There’s some amazing stuff beneath the water.
For proof, look no further than the annual Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition.
The Best of Show was a graceful photo of three Giant Devil Rays performing a 'ballet', which uses soft, ambient light to accentuate the movements of elegant giants, shot by Duncan Murrell.
Other exceptional images include some astonishing fish and marine life shots, rarely seen animal behaviour, innovative shooting techniques, stunning portraits, seals, ocean adventure, whales and some dramatic moments between humans and marine life.
The judges evaluated thousands of entries from 70 countries before selecting the final set of images as Ocean Art winners.
(Please click on the images for full-screen resolution)
Cold Water, First place.
Photograph: Greg Lecoeur/Ocean Art
First place Macro
On this night, I was going holo holo (for pleasure) when I found this sharp-eared enope squid just under the surface. Most enope squids are small and thus difficult to shoot. As they mature, the difficult paralarva comes into its own. Every detail in the arms, organs, and chromatophores blasts to life in radiant colour. Such was the case with this gem of a specimen. At around 3 inches in length, it was easily the largest and prettiest sharp-eared enope squid I recall finding. I caught the guide's glance and let him show it to the nearby customers, but soon the animal fled down, so I followed where the guide couldn't. We descended past forty feet, fifty feet, sixty feet while I continued watching, studying, and shooting.
Photograph: Jeff Milisen/Ocean Art
Best in Show
Spinetail devil rays, (Mobula japanica) engaged in rarely observed or photographed courtship behaviour with two males pursuing one female.
Photograph: Duncan Murrell/Ocean Art
First place, Wide Angle
This unique encounter happened in September 2018 in ReunionIsland (Western Indian Ocean) where the humpback whales come here to breed and give birth. The mother was resting 15 metres down, while her calf was enjoying his new human friends.
Trust: This is what came to my mind, when this close to 30 ton-animal, still hunted today by mankind, allowed me to freedive behind her and take that shot. From down there, everything seemed unreal: that huge tail centimetres away from me, the calf, my friend free diving symmetrically. I knew I would not get a shot like this one again.
Photograph: Francois Baelen/Ocean Art
While looking for Marine Iguanas at FernandinaIsland in Galapagos we came across these inquisitive Galapagos Penguins. Given that they are hunted by many predators above and below the water it was surprising how close they came to us. These penguins are the only ones living north of the equator thanks to the ice cold Humboldt Current that hits the West side of Galapagos, and are therefore endemic to these Islands. Being the most endangered species of Penguin, seeing two of only 2000 breeding animals left in the world is truly special. They are one of the smallest penguins and zip fast in the water like all penguins. So catching a photo of them in murky, green water with a serious swell going on during an overcast day was not an easy task.
Photograph: Simon Lorenz/Ocean Art
Third place, Marine Life Behaviour
When it comes to clownfishes, we can safely say that Daddy does everything he can to make sure the next generation is safe. He takes care of the eggs by making them breathe with his fins; he removes dust, debris and dead eggs from the nest. This was a really lucky shot as I was trying a new wetlens (+20 diopter). It is pretty hard to use because its depth of field is so shallow that I had to focus manually. What a surprise it was to get this lovely behaviour and the clownfish eye in perfect focus!
Photograph: Francois Baelen/Ocean Art
Sixth place, Marine Life Behaviour
A white-banded cleaner shrimp hopped into the mouth of a grouper to have some leftover food. While at the same time, the grouper has its mouth cleaned by the shrimp. This cleaning behaviour ensures both species mutually benefit from this symbiotic relationship. I am fascinated by this behaviour between the grouper and the shrimp. Lucky enough when a shrimp jumped just on the edge of the mouth, I got the photo that I was hoping for.
