Heads up, Ariel: There’s something positively mind-blowing going on under the sea.
These absolutely gorgeous photographs just made a big splash in the international Underwater Photographer of the Year competition for 2018. The annual contest showcases more than 100 of the world’s best photos captured in oceans, lakes, rivers, and even swimming pools. With winners in 11 categories, including portraits, wide-angle, and wrecks, the competition brings out seasoned professionals and rising stars in this beautiful — albeit somewhat soggy — hobby.
Underwater photography greats Peter Rowlands, Martin Edge, and Alex Mustard judged more than 5,000 entries to crown the winners. Here are 19 of the best, including Tobias Friedrich’s “Cycle War,” the image named photograph of the year.
1. Just when you thought you’d seen every fish in the sea…
2. … something swims by and surprises you.
3. Like, really surprises you.
Get a room you two!
4. It’s bold and colorful down there.
5. Busy and beautiful too. (Even when it’s a bit intimidating.)
6. And on its best days, underwater life is a weird and wonderful combination of all of the above.
Haven’t we all been stuck inside a jellyfish at one point in our lives? Hang in there, buddy.
7. The photographers were able to capture some totally delightful surprises…
8. …like this haunting dance of fierce predators…
9. …and these graceful, lithe swans that look a little more like lovebirds.
10. It doesn’t get much more impressive than this commanding humpback whale saying hello.
11. But then you see this micro seahorse captured with a macro lens and remember that size isn’t everything.
12. There’s this sweet sea lion, who could teach a masterclass on the perfect selfie.
13. And so could this Asiatic cormorant, who made sure to show off its good side.
14. And we can’t leave out this “otter-ly” adorable little swimmer.
15. Though sea creatures aren’t the only ones making a life down below.
16. Humans can’t help but experience the thrills….
17. …and chills of life in the big blue sea.
This haunting image is “Cycle War,” by Tobias Friedrich, winner of the Underwater Photograph of the Year.
The photograph captures motorcycles on a truck on the frequently photographed wreckage of the SS Thistlegorm off the coast of Egypt in the Red Sea. Of this winning entry, contest judge Peter Rowlands said, “It is of a subject which has been photographed literally thousands of times. The artistic skill is to visualize such an image and the photographic talent is to achieve it. Perfectly lit and composed, I predict that there will never be a better shot of this subject from now on.”
18. But it turns out humans have left a lot of vehicles down there.
This car went through the ice of Finland’s Saimaa lake, but no one was hurt.
19. But you can’t really blame those people for getting a little too close to the breathtaking beauty of life underwater.
And more importantly, who would want to?