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Dive into these 19 gorgeous, award winning photos showcasing life under the sea

Underwater life is weird and wonderful.

nature, sharks, competition, photography
©Renee Capozzola/UPY 2018.

A healthy shark population swims at sunset in Moorea, French Polynesia.

Heads up, Ariel: There's something positively mind-blowing going on under the sea.

These absolutely gorgeous photographs once made a big splash in the international Underwater Photographer of the Year competition for 2018. The annual contest showcases more than 100 of the world's best photos captured in oceans, lakes, rivers, and even swimming pools. With winners in 11 categories, including portraits, wide-angle, and wrecks, the competition brings out seasoned professionals and rising stars in this beautiful — albeit somewhat soggy — hobby.


Underwater photography greats Peter Rowlands, Martin Edge, and Alex Mustard judged more than 5,000 entries to crown the winners. Here are 19 of the best, including Tobias Friedrich's "Cycle War," the image named photograph of the year.

1. Just when you thought you'd seen every fish in the sea...

fish, underwater, award winner, nature

Two fighting anthias in Tulamben, Bali.

©Anders Nyberg/UPY 2018

2. ... something swims by and surprises you.

grouper, reefs, oceans, award winner

A juvenile grouper hides inside a pink sponge in the Jardines de la Reina reefs on the south coast of Cuba.

©Nicholas More/UPY 2018

3. Like, really surprises you.

Get a room you two!

blennies, kissing, fighting fish, exhibit

Actually, these tompot blennies aren't kissing; they're in a fierce battle in Swanage Pier, U.K.

©Henley Spires/UPY 2018.

4. It's bold and colorful down there.

wrasse fish, The United Kingdom, oceans, award winner

A male corkwing wrasse appears in Bovisand Harbor, Plymouth, U.K.

©Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2018

5. Busy and beautiful too. (Even when it's a bit intimidating.)

sand tiger sharks, docile, North Carolina, Ocean

The underbelly of a docile sand tiger shark and a large school of "bait fish" in North Carolina.

©Tanya Houppermans/UPY 2018

6. And on its best days, underwater life is a weird and wonderful combination of all of the above.

Haven't we all been stuck inside a jellyfish at one point in our lives? Hang in there, buddy.

Phillippines, Darwinism, ecosystem, environment

A juvenile trevally is wedged between the tentacles and bell of a jellyfish in Janao Bay, Philippines.

©Scott Gutsy Tuason/UPY 2018

7. The photographers were able to capture some totally delightful surprises...

crabs, Finland, rivers, nature, photography competition

A crab feeds in the Vuoksi River, Finland.

©Mika Saareila/UPY 2018

8. ...like this haunting dance of fierce predators...

bull shark, deep sea, Mozambique, geography

Bull sharks swim in the deep blue sea of Ponta Del Ouro, Mozambique.

©Sylvie Ayer/UPY 2018.

9. ...and these graceful, lithe swans that look a little more like lovebirds.

swans, Scotland, diving, eating

Swans feed in the waters of Loch Lomand, Scotland.

©Grant Thomas/UPY 2018

10. It doesn't get much more impressive than this commanding humpback whale saying hello.

humpback whale, water mammals, gigantic animals, Tonga

A humpback whale assumes the "spy hopping" posture in Vavau, Tonga.

©Greg Lecoeur/UPY 2018

11. But then you see this micro seahorse captured with a macro lens and remember that size isn't everything.

Japanese seahorse, blending, hiding, pink,

A Japanese pygmy seahorse blends in to its surroundings in Kashiwajima, Japan.

©TianHong Wang/UPY 2018.

12. There's this sweet sea lion, who could teach a masterclass on the perfect selfie.

sea lions, Australia, endangered, nature

A sea lion poses for the camera in Julien Bay, Australia.

©Greg Lecoeur/UPY 2018

13. And so could this Asiatic cormorant, who made sure to show off its good side.

underwater birds, predator, fishing, Japan

The elegant bird dives for fish in Osezaki, Japan.

©Filippo Borghi/UPY 2018

14. And we can't leave out this "otter-ly" adorable little swimmer.

Asian animals, gentle, wild, captivity

An Asian small-clawed otter swims during a training session before it's released back into the wild.

©Robert Marc Lehmann/UPY 2018

15. Though sea creatures aren't the only ones making a life down below.

wreckage, sea diving, scuba, black and white photography

The ex-USS Kittiwake sat upright in the waters of Grand Cayman for more than 250 years before surge from a hurricane knocked it over.

©Susannah H. Snowden-Smith/UPY 2018

16. Humans can't help but experience the thrills....

surfing, musician, celebrity, Fiji, ocean waves

Musician and surfer Donavon Frankenreiter enjoys the waves in Tavarua, Fiji.

©Rodney Bursiel/UPY 2018

17. ...and chills of life in the big blue sea.

This haunting image is "Cycle War," by Tobias Friedrich, winner of the Underwater Photograph of the Year.

Egypt, Red Sea, shipping, sunken ships

"Cycle War" is a haunting image and winner of the Underwater Photograph of the year, 2018.

©Tobias Friedrich/UPY 2018

The photograph captures motorcycles on a truck on the frequently photographed wreckage of the SS Thistlegorm off the coast of Egypt in the Red Sea. Of this winning entry, contest judge Peter Rowlands said, "It is of a subject which has been photographed literally thousands of times. The artistic skill is to visualize such an image and the photographic talent is to achieve it. Perfectly lit and composed, I predict that there will never be a better shot of this subject from now on."

18. But it turns out humans have left a lot of vehicles down there.

This car went through the ice of Finland's Saimaa lake, but no one was hurt.

wrong turns, cars, danger, pollution

Always remember where you parked!

©Pekka Tuuri/UPY 2018

19. But you can't really blame those people for getting a little too close to the breathtaking beauty of life underwater.

And more importantly, who would want to?

2018 winning images - Underwater Photographer of the Year

shark population, French Polynesia, travel, adventure

A healthy shark population swims at sunset in Moorea, French Polynesia.

©Renee Capozzola/UPY 2018.

This article originally appeared on 03.07.18

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