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The 20 Epic Winners of the 2020 Underwater Photo Contest

 The deep ocean remains our planet’s greatest remaining secret, the final frontier still not conquered and explored by the human eye. In fact, it has been estimated that only 20% of the ocean has been studied to some extent or the other, and of the average human gets to see and explore even less - only a drop in the ocean - both literally and metaphorically. The people who see the most of these mysterious marine depths are probably scuba divers, and every year for the past 16 years in a row, Scuba Diving Magazine has been collecting and selecting the best underwater photos submitted to the Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest.
This year, a record-breaking 2,636 photos have been submitted to the competition, and of this multitude of entries, 13 winning images and 15 honorable mentions were selected. So, let’s explore the secret corners of our oceans together - we’ve listed the highlights of the competition for your viewing pleasure below.

1. Honorable Mention: Martin Strmiska

Location: Styria, Austria

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Honorable Mention: Martin Strmiska, Styria, Austria
Note from the photographer:
"In early spring, while the mountain peaks around the village of Tragoess are still covered in snow, the meadow lining Grüner See (Green Lake) blooms. Only in later months, when night temperatures don’t fall below freezing, does the snow melt and travel down the creeks to fill up the lake with crystal-clear water. The meadow, with freshly bloomed flowers and rich green grass, gets flooded and for the next two months creates an amazing underwater park."

2. Honorable Mention: Chris Gug

Location: Bonaire

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Chris Gug
​Note from the photographer:
"After what seemed like an eternity, the flamingos resumed feeding in the sandy mud where I had been lying motionless since sunrise. As they waded past, they kicked up quite a bit of silt, which landed on my camera’s dome port. This one, being either very inventive or very brave, saw that silt had fallen into my port’s flare petal and began slurping it up, giving me a very brief opportunity to capture those unique filter-feeding serrations in its beak, and that beautiful beady yellow eye."

3. Third Place in Compact Camera: Enrico Somogyi

Location: Anilao, Philippines

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Enrico Somogyi
​Note from the photographer:
"While diving in Anilao, the macro capital of the Philippines, my spotter showed me a seemingly empty beer bottle in the sand. But there was something living inside. I started shooting the lemon goby that was living there. After a while, I noticed a shadow in the background, and a few seconds later, I saw the juvenile lionfish coming out. I pushed the shutter right when the goby started to yawn and the lionfish looked in the camera."

4. Honorable Mention: Marc Henauer

Location: Amorgos Island, Greece

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Marc Henauer
Note from the photographer:
"This image was taken in Greece, on Amorgos Island. There are many caves like this along the coast. The darkness contrasts with the typical blue of the Aegean Sea. Greece is also a paradise for freediving. The settings offer total freedom to the imagination and to the creation of poetic images."

5. Honorable Mention: Enrico Somogyi

Location: Kirchbruch, Germany

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Enrico Somogyi
Note from the photographer:
"With most traveling divers carrying a camera these days, it can be hard to find novel subjects. Enrico Somogyi solves this problem by approaching the familiar in new ways, and by varying his techniques, like this over-under of a water lily in Kirchbruch, Germany."

6. Honorable Mention: Lureen Ferretti

7. Honorable Mention: Massimo Georgette

Location: Jardines De La Reina, Cuba

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Massimo Georgette
Note from the photographer:
"In this Cuban archipelago, among the mangroves, lives a small colony of American crocodiles. To make a series of photos I had to go in the water with them for three days, studying the currents, the light, and the clarity of the water. Then I waited until the crocodile was in the right position against the backlight. The idea was to have the best contrast between the reflection of the sun and the color of the water."

8. Grand Prize Winner: Evans Baudin

Location: Baja California, Mexico

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Evans Baudin
Note from the photographer:
"In June 2020, with a special permit, I went on an expedition to document marine life and the effects of reduced marine traffic due to COVID-19. After two hours in the water with a school of silky sharks near the surface, our boat captain yelled, “Whale shark, right behind you!”— a 12-plus-meter female. The surprise was twofold when I discovered about 50 remoras peacefully enjoying a free ride in her mouth!"

9. First Place in Behavior: Jules Casey

Location: Port Phillip Bay, Australia

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Jules Casey
Note from the photographer:
"Captured during a daytime dive at Blairgowrie Pier in Port Phillip Bay, Australia, this shorthead seahorse was feeding near the surface and freely swimming from one floating piece of weed to the next. I’m not sure if the seahorse mistakenly grabbed hold of the pipefish with its tail, confusing it for a piece of weed, or if this was deliberate. The pipefish immediately struggled to break free from the seahorse’s grip. This interaction lasted only about 10 seconds, which was just enough time to set up the shot."

10. Third Place in Behavior: Thomas Van Puymbroeck

Location: Marsa Alam, Egypt

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Thomas Van Puymbroeck
Note from the photographer:
"This shot was taken in very shallow water. While on honeymoon, we couldn’t resist the call of the water, so my wife and I went snorkeling every morning. One day, a lot of silt caught my attention. In the silt, this beautiful stingray appeared. I only had a very short window to shoot, because the silt was spreading everywhere. The stingray was feeding on tiny critters in the sand. After a few seconds, the ray disappeared and we continued to enjoy the beautiful Red Sea and our honeymoon."

