The Ocean's Chaotic Beauty Captured In 15 Award-Winning Photos

Life really is better under the sea.

09/01/2016 10:43 AM AEDT | Updated 09/01/2016 10:43 AM AEDT

In case you needed further proof that the ocean is a bizarre, magnificent and totally alien world, the Underwater Photography Guide has announced the winners of its 2015 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition.

The photo submissions, which come from more than 50 countries and include ocean as well as freshwater scenes, capture "out-of-this-world fish and marine life shots, rarely seen underwater behavior, cute portraits, dreamy scenes in the conceptual category, sharks, whales and some dramatic moments between humans and marine life," the publication said in a release.

The "Best of Show" winner, for example, is a photo of a larval-stage eel spotted at night off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island. The creature, UPG wrote, "looks like an alien invader from outer space, and has only been photographed a handful of times before."

The rest of the first-place photographs show equally impressive scenes, proving yet again that the ocean is a chaotically beautiful place. Below, you can see some of the winning photos, along with the photographers' own accounts (which originally appeared at UPG) of how each picture came to be.

  • "Feeling Exposed," Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Jeff Milisen
    "Best of Show" and 1st Place, Macro: "I was on a blackwater dive with a member of the Roddenberry family (of Star Trek fame) watching a parade of underwater aliens drift past when this larval cusk eel swam by. The external stomach helps the developing fish grow as fast as possible by eeking every last bit of nutrition from its every meal. Out of the four divers underwater that day, we had over 1,000 blackwater dives under our belt and none of us had ever seen anything like it, whether on earth or boldly going elsewhere!" -- Jeff Milisen
  • "The Satellite," Forte dei Marmi, Italy
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Francesco Visintin
    1st Place, Wide-Angle: "In the last summer a conjunction of several factors: the sea temperature rise in conjunction with coelenterates reproduction period and the decrease of natural predators, dramatically boosted the population of Rhizostoma pulmo. Then Mistral wind and currents concentrated thousands of individuals of jellyfishes in the shallow water of Versilia coast. Calm sea and unusually good visibility motivated me to explore this fascinating subject from a photographic standpoint, exploiting the soft light of the early morning and sunset." -- Francesco Visintin
  • "Anemone Light," The Oslo Fjord, Norway
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Lill Haugen
    1st Place, Cold Water: "The 'Deeplet sea anemone'/North sea anemone (Bolocera tuediae) can be found in the cold, green waters of the Oslo fjord in Norway, at depths from 25 meters and below -- like an oasis in the mud. A certain species of red shrimps (Spirontocarus liljeborgi) can be found seeking shelter under this type of large cold water anemone. This anemone is backlit, by placing the strobe behind the anemone and using a remote slave sensor trigger to fire the strobe." - Lill Haugen
  • "Pilot Whales," Nice, France
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Greg LeCoeur
    1st Place, Portrait: "During a sailing day off the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, I spotted a big pod of Pilot whales that accepted me in the blue water. They were turning around me in the crystal blue water. It was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to photograph them." -- Greg LeCoeur
  • "Egg Release," Lake Worth Lagoon, Riviera Beach, Florida
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Steven Kovacs
    1st Place, Marine Life Behavior: "When a female Striated frogfish is ready to spawn she rises towards the surface closely followed by the male. As she releases her egg mass the male fertilizes them. Coming across this Striated Frogfish pair on a local dive, I realized that they were about to spawn so I got prepared to photograph this rarely observed behavior. Shortly afterwards I was very fortunate to press the shutter the exact moment that the female released her egg raft." -- Steven Kovacs
  • "Panic Puffer School," Maroro Bay, Northland New Zealand
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Irene Middleton
