The Astounding Beauty of Life under the Ocean

Take an underwater journey with these 15 award-winning images

From a large humpback whale to a tiny nudibranch, this year’s winners in the Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition reveal marine life in a dazzling display of colors and details.

Spinetail devil rays, (Mobula japanica)

‘Devil Ray Ballet’ (Photo: Duncan Murrell/Ocean Art)
Duncan Murrell’s photograph of three giant devil rays took home Best in Show. Murrell captured the photograph of “spinetail devil rays, (Mobula japanica) engaged in rarely observed or photographed courtship behaviour with two males pursuing one female.” The shot was taken in Honda Bay on the Province of Palawan in the Philippines.

Encounter with humpback whale (Photo François Baelen)

“This unique encounter happened in September 2018 in Reunion Island (Western Indian Ocean) where the humpback whales come here to breed and give birth. The mother was resting 15 meters 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 centimeters away from me, the calf, my friend free diving symmetrically. I knew I would not get a shot like this one again.” — François Baelen

Enope squid (Photo: Jeff Milisen/Ocean Art)

“At around 3 inches in length, it was easily the largest and prettiest sharp-eared enope squid I recall finding.
“Soon the animal fled down, so I followed. We descended past forty feet, fifty feet, sixty feet while I continued watching, studying, and shooting. At eighty feet the kraken’s dancing and squirming still entranced me. Finally, at ninety feet deep, it was time to leave my new little friend at peace.” — Jeff Milisen

‘Inside the Eggs’ (Photo: Flavio Vailati/Ocean Art)
“During a dive in Anilao, Philippines I found this nudibranch and I waited for the best time to make this shot.” — Flavio Vailati

‘So Hairy Flames’ (Photo: Edison So/Ocean Art)
“Hairy shrimp have always been one of my favourite subjects, due to the variety of colors and types of similar species of shrimps. Shooting a hairy shrimp is also a challenging task due to its tiny size and nature. They like to hop from one place to another while photographers try to photograph it. Great patience is needed to wait for the perfect moment to press the shutter, the environment, the background, the composition, and of course, the focus on the subject.” — Edison So

Giant manta (Photo: Alvin Cheung/Ocean Art)

“Another diver, Marissa, was a few meters away from me and behind her was the landmark pinnacle of El Boiler. Visibility was crystal. I thought Marissa, together with the structure of the pinnacle, might be able to create an interesting background showing both the location of the dive site and the scale of the giant manta. With luck, the manta approached Marissa for an investigation. Hence this photo.” — Alvin Cheung

Pod (Photo: Eugene Kitsios/Ocean Art)

“Before you enter the water with a pod of dolphins, you never know what the interaction will be like. Sometimes you may have a great encounter, where the dolphins will curiously swim around you or show you some kind of playful behaviour. Other times they may leave you without interest. The best way to interact with them is to let them decide. Times where you are accepted by the pod are truly a magical experience. These intelligent creatures display so much interesting behaviour and in this case they playfully and curiously swimmed by me.” — Eugene Kitsios

‘3 Baby Seahorses’ (Photo: Steven Walsh/Ocean Art)
“I started diving in March 2017. I instantly fell in love with the underwater world and I started taking a camera on dives in December 2017. I had no photography experience above or below water (smart phone aside), but the many challenges and creative opportunities involved make the steep learning curve enjoyable.
“Each spring a unique event occurs at Blairgowrie Pier, in Victoria, Australia. In the cool 15°C water, Big-belly seahorse fry appear in large numbers. They cling to loose sea grass and weeds near the water’s surface, where they hunt in the shelter of the pier. This particular photo is the outcome of 4 hours of diving between night shifts as a firefighter.” – Steven Walsh

‘My Babies’ (Photo: Fabrice Dudenhofer/Ocean Art)
“I have been fortunate enough to have a Japanese guide who showed me a couple of clownfishes with their baby eggs. I never had the chance to shoot this type of interaction before so it was a big challenge for me. The adults swam endlessly around the eggs in order to oxygen them. Because of their endless movements it was difficult to get the perfect moment. To achieve the perfect shot I needed patience and a big part of luck. The guide and I stayed more than half an hour and I took more than 50 photos. I really wanted to show how some parent fishes cared for their babies. In this regard these clown fishes are not so different from us.” — Fabrice Dudenhofer

