29 underwater photos that show the magnificent creatures living in the ocean

29 underwater photos that show the magnificent creatures living in the ocean

September 5, 2020

  • Underwater Photography Guide recently unveiled the winners of its "Ocean Art Safe Under the Sea" photography contest.
  • The contest — held to "share the beauty of our oceans," according to a press release — includes images of sharks, fish, and sea lions, among other sea creatures.
  • Twenty-five percent of proceeds from the contest were donated to the World Health Organization and Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, according to the press release.
  • The winning image was taken by photographer Edwar Herreno at a shark nursery in Ecuador.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The ocean is filled with amazing creatures, from adorable sea lions to unique sea slugs.

These animals and more are highlighted in a recent photography contest from Underwater Photography Guide, entitled the "Ocean Art Safe Under the Sea" contest.

The competition was held to "share the beauty of our oceans," according to a press release sent to Insider, and encouraged photographers to submit their best underwater images, with 25% of proceeds donated to the World Health Organization and Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. 

Here some of the winning images, including the Best of Show photograph that shows a shark nursery located in Ecuador.

Best of Show: "Releasing Hope" by Edwar Herreno

Herreno captured this shot in Ecuador's Galápagos National Park while on an assignment for a conservation organization, the professional photographer told Underwater Photography Guide.

He described the location as being a "truly a unique place," and said he had seen numerous types of sharks, including the hammerhead pup seen in his photo, while there.

First Place Wide-Angle Category: "Arms Wide Open" by Paul Cox

In Hawaii, Cox photographed a manta ray as it swam alongside a diver for approximately six minutes. The photographer described the interaction as a "quiet ballet" while speaking to the publication.

Second Place Wide-Angle: "Flooded Magic Castle" by Petr Polách

Polách told Underwater Photography Guide that he took his winning photo while diving inside a cave in Yucatan, Mexico. Of course, the underwater location is completely dark, so he needed to use five different flashes to get the shot.

First Place Macro: "Rumble in the Jungle" by Lars Michaelis

Michaelis, who took this close-up shot in Batangas, Philippines, had been diving when he noticed two big skeleton shrimp "fighting for territory."

"It was like in a boxing ring," he told Underwater Photography Guide. "The upper skeleton shrimp hit his rival's head with one of his big claws. The lower one stumbled backwards. The scene reminded me of the world-champion fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman."

Second Place Macro: "Red Carpet" by Yatwai So

This winning shot, taken in Batangas, Philippines, shows an orange fish sitting atop a sea pen, or a type of invertebrate marine animal.

Speaking to the publication, So described the fish as looking like "a VIP walking along a luxury red carpet."

Third Place Macro: "Family" by Taeyup Kim

Also in Batangas, Philippines, Kim took this close-up shot of two yellow goby fish. He told Underwater Photography Guide that he waited 20 minutes to get the shot.

First Place Marine Life Behavior: "Mola Mola" by Yung Sen Wu

Taken off the Nusa Lembongan island of Indonesia, this photo shows small fish cleaning parasites from an ocean sunfish.

Third Place: "Eat" by Eric Hou

Hou photographed this iridescent octopus eating a crab while in Batangas, Philippines.

"The sea at night is a hunting ground," he told Underwater Photography Guide. 

First Place Portrait: "Vertical Approach" by Jacopo Brunetti

During a mako shark expedition in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Brunetti photographed a member of the species as it was gaping, or opening its mouth likely as a form of territorialism. The photographer later said the 8-foot-long shark could have been responding to his camera, which it bit four times.

"This mako was a real player," Brunetti told the publication. "This photo was taken the instant before he bit my dome."

Second Place Portrait: "Into the Light" by Lewis Burnet

Burnet spotted this manta ray on Australia's Ningaloo Coast.

"After approaching this ray with caution, she allowed me to photograph her feeding for over an hour," the photographer told Underwater Photography Guide.

Third Place Portrait: "White" by Claudio Ceresi

Ceresi's winning shot, which was taken in Bali, Indonesia, shows a type of sea slug called a nudibranch.

First Place Coldwater: "Curiosity" by Joanna Smart

Smart spent time with this harbour seal while she swam through the "the dense kelp forest" of California's Anacapa Island.

"He stared at me for a moment more before darting forward," Smart told the publication about the animal. "Swimming gently up to me, he grabbed onto my arm with his flippers. I nearly recoiled in shock from this surprisingly human gesture."

She added: "As I regained my composure, I looked up to find him staring at me, eyes filled with curiosity. He stayed with me for an hour and a half, darting in and out of the kelp, watching me swim. I couldn't help but wonder if he was just as curious about me as I was about him."

Second Place Coldwater: "Descending from Above" by Celia Kujala

Kujala photographed this group of "curious" Steller sea lions on Canada's Hornby Island.

"Steller sea lions are good at holding their breath, but still need to breathe air," she told Underwater Photography Guide. "In this moment, everything came together. I took this photo directly upward as they were descending toward me and was able to capture the group." 

She also said the species is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, and hopes her image "will inspire people to want to protect them."

