The Underwater Photographer of the Year contest has announced its winners for the year 2021, showcasing the best photos we’ve ever seen from under the oceans, seas, like, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Here are some of them:

1. “Milk Feeding” by Mike Korostelev (Russian Federation), 3rd Place in Behavior

“On this day a family of 13 Sperm Whales allowed me to stay with them the whole day. It is a big honour for this human to be with whales in their habitat in the ocean. These whales probably remember whaling years ago but they forgive us. At the end of the day one mother starts to feed her calf just meters from me. I froze and didn’t move. It was incredible to see such a private moment,” Korostelev captions, noting that this has been shot in the Indian Ocean.

2. “Sharks’ Skylight” by Renee Capozzola (United States), 1st Place in Wide Angle

“This image was taken in French Polynesia, which happens to be one of my very favorite places to photograph sharks. Here, there are strong legal protections in place for sharks. Here, there are strong legal protections in place for sharks, allowing them to thrive and help balance the marine ecosystem. During this visit to Moorea, French Polynesia, I spent several evening in the shallows at sunset, hoping to capture something unique,” she said.

“Instead of focusing on split-level images as I often like to do, I decided to try something different. I envisioned and aimed to capture the sharks underwater with sunset seen through Snell’s window. It took many attempts, but on this one particular evening, the water was calm, the sunset was vibrant, and I got extremely lucky with the composition as well. Since many shark species are threatened with extinction throughout the world, it is my hope that images of these beautiful animals will help promote their conservation.”

3. “Pontohi Pigmy Seahores” by Galice Hoarau (Norway), 1st Place in Macro

“Pontohi pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus pontohi) is one of the smallest and most recently discovered seahorses. They usually live on reef walls and can be hard to find. We had found two during the morning dive so I decided to dedicate the afternoon to getting a backlit photo. We were lucky to find this particular individual hanging out from the wall, allowing the use of a snoot to backlight it with the help of Rando, my dive guide. After setting up the camera and strobe we had to wait for it to get used to us and finally turn toward the camera for a brief moment,” he wrote, with the photo taken in Siladen, Indonesia.

4. “Nest Buddies” by Dan Bolt (United Kingdom), 3rd Place in British Waters Macro

“The corkwing wrasse you can see in the background was actually busy building a nest under the pier. This means he was very distracted by his duties and would regularly come back to the same spot to add more gathered pieces of seaweed,” the photographer wrote. “The nudibranch had been making its way along a near-by piece of kelp, and I only had to wait for a minute or two before it made its way up a seaweed stump enabling me to grab a few shots just at the moment when wrasse and nudibranch were both in frame.”

5. “While You Sleep” by Mark Kirkland (United Kingdom), 1st Place in British Waters Wide Angle

“Malls Mire – a small woodland in Glasgow, between a housing estate, supermarket and factory – is an unlikely haven for wildlife. As winter thaws, for a few nights each year one of it’s small muddy ponds comes alive with Common Frogs. I first photographed them here in 2018 and since that day I’ve had this image in my head. It took another two years before I captured the little wonders that stir in the cold nights while the city sleeps. Using a temperamental remote shutter while combining long-exposure, backlighting, close-focus wide angle and split photography meant I had to abandon any frustrations and try (and inevitably fail) for the hundredth time to get it right. This final shot is a culmination 25 hours over 4 nights of lying in darkness, covered in mud, waiting on natures unpredictable elements to align. Time well spent? Absolutely,” the photographer wrote.

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