‘Cannibal Crab’ (Photo: PT Hirschfield/Ocean Art)
“Each year I eagerly await the return of the spider crabs en masse as they gather to shed their old shells, presumably finding ‘safety in numbers’ from predators such as stingrays, angel sharks and octopuses as they all moult in close proximity together. In reality, the most fierce predator of spider crabs is other spider crabs. I have occasionally seen them ‘on the march’ prior to settling to moult the old brown shells they have outgrown, snacking on another crab’s leg as they wander with thousands of others in massive circles around and beneath the pier. Once the crabs have moulted, they become extremely vulnerable as it takes approximately three days for their new, orange shell to harden. Often they climb the pylons of the pier, hoping the height will keep them out of predators’ reach. Some survive the ordeal of the moult only to become an instant soft-shelled meal for another hungry animal. I stumbled across this harrowing sight which I both filmed and photographed a ravenous unmoulted spider crab, fiercely feasting upon a freshly moulted crab. It dug its claws deeply into its victim’s back, pinning it down before transferring the fresh threads of still living crab meat into its merciless mouth. 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. The survival rate of crabs after they moult is quite low as the hundreds of thousands who have gathered steadily reduce to those lucky hundreds who will live long enough for their shells to harden before heading back out into the depths of the bay before the cycle continues the following year.” — PT Hirschfield

“Dancing Jellyfish” (Photo: Melody Chuang/Ocean Art)
“This is my first time to meet jellyfish in Taiwan NorthEast Coast for shore dive! When I did night dive in 2018 summer time, I saw this beautiful jellyfish dancing in the dark! I followed her for a while and took many shots when she transformed into different shape. Suddenly, my diving buddy who is also my husband, Stan Chen, was so creative and used his torch to make the backlight for this unique jellyfish. In order to make good shots, we followed her over 1 mile and against the current. When we finished the dive, it’s already sunrise time at 5:30 am but we made it! We got the beautiful pose for the dancing jellyfish with an unique spotlight!” — Melody Chuang

‘Disco Nudi’ (Photo: Bruno Van Saen/Ocean Art)
“I was trying to create an image right out of the camera using special own-made backgrounds. But at the end, it was the photoshop filter ‘swirl’ which helped me a lot to end up with this creative image.” — Bruno Van Saen

‘Hairy Shrimp’ (Photo: Sejung Jang/Ocean Art)
“Before this trip, hairy shrimp were on my wish list. Fortunately my dive guide found it for me and my friends. It was my first time to see red hairy shrimp. It’s not easy to take photos of it, because it jumps a lot. After this photo, my camera didn’t work at all. I’m so lucky at least this nice shot came out of it!!!” — Sejung Jang

‘Chimaera’ (Photo: Claudio Zori/Ocean Art)
“The spotted rat fish, a resident of the northeastern part of the Pacific Ocean, usually lives between 50 and 400 meters and prefers temperatures no higher than 9 degrees. However, it tends to approach in shallow water during the spring and fall. While swimming, it can perform rotations and twists as if it were flying. The photo was taken in a night dive in front of God’s Pocket dive resort.” — Claudio Zori

‘Mangrove’ (Photo: Yen-Yi Lee/Ocean Art)
“A beautiful soft coral anchors and grows on mangrove roots. Two remote strobes were used to highlight the details of mangrove roots in the background, which also provided water surface reflection.” — Yen-Yi Lee

‘Grey Seal Face’ (Photo: Greg Lecoeur/Ocean Art)
Can’t you just feel the photographers’ excitement at managing to capture these awesome images! These are a reminder of what we look to lose if we don’t act in time to save them.
If you haven’t already, take Conservation International’s pledge to be a #VoiceForThePlanet  #NewDealForNature

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