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Ocean photographer
of the year

Words: Anne-Marie Hoeve

Two pale octopuses sit on a pipe that forms part of an artificial reef built to attract octopuses and other marine life to the area. Australia.
Photo: Jules Casey

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Marvel at these stunning shots zooming in on the wondrous wildlife that inhabits our oceans. You’ll want to look at these on the biggest screen possible.

It’s teeming with life, but over 80% of our oceans have never been seen by human eyes. This year’s entries for the Ocean Photographer of the Year competition help rectify that. With images plunging us directly into the deepest seas, or taking us high above the waves, they offer a breathtaking glimpse of a wild world that we rarely get a chance to witness.

Like this year’s winning image of a paper nautilus. It was photographed on a blackwater dive following a volcanic eruption in the Philippines. Blackwater diving entails hanging suspended above the looming deep, tethered to a boat in the dead of night to observe the mysterious creatures drifting up from the depths. 

“I want to use this opportunity to bring these under-appreciated marine animals to the public,”  says Jialing Cai, the marine biologist  and amateur photographer behind this year’s top shot. 

“The ocean is suffering a lot from human activities. What is more powerful than the feeling of guilt, is the sense of  biophilia – the sense of wonder and awe – that can motivate people to actively care about the ocean and start doing what they can to protect it,” she says.

An annual contest open to professionals and amateurs alike, the aim of the Ocean Photographer of the Year competition is to “shine a light on the beauty of the ocean and the threats it faces”.

Check out our pick of this year’s entries here.

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COMPETITION WINNER: A Paper Nautilus drifts on a piece of ocean debris at night, surrounded by heavy sediment. Philippines.
Photo: Jialing Cai
A crab sits in the centre of a sea anemone as it sways in ocean current. Philippines.
Photo: Andrei Savin

A freediver gazes at the opening of a cenote, while sun rays illuminate the space. Mexico.
Photo: Malek Bouguenoun 

During low tide, a coral reef is perfectly mirrored on the surface. Mayotte Island.
Photo: Gabriel Barathieu

An orphaned Irrawaddy dolphin calf which was rescued from a stranding is cradled to sleep by a caretaker. Thailand.
Photo: Sirachai Arunrugstichai

More stunning ocean photography

A yellow thorny seahorse makes eye contact with a tiny shrimp, which is part of its diet. Dauin, Philippines.
Photo: Renee Capozzola

While surfing North Shore’s famous Banzai Pipeline, a rainbow appears. O’ahu, Hawaii.
Photo: Todd Glaser
Fish take refuge under a turtle. Costa Rica.
Photo: Merche Llobera

A curious spider squat lobster checks out the photographer’s camera lens. The Philippines.
Photo: Yung Sen Wu

Two different worlds: A polar bear stands on sea ice, while a large expedition ship brings tourists to the area for wildlife encounters. Arctic Ocean.
Photo: Dmitri Kokh

The calm after the storm: After feeding on a baitball, almost diminishing it, a blue marlin swims through sparkling fish scales. Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Photo: Alex Postigo

Hidden yet unmistakable, a Northern gannet stares through a cloud of bubbles after diving in pursuit of fish. Scotland.
Photo: Henley Spiers

ocean photography of the year 2023 manatee
A manatee enjoys the crystal-clear waters of the Homosassa River.
Photo: Sylvie Ayer
A porcelain crab sits on top of a sea pen, its constant companion. The Philippines.
Photo: Andrei Savin

A pod of narwhal slowly swims through silt water, gently weaving abstract patterns in its wake. Canada.
Photo: Colin Tennant

A portrait of an actively hunting octopus reveals numerous motion lines. Indonesia.
Photo: Ollie Clarke
Two Chilean devil rays glide gracefully through a swirling baitball of lantern fish. Costa Rica.
Photo: Merche Llobera

A small part of Ganvié, a floating village in Benin with about 30,000 inhabitants. Benin.
Photo: Ioannis Pavlos Evangelidis
A lizardfish’s open mouth reveals its last meal. The Philippines.
Photo: Jack Pokoj

A sperm whale mother and calf. Dominica.
Photo: Kat Zhou

A freediver appears to be flying in the calm, blue waters of the Aegean Sea. Greece.
Photo: David Alpert

A colourful arrow squid photographed on a blackwater dive. West Palm Beach, Florida.
Photo: Kat Zhou

A Caribbean reef octopus mother and her eggs. West Palm Beach, Florida.
Photo: Kat Zhou

A green sea turtle briefly poses for an angelic portrait in Maui, Hawaii where sea turtles enjoy strong legal protections. Hawaii.
Photo: Renee Capazzola

Illuminated by the Arctic sun, a polar bear walks across a glacier that is adorned by a waterfall. Arctic.
Photo: Michael Haluwana

A rarely photographed juvenile prowfish hides behind a curtain of a lion’s mane jellyfish’s stinging tentacles. North Pacific Ocean.
Photo: Shane Gross


We’re able to tell stories like this because of people like you. Join others from around the world in supporting Imagine5’s mission towards a sustainable future. Become a member, or donate what you can. Find out more here

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