    1st Place, Novice DSLR: "Every summer schools of Starry Toado Pufferfish (Arothron firmamentum) start appearing at the Poor Knights Islands, off Northern New Zealand. Normally found in Pelagic waters, strong easterly winds blow the pufferfish into the marine reserve islands where they often survive for less than a few hours. The marine reserve offers a safe haven to many fishes but the thriving population of Jacks and Bream make short work of this exotic delicacy. As soon as divers enter the water the schools of puffers race over to seek shelter which is what they were doing when I snapped off this shot. Soon after I left the water about half of them had been devoured." -- Irene Middleton
  • "Shyness," Mactan, Cebu, Philippines
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Simon Chiu
    1st Place, Mirrorless Macro: "[A] small filefish always camouflages in soft coral. I used 2 diopters which has very short focus distance for this shot, so I had to hold myself still to avoid scaring away this cute fellow." -- Simon Chiu
  • "Dad and her Eggs," Capo Noli, Liguria Sea, Italy
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Walter Bassi
    1st Place, Mirrorless Behavior: "In my dive I saw the whole sequence of mating between male and female, like a dance in the blue, so much emotion. When you split a portion of eggs is left out of the belly of the male, the situation is very rare and unique. This picture was taken while the horse tries to retrieve the eggs. Fortunately he recovered completely ... The main difficulty for me was not to bother the horse in order not to lose the eggs." -- Walter Bassi
  • "Wood Turtle," The Bridge Waterfall, Pennsylvania
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Matthew Sullivan
    1st Place, Mirrorless Wide-Angle: "Found this juvenile Wood Turtle in a beautiful montane creek in Pennsylvania. These turtles are endangered and finding them is a privilege. Getting to photograph her in her aquatic habitat was well worth the effort of lugging all my camera gear up into the mountains." -- Matthew Sullivan
  • "The Fluorescent Cerianthus," Noli, Savona, Italy
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Alessandro Raho
    1st Place, Compact Macro: "The use of these particular filters makes the fluorescence of some animal species stand out. They are typically used in night diving, but for this photo I used them during the day." -- Alessandro Raho
  • "Fast strike of a Tylosorus crocodilus on a juvenile kyphosus vaigiensis," Ouemo Bay, Noumea, New Caledonia
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Jack Berthomier
    1st Place, Compact Marine Life Behavior: "The picture has been taken in Ouemo's Mangrove where I take 90% of my pictures and where I dive, always in free diving.This Tylosorus crocodulis was 20-25 centimeters long. The fish got used to me by swimming with him for multiple hours and days." -- Jack Berthomier
  • "Cetaceclipse," Deshaies, Guadeloupe
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Brian Christiansen
    1st Place, Compact Wide Angle: "The pod seemed like one family group with an obvious matriarch who had a young one. The ones I spent the most time with were two adolescents who were nonstop playing with each other and me ... If anything, I hope this photo shows the unobstructed fun you can have with wild animals when you let your guard down and enter their element with few expectations." -- Brian Christiansen
  • "Sunny Day," Minorca, Balearic Islands, Mediterranean Sea
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Roland Bach
    1st Place, Nudibranchs: "This photo was taken on the North coast of the Balearic island Minorca on a place called Punta den Siulet. It shows a Felimare picta in a very nice posing. The problem was to bring the sun and nudi together in this shot because there was very little space for the housing and strobe. So I had to wait about 10 minutes. When I have seen the result of the shot I just thought 'in the end it was a good idea to let my buddy wait." -- Roland Bach
  • "Skeleton Shrimp," Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/So Yat Wai
    1st Place, Supermacro: "Owing to the shallow depth of field of super macro photography, it is hard to get both claws, face and tentacles in focus. Therefore i had kept shooting when I feel all these target points nearly rest in same focal plane. I have took around 60 shoots in order to get the skeleton shrimp stay in the centre of the frame and all target points in sharp focus." -So Yat Wai
  • "The Painter of the Sea," Santa Maria al Bagno, Salento, Apulia, Italy
    Ocean Art Competition 2015/Francesco Pacienza
    1st Place, Pool-Conceptual: "Francesco, the model, is an instructor of apnea ... I thought [the big sponge Axinella] was the natural setting for the setting of the picture I had in mind. The shooting session lasted about 45 minutes, during this time, Francesco breathed from a cylinder and we made the appropriate corrections to both the body posture and the position of the brush and colors." -- Francesco Pacienza

All text [sic]. 

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