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2020’s Best Underwater Photos: Dive into the Wondrous World Below | Frommer's "Cathedral of Kelp" by Jon Anderson / 2020 Ocean Art Contest (1st Place Cold Water)

2020’s Best Underwater Photos: Dive into the Wondrous World Below

Underwater photography can be as strange and wondrous as images taken from outer space, but the view from beneath the waves often has the added benefit of containing peculiar life-forms (out in space, those have remained notoriously camera-shy).

For the ninth year in a row, the Underwater Photography Guide's Ocean Art Contest celebrates the best shots of the alien world below the surface of the sea. 

For the 2020 contest, despite the challenges of traveling due to the pandemic, organizers received submissions from photographers in 80 countries.

Explains the awards announcement, "Underwater explorers around the world took photos in their own backyards or select destinations open to travel, and revisited their archives to bring us some truly eye-catching photography."

In all, judges awarded more than $45,000 worth of prizes in 13 categories highlighting artistry and technical achievement in depictions of oceanic conditions, marine life, conservation efforts, and other subjects. 

("The Day of the Tentacle" by Gaetano Dario Gargiulo, Best of Show 2020 Ocean Art Contest)

The overall "Best of Show" winner comes with an incredible story from photographer Gaetano Dario Gargiulo. After spotting an octopus in a tide pool on the coast of Australia's New South Wales, Gargiulo left his camera near the creature. It eventually got up the courage to interact with the device and even snap the award-winning selfie.

Seems like the octopus should get a share of the prize money or at least a co-credit, no?

("Bullet" by Gilles Auroux, 2nd Place Wide Angle 2020 Ocean Art Contest

Other noteworthy images that caught our attention like the proverbial fish on a hook: Gilles Auroux's nose-to-bullet-nose encounter with a blue shark in the waters of the Azores archipelago in Portugal, Jon Anderson's hushed scene in a cathedral of kelp (pictured at top) in California's Monterey Bay, and Celia Kujala's irresistible shot of a young Steller sea lion playing with a starfish off British Columbia's Hornby Island

("My New Toy" by Celia Kujala, 4th Place Wide Angle 2020 Ocean Art Contest

To take a deep dive into all the winning images and runners-up, visit