These Stunning Photos Celebrate the Strange Magic of Our Oceans

The winners of the most recent Ocean Photography Awards are utterly mesmerizing

Jack Shepherd
Published in
6 min readMar 1, 2021


A photograph of a shark with bared teeth swimming in clear, gradient blue ocean water, another shark appears in the background
Photo: Tanner Mansell. All photos courtesy of Ocean Photography Awards

Vast, inaccessible, and astonishingly beautiful, the ocean can often feel like an alien place, full of danger and enchantment in equal parts. This makes the achievements of photographers who are able to shine a light on this part of our world all the more impressive, as they draw attention to the threats that the ocean faces, reveal its hidden beauty, and bring us face to face with its fascinating inhabitants.

The recently announced winners of the Ocean Photography Awards, organized by Oceanographic Magazine, are truly incredible achievements in this field. Seven major awards were granted, in categories for Ocean Conservation, Ocean Exploration, Ocean Adventure, Community Choice, Collective Portfolio, and Youth Photography, and six overall winners were announced out of the more than 3,000 submissions. The first place winner is a breathtaking shot of teeming life in the waters off of Baja, California, by Nadia Aly. Other recognized photos highlight the remoteness, the strangeness, and the sheer magic of the sea, each one mesmerizing in its own way. Here’s a selection of the most powerful images.


First Place. An aggregation of mobula rays in clear waters off Baja California Sur, Mexico. Photo: Nadya Aly.
Runner-Up. Between two realms. A surfer seemingly waves to the world below as he surfs a wave at Log Cabins, Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Sacha Specker.
Third Place. A rare white southern right whale photographed off Puerto Pirámides, Argentina. Photo: Magnus Lundborg.

Ocean Adventure

Winner. A freediving instructor waits for their student to return from a dive below Cenote Angelita’s microbial cloud. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Photo: Jason Gulley.
Runner-Up. Two sharks surf a wave at Red Bluff, Quobba Station, in remote Western Australia. Photo: Sean Scott.



Jack Shepherd

I have a newsletter about crossword puzzles and a podcast about rom-coms. Formerly editorial director @BuzzFeed. Email: JackAShepherd at gmail