The underwater world has long fascinated humans — and thanks to the talented photographers who document life beneath the waves, those of us who mostly stay on land have the opportunity to appreciate the ocean’s marvels.
Oceanographic Magazine celebrates those intrepid artists with its Ocean Photographer of the Year competition, which not only showcases the beauty of the sea, but also highlights the importance of conserving it.
Amateur and professional photographers from around the globe submitted thousands of images for consideration in nine categories, including Adventure, Fine Art, and Young Photographer.
Marine biologist Jialing Cai earned the 2023 grand title for her captivating shot of a paper nautilus — an unusual type of octopus — floating on a bit of debris after a volcanic eruption in the Philippines. It was taken on a blackwater dive, meaning during the night, using high-powered light sources that simulate the moon and attract sea life.
The 25-year-old was inspired to take up the hobby after learning about diel vertical migration, when zooplankton travel from the deep waters to the ocean’s surface under the cover of darkness. “That hit me like lightning,” Cai explained in a statement. “My professor was telling me the deep sea was within my reach, that it would come to me. That realization was mind-blowing. It’s why [I’ve become] so obsessed with blackwater photography.”
Second place went to Andrei Savin, who captured a striking photograph of a crab perched in the middle of a sea anemone, also in the Philippines.
On Nov. 17, the winning and highly commended images went on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, where they’ll remain for the next five months. Visitors to the museum can take in “spectacular seascapes,” “stunning wildlife encounters,” and “beautiful interpretations of the human-sea connection,” per a press release.
Scroll to see a sampling of the Ocean Photographer of the Year contest winners.
Conservation (Hope) | Category Winner
Conservation (Hope) | Second Place
Adventure | Category Winner
Adventure | Second Place
Fine Art | Category Winner
Fine Art | Highly Commended
Young Photographer | Category Winner
Human Connection | Second Place
Wildlife | Category Winner
Wildlife | Second Place