Dedicated to spotlighting the most vibrant, awe-inspiring aquatic organisms, this year’s Underwater Photographer of the Year competition centers on the mammals, fish, and plants occupying the world’s oceans and seas. The 2023 contest garnered more than 6,000 submissions from photographers in 72 countries, many of which document the striking scenes of life below the surface: stingrays glide along the rippled sands in the Cayman Islands, an elephant plunges its trunk into the waters off the coast of Thailand, and an orca gracefully dives into a school of fish near Norway.
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While some photos highlight life at its most energetic and vibrant, others focus on the heartbreaking impacts of pollution and the climate crisis, more broadly. One image shows a humpback whale as it dies of starvation because its tailfin has been trapped and broken by buoys and ropes. “Taking this photograph was the saddest moment I’ve experienced in the ocean,” said the photographer Alvaro Herrero Lopez-Beltran. “Especially because I have spent so much time with humpbacks underwater, experiencing eye contact, interactions, and seeing how the whales are such intelligent and sentient beings. The photo is a reflection of how our oceans are suffering, the product of man’s selfishness and lack of responsibility.”
See some of the winning photos below, and find the full collection on the contest’s site.
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