Third Place Coldwater: "Arms Everywhere" by Mark Kirkland

"This was my first-ever encounter with an octopus, and it couldn't have happened in a more beautiful, underwater landscape," Kirkland told the publication of his photograph, which was taken in Cape Wrath, Scotland.

"I kept my distance from this small, curled octopus as it traversed the reef wall," he continued. "It kept its gaze on me as I followed it, before it eventually stopped and changed from bright orange to pale yellow to blend in with the surrounding soft corals. I took this as a hint that I was outstaying my welcome and took this last photograph before leaving it to its day."

First Place Shipwrecks: "Famous Motorcycle of Thistlegorm" by Taner Atilgan

The sunken motorcycle seen in Atilgan's photo is located within the SS Thistlegorm wreck in Egypt's Red Sea. The photographer told Underwater Photography Guide that he actually captured the shot in 2013, decades after the ship sunk in 1941.

Third Place Shipwrecks: "Geometry" by Chris Gug

Gug's winning photograph shows the Vandenberg shipwreck off Key West, Florida. You can also see his wife Suzanne positioned in the center of this geometric area.

"Since she was my underwater model long before we even began dating, we have 15+ years of working together, and she has an uncanny way of understanding my vision, seeing herself in the composition before I even click the shutter," he told the publication about his wife. "Indeed, she is the most important piece of equipment in my camera bag!"

First Place Blackwater: "Red" by Eric Hou

While black-water diving in Batangas, Philippines, Hou came across this vibrant blanket octopus. He told Underwater Photography Guide that seeing the animal, which moved through the water "like a dancer," was unexpected.

Second Place Blackwater: "Fire" by Eric Hou

Also photographed by Hou in Batangas, Philippines, this winning image shows a seahorse gliding through the ocean.

Third Place Blackwater: "Blackwater Galaxy" by Jeff Molder

Molder's image, taken while black-water diving in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, shows an organism called a siphonophore. 

"I find they are one of the more challenging subjects to try and capture with a still camera, as they swirl, jet, and spiral their transparent bodies through the inky, black water column in their quest to feed and survive in the open ocean," Molder told the publication.

Second Place Underwater Conservation: "In the Net" by Gaetano Gargiulo

Gargiulo stumbled upon this scorpion fish caught in a red net while diving in Praiano, Italy. 

Third Place Underwater Conservation: "Sunshine" by Eric Hou

"Before the end of a dive, I suddenly found a reflective object," Hou told Underwater Photography Guide about this image, taken in Batangas, Philippines. "It turned out to be rubbish." 

He was about to take the trash onboard to remove it from the ocean, but quickly noticed this paper nautilus, also known as an argonaut, attached to the plastic.

First Place Underwater Art: "Bubblewand" by Rodger Klein

"This image was taken during an experimental shoot at my studio pool in Venice Beach, California," Klein told the publication. "I was working with artist/body painter Michael Bui and his wife, model Mida."

"After about six hours of body-paint work and several hours of preparation in the pool with fabric backdrops and numerous underwater strobes placed around the pool, we made this image," he continued. 

Second Place Underwater Art: "Under the Ice of the White Sea" by Petr Polách

Polách's winning photo, which shows a diver submerged underwater, was taken in Russia's White Sea. Speaking to Underwater Photography Guide, Polách said he aimed to capture the area's "unusual atmosphere" with his photo.

Third Place Underwater Art: "Inside Out" by Francisco Sedano Vera

Vera photographed this orange fish off Indonesia's Raja Ampat Islands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During this hard time, we have experienced fear and anxiety, but we have also adapted to the situation and showed our best inner self to the world," the photographer told the publication.

"That is exactly what this image represents: a rupture with your shell and the burst of your best inner self," he continued.

First Place Compact Wide Angle: "Welcome to Tubbataha" by Yannick Bruynoghe

While on a birthday trip to the Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines, Bruynoghe photographed this whale shark swimming behind a group of barracudas.

Third Place Compact Wide Angle: "Ocean Overlord" by Yung Sen Wu

"This oceanic whitetip shark was very interested in me, so it kept trying to get close," Wu told Underwater Photography Guide about his image, which was taken in the Red Sea.

First Place Compact Macro: "Beauty" by Uwe Schmolke

Schmolke came across this vibrant sea slug while diving in Bali, Indonesia.

"I'd found this particular nudibrach on an orange sponge, which had been attached to an old, rotten fishing rope on the sandy ocean floor," the photographer told the publication.

First Place Compact Behavior: "Lemon Goby" by Stan Chen

Upon first glance, Chen's photo — taken off the Lembeh Island in Indonesia — seemingly shows two goby fish swimming side by side. But as it turns out, they're actually guarding their eggs, which were spread across a piece of discarded glass.

"It was an unforgettable moment for me to see how great the goby parents are to utilize human waste to hatch their eggs," Chen told Underwater Photography Guide. 

Third Place Compact Behavior: "Hiding Behind" by Yi Ping Chang

Chang photographed this emperor shrimp sitting atop a sea slug off the northeast coast of Taiwan.

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