt garnered third place in the British Waters Living Together category of the Underwater Photography of the Year 2019 contest.