As of the year 2000, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that as much as 95 percent of the world's oceans and 99 percent of the ocean floor are unexplored.
With such a vast amount of the world's oceans currently unexplored, several organisations have sprung up to encourage photographers to explore this uncharted territory and share with us what lies beneath the deep blue sea.
Once such organisation has just announced the winners of the 7th Annual Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest, and the pictures speak for themselves.
"The purpose of the [competition] is to find and promote the world's best underwater photographers and their work," Underwater Photography Guide's Managing Editor Nirupam Nigam said. "We'd also like to bring public awareness to the beauty of marine life and the necessity of its conservation. Ocean Art is about discovering and putting a spotlight on new/innovative photographic techniques, amazing animal behaviors, and the beauty of the world's oceans."
The judges evaluated thousands of entries from 70 countries before deciding which of them deserved to receive the over $80,000 in sponsor prizes across 16 different categories. "The 2018 competition was our most competitive year to date with a record number of entries. Images from this year's competition show just how far underwater photographic technology and innovation from underwater photographers have come. As this innovation continues, we have seen a shift in preferred subjects for underwater photographers. It would seem that more photographers are now confident in shooting large pelagic subjects such as sharks, rays, humpback whales, and crocodiles. Although these are impressive subjects by themselves, we looked for the very best photos regardless of the subject. This year we saw an increase in entrants from Asia."
Scroll down to check out the best images from the competition and read the stories behind them!
1 2nd Place, Underwater Art, "Two Worlds Collide" By Jordan Robins
‘Two Worlds Collide’ is an over under photo captured of a vivid sunrise at Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay. Above the water is clouds in the sky bursting to life with colour from the rising sun. Below the water is a series of parallel lines of sand formed by the continual rise and fall of the ocean.This photo took nearly six months to capture with multiple failed attempts along the way. I wanted to capture vivid colours in the sky contrasted with the crystal-clear water and unique formations in the sand below the water’s surface. On this particular morning, I was rewarded with an amazing sunrise and crystal clear calm water.I used my two inon-z240 strobes to light up below the water and balance the exposure with the sky. During post processing I added a little bit of blue to the water to create a dynamic contrast with the fiery reds in the sky, creating an almost psychedelic like scene.
2 1st Place, Wide-Angle Category, "Gentle Giants" By 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 symetrically. I knew I would not get a shot like this one again. The post production was all about getting a good white balance and reducing noise, because this photo was taken with natural light only, 15 meters deep.
3 Honorable Mention, Mirrorless Macro, "Face To Face" By Rafi Amar
When I took this picture, a lot of sharks were walking around me, and my Buddy did not understand why I was diving with a macro lens, but I had to photograph this shy fish. For more than an hour I waited for this picture but finally it was worth it.
4 Honorable Mention, Underwater Art, "Light Beam" By Alexandre St. Jean
Cenotes are sacred places to the Mayans. They are doorways to Xibalbá - the Mayan Underworld. On an expedition through the Yucatan Peninsula, Professional Freediver Carlos Coste and I were brought to a very beautiful and remote Cenote by our friend and local guide, Pedro Castillo. There, we were privy to a beautiful, clear and unoccupied Cenote. As we got our gear on, a light beam appeared in the water from above. For a couple hours each day, the sun peaks through the hole of the Cenote and shapes the light into a perfect tube. Needless to say, we used every second of light to capture photos of this wonderful phenomenon in order to show its mystical beauty. The sense of awe and tranquility felt in Cenotes are enrapturing. You can definitely feel the energy of Xibalbá.
5 Honorable Mention, Portrait Category, "Curiosity" By Kyler Badten
My freedive parter and I were surrounded by green sea turtles feeding on algae that washed out from the rocky shoreline on Oahu's North Shore. I turned to see this turtle swimming directly at me, which was a truly remarkable behavior 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!
6 5th Place, Wide-Angle Category, "Eclipse" By Edwar Herreno
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 behavior. 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.
7 2nd Place, Novice Dslr, "Smile Of A Friend" By Antonio Pastrana
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. After getting the shot I edited in Lightroomma bit of exposure, less contrast, some highlights and less shadows and some clarity cropping the image on the right bottom side to get more close and giving the shot more balance.
8 1st Place, Marine Life Behavior And Best Of Show By Duncan Murrell
Spinetail devil rays, (Mobula japanica) engaged in rarely observed or photographed courtship behaviour with two males pursuing one female.
9 1st Place, Compact Wide Angle, "Dancing Jellyfish" By Melody Chuang
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!
10 Honorable Mention, Nudibranch, "Sheep On The Shot" By Chun Ho Tam
My dive master showed me this cute sheep during a dive in Lembeh, Indonesia. Its rouge face attracted me and I decided to take a face shot with snooting it to create a spot light effect.