Photograph: Liang Fu/Ocean Art
Second place, Mirrorless Behaviour
On the first day of the dive trip, we decided to dive the wreck of the Caribsea off of Morehead City, North Carolina. When we arrived at the site, the visibility did not appear to be the best, but we decided to dive anyway. During the descent, the water appeared darker than usual, however, the deeper we descended, to our amazement we encountered a massive bait ball just above the shipwreck. Upon further inspection, there were a multitude of sand tiger sharks entering and exiting the bait ball in a calm, peaceful manner, seemingly more curious than hungry. As I slowly and cautiously watched, I saw this large female sand tiger shark with her own bait ball entourage just approaching the massive ball. I was mesmerized by the entire scene but my brain quickly engaged enough to set up for the shot of her about to enter. She seemed completely disinterested in me and continued her journey. As I waited for just the right time, I was rewarded with this image.
Photograph: Debbie Wallace/Ocean Art
Honourable Mention, Mirrorless Wide Angle
The Million Hope is the largest shipwreck of the Red Sea. It rests in Egyptian waters in the Gulf of Tiran. It is also the largest wreck I have ever visited. This ship is so huge that I did not have enough time - or enough air since this is a shallow wreck lying against the reef - to explore everything. I wanted to photograph the bow with a diver next to it. My idea was to show the sheer scale of the ship. I think that the natural light gives here a perfect atmosphere, cold like the touch of the steel. Actually when I took the shot I really felt the immensity of the size of this particular wreck. Indeed the Million Hope makes you feel very, very small.
Photograph: Fabrice Dudenhofer/Ocean Art
Second place, Novice DSLR
In my photo dreams I always had the idea of capturing a wild crocodile. But even when I have seen many in the wild, I have never been able to get in the water with one. That morning we saw this crocodile called El Niño. I was told he was nice enough to let you get close to him. He was watching us for quite some time and, when we decided to go in the water, I was nervous but excited. I approached him close to 10 feet when he started to move towards me, I got more nervous than before but he moved gently so I knew he wasn't mad. He came towards me but dived underneath, so I turned around to follow him closely. When he turned around to face me, I had the opportunity to take this picture with a big smile.
Photograph: Antonio Pastrana/Ocean Art
Honourable mention, Portrait
My freedive parter and I were surrounded by green sea turtles feeding on algae that washed out from the rocky shoreline on Oahu's NorthShore. I turned to see this turtle swimming directly at me, which was a truly remarkable behaviour that I have never experienced before. As I set up to capture the unique encounter, the curious turtle saw her reflection and continued to slowly approach until nearly bumping my dome!
Photograph: Kyler Badten/Ocean Art
Honourable mention, Portrait
The relationship between the ocellaris clownfish that dwell among the tentacles of Ritteri sea anemones is a good example of mutualism. The territorial fish protects the anemone from anemone-eating fish, and in turn the stinging tentacles of the anemone protect the clownfish from its predators.
Photograph: Matteo Visconti/Ocean Art
Second place, Reefscapes
Sunset splitshots are fantastic to capture in the shallow reefs of Egypt. There are many embankments to look for a nice spot for the perfect lighting from the setting sun.
Photograph: Tobias Friedrich/Ocean Art
Fifth place, Wide Angle
From August to November, golden rays migrate in large numbers in Costa Rican Pacific waters. No one knows the exact reason, but it can be to protection from predators or as a social/mating behaviour. I was looking for this picture for years and after several weeks searching and working with biologist specialised in rays, I spotted a good place using my drone. I did several dives in this area and waited patiently, then When they came on top of me, I was shock and forgot that I had a camera in my hands. Any effort I did for this encounter, word it! Simply magic moment.
Photograph: Edwar Herreno/Ocean Art
Honourable mention, Wide Angle
When researching a trip to the Solomon Islands, Leru Cut was a site that stuck in my photography imagination, wondering what it really looked like and how best to shoot it. The narrow opening above creates shafts of light in the cut for a short time each day. We stopped there early in the trip but it was too cloudy for sun rays. On return to port near the end of the trip we revisited the site with clear skies, and the magic happened.
As the breeze blows the trees, the shafts of light flicker in from above and the light dances around the walls, while bright sun and clear water make for a sapphire blue Suva Sea background, providing silhouette of Pato, from MV Bilikiki, as well as a school of fish and gorgonians in the entrance. Shooting an upward angle made the sun ray effect more prominent and accentuates the narrow cut.
Photograph: Steve Kopp/Ocean Art