Each year, the Underwater Photographer of the Year awards are presented to artists from around the world.
Using a variety of cameras and lenses, underwater photographers capture marine marvels landlubbers are rarely exposed to.
Here are 23 of the year’s best photographs, including one from the photographer of year, Davide Lopresti of Italy, who captured “Gold,” the single best underwater image of the year.
1. The sea is filled with beautiful surprises. Like this jellyfish.
2. Some are big. Like this octopus.
3. No, like really big. Like this shipwreck.
4. While others are small but fabulous. Like this tompot blenny.
5. Underwater, there lives a world most of us can only begin to imagine.
6. It’s a world filled with exotic creatures.
7. And regular joes living their best lives — like this shark.
8. There are sunken ships…
9. …and trucks that are the very definition of spooky.
10. Seriously. Google “spooky” and this is the kind of stuff you’ll see.
11. But you’ll also find the occasional boldly-colored masked butterflyfish.
See what I mean about surprises?
12. And for every fish with a staring problem, there are millions of species at home in the water.
13. Some are friendly and familiar like this seal.
14. While others patiently wait for their 15 minutes of fame. Like this starry weever.
15. There are a few, like this brown bear, who hang out near the water mostly for the free seafood…
16. …or for the prime diving conditions, like this petrel.
17. Whether they were born in the sea like this catshark…
18. …or raised there like this goby fish…
19. …relax there like these pilot whales…
20. …dine there like these seagulls…
21. …or just like to visit like these swimmers…
22. …every species, can agree: Earth’s rivers, lakes, and oceans are special and necessary and deserve our protection.
23. Not just for our sake, but for the unexpected beauty and wonder found in the world below the ocean’s surface.
This photograph, “Gold,” of a spiny seahorse earned Davide Lopresti the coveted Underwater Photographer of the Year award. Seahorses like this were driven from areas of the Mediterranean due to destructive fishing practices like trawling. However, recent protections have allowed these majestic creatures to return home and Lopresti was excited to capture them in their natural habitat.
He used a long exposure to create textures akin to an oil painting, and then he used his flash to bring out details of the seahorse. Dr. Alex Mustard, marine biologist and chair of the judging panel, described “Gold” as “beautiful and creative, a very worthy overall winner.”
Many thanks to the Underwater Photographer of the Year contest for sharing these beautiful images. Check out the rest of the commended photos on their site.