11 extraordinary underwater photographs that bring the depths to you

A shiver of whale sharks. A tiny turtle hatchling. A face-to-face with a great white.
By Shannon Connellan  on 

Marine scientists admit we've "barely scratched" the surface of the Earth's oceans, but patient, talented, fearless photographers give us a beautiful glimpse of it each year.

The winners of the annual Underwater Photographer of the Year competition have been announced, annually diving into the dark depths to introduce us to a world beneath the surface of oceans, pools, rivers, and lakes.

Celebrating underwater photography since 1965, the UK competition features 13 categories including wrecks, portrait, wide angle, macro, behaviour, and marine conservation.

This year's winner, beating 4,200 entries from 71 countries, is Spain's Rafael Fernandez Caballero with a stunning wide angle photograph of a shiver of whale sharks in the Maldives' Ari Atoll. "It was already incredible when one whale shark came to our boat,” said Fernandez in a press statement. "But more and more kept arriving. I was diving with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe it as their numbers grew. He counted 11 sharks that night — a once in a lifetime encounter that nobody thought was possible."

Head to the website to learn more about the stories behind these images, and enjoy the view below.

A shiver of whale sharks in Ari Atoll, Maldives.
Here's the winner: "Giants of the night" by Rafael Fernandez Caballero (Wide angle) Credit: Rafael Fernandez Caballero
At Heron Island, Australia, a green sea turtle hatchling cautiously surfaces for air to a sky full of hungry birds.
"Against All Odds" by Hannah Le Leu (Third, Wide angle) Credit: Hannah Le Leu
Bannerfish swirl around a large stingray while sunlight dances behind.
"Sunset Ray" by Andy Schmid (Runner up, Wide angle) Credit: Andy Schmid
The wreck of Tyrifjord, a ship
"At 40 meters the wreck of Tyrifjord rest in peace" by Alex Dawson (Winner, Wrecks) Credit: Alex Dawson
Three frogs clinging to each other during a spawing.
"All You Need Is Love" by Pekka Tuuri (Winner, My Backyard) Credit: Pekka Tuuri
A meeting of the seagrass shrimp and the seagrass pipefish, both in perfect focus.
"Mimicry" by Javier Murcia (Winner, Macro) Credit: Javier Murcia
A Sea Gooseberry. The background colours represent the rust and weed growth on a metal cross beam.
"Diamonds and Rust" by Paul Pettitt (Most Promising British Underwater Photographer) Credit: Paul Pettitt
A spiny starfish in Cornwall.
"Rock pool star" by Martin Stevens. Credit: Martin Stevens
A very close-up shot of a Great White Shark.
"Great white split" by Matty Smith (British Underwater Photographer of the Year) Credit: Matty Smith
A small turtle tangled in plastic.
"Deadly reflections with a happy ending" by Rafael Fernandez Caballero. Credit: Rafael Fernandez Caballero
An aerial perspective of busy anchovy fishing activities off the coast of Hon Yen, Phu Yen province.
"Big appetite" by Thien Nguyen Ngoc (Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year) Credit: Thien Nguyen Ngoc

Check out last year's winners here.

More in Animals

Recommended For You

'Uncharted' review: Tom Holland's video game movie is a mixed bag
A still from the movie "Uncharted". A man stands in the center-frame, half-turned to face the camera. He's wearing a shoulder gun holster and he's got an intense expression on his face.

The Revolution InstaGLO R180 Toaster is smart, but overpriced
By Leeron Hoory
The Revolution InstaGLO R180 Toaster is smart, but overpriced

13 Best shows on Peacock for when you need a break or a binge-watch
By Kristina Grosspietsch
Collage of TV characters from "The Office," "Cheers," and "We Are Lady Parts."

The best documentaries on Hulu, mind-bending to jaw-dropping
A collage of men from documentaries: a guitarist, a tattooed man, a skater.

More in Life

How to avoid paying $139 for Amazon Prime
person typing and holding a credit card

California smashed an unenviable winter climate record
the Sierra Nevada mountains

New Zealand bans conversion therapy in 'a win for humanity'
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Auckland's Pride Parade 2018, with other parade-goers, holding a rainbow flag.

Activists demand accountability on the anniversary of the Parkland shooting
A black and white image of a group of people wearing winter coats. They are holding up signs that read, "How many more?"

Trending on Mashable

The biggest stories of the day delivered to your inbox.
By signing up to the Mashable newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from Mashable that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.
Thanks for signing up. See you at your inbox!