11. Honorable Mention: Martina Andres

Location: Red Sea

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Martina Andres
Note from the photographer:
"As a diver, you will never forget your first big shark. I felt eternally grateful to encounter this beautiful oceanic whitetip shark in the Red Sea. As we neared the very last minutes of our dive, she and her “entourage” slowly circled our group, peacefully looking at every single one of us, before they took off into the blue again."

12. Second Place in Wide-Angle: Marc Henauer

Location: Amorgos Island, Greece

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Marc Henauer
Note from the photographer:
"The Olympia shipwreck can be seen in the 1988 Luc Besson movie The Big Blue. It ran aground near shore on Amorgos Island in Greece. The secret of this image lies in the synchronization. To succeed, it took a ray of sunlight to illuminate the underwater landscape, then a wave arrived with the right angle on the dome to have a good view above and below, and finally, the freediver had to hold position facing the wreck. It took a lot of rehearsal."

13. Third Place in Macro: Robert Stansfield

Location: Banco Chinchorro, Mexico

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Robert Stansfield
Note from the photographer:
"In November 2019 I signed up for 14 days diving on Banco Chinchorro with my good friend Heiko of Amigos del Mar, Mahahual. As a joke, Heiko set me a goal of seeing how many different species I could capture during my time there, so I opted for a 105mm to give me a bit more reach even though diving there lends itself much more to a wide-angle lens. On my second dive, I was setting myself up for a low-angle photo of a group of garden eels when I felt something nuzzle under my arm. Looking down, I saw this very confident 7-foot nurse shark looking back at me. I slowly moved up and back, repositioned the strobes, and took a series of photos with the denticles slightly backlit. The nurse sharks around Banco Chinchorro are very bold and a joy to watch."

14. First Place in Macro: Jeffrey Haines

Location: West Palm Beach, Florida

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Jeffrey Haines
Note from the photographer:
"You never know what you are going to find when you go on a black-water dive. One night it may be tiny larval fish, another a mako or silky shark, but mostly you are searching through the plankton for tiny creatures as you float along with the current over deep water. Persistence and concentration are the keys to success in finding your subject as you drift along. About 45 minutes into my 90-minute dive, I started to spot small clumps of sargassum floating by, always an exciting sight on a black-water dive. I found this seahorse in the third clump I investigated."

15. First Place in Wide-Angle: Martin Strmiska

Location: Puerto Morelos, Mexico

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Martin Strmiska
Note from the photographer:
"On the surface at the cenote’s entrance, I had no idea what sort of space lay beneath the small pool. Only when I descended and positioned myself outside the area lit up by sun was the dark space revealed. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I perceived the huge dimensions of the space. My buddy, hanging above that cloud and lit by sun rays, appeared so small that I spent the whole dive shooting from distance, trying to capture the tiny diver in that huge space."

16. Honorable Mention: Sean Steiniger

Location: Ha‘Apai Island Chain, Tonga

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Sean Steiniger
Note from the photographer:
"A humpback whale calf sails through the emerald-blue waters of Tonga, closely accompanied by its colossal mother and escort. As the leviathans circle directly beneath me, the calf ascends toward the surface for fresh air. I tuck back my freediving fins and snap the shot. A split second later, momma surfaces to usher her baby away from the bubble-blowing stranger."

17. Second Place in Macro: Yury Ivanov

Location: Bali, Indonesia

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Yury Ivanov
Note from the photographer:
"These nudibranchs are one of my favorite models for underwater photo sessions. I call them “the vivid colors of the sea” or “snow queens.” Here, Phyllodesmium iriomotense can be seen feeding on one of its favorite dishes: spindly gorgonian coral. This photo was taken at a depth of 32 meters (105 feet). The time allotted for photography is very limited at that depth, so I did four dives in order to get this photo."

18. First Place in Compact Camera: Tobias Friedrich

Location: Anilao, Philippines

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Tobias Friedrich
Note from the photographer:
"As a SeaLife camera brand ambassador, I always have a DC2000 with me, in addition to my DSLR setup, to take a few side shots. I find it very interesting to see what I can shoot with a very small camera like the SeaLife and how close I can get to the quality of the images I shoot with my DSLR. This juvenile wonderpus was sitting on a palm leaf, a very nice subject to be tested. The dive was done near Anilao, Philippines, with Crystal Blue Resort and the support of photographer Mike Bartick."

19. Second Place in Compact Camera: Marcelo Johan Ogata

Location: Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Marcelo Johan Ogata
Note from the photographer:
"Have you ever had the feeling that a fish could be laughing at you? The funniest thing about this dive was that it took me ages to realize there was a porcupinefish inside the barrel sponge! I had my eyes glued on the sponge, looking for hairy squat lobsters, and only after a while did I see this camouflaged guy moving away from my camera with a smile on his face!"

20. Third Place in Wide-Angle: Raffaele Livornese

Location: Baja California, Mexico

2020 Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest Winners Raffaele Livornese
Note from the photographer:

"I took this picture last October in Baja California. It was my first time there, so it took a few days to get more confidence with the sea and the animals that live there. I was very lucky because at that time a lot of sardines were schooling there, so the sea lions were constantly playing and hunting them. To take this picture I was hovering at a shallow depth for a long time, looking for the right moment to push the button. When it arrived, I saw the two sea lions swimming first away, then toward each other. The sardines moved in the same way to escape the hunt, so they drew two lines like parallel waves, and I got it."

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