We won't lie — the underwater photo contest is one of our favorite issues to produce here at Scuba Diving magazine. With this year's reader photo contest, you've blown us away. For the 13th year, we've asked underwater shooters of all skill levels to submit their best work to the Through Your Lens photography competition, and we marvel at how many beautiful images you all have shared. Pick a photo —any photo — and it could have been a contender; imagine how we felt trying to narrow them down from more than 2,500 entries to the dozen or so winners you see here.
Our contest is divided into four categories — Wide-Angle, Macro, Conceptual and Compact Camera — with an additional grand-prize overall winner. We hope you enjoy this amazing compilation of the underwater worlds we hold so dearly, and we hope that you'll submit your best photos to the 2018 contest.
Grand Prize Winner
"Into the waters off the island of Noss in Shetland, Scotland I was surrounded by thousand of gannet birds feeding frenzy mackerel fishes. Plunging from between ten and fifteen meters above the water they reach up to one-hundred-kilometers per hour when they hit the surface. To catch their meal, they dive until 15 meters deep. I can hear them as they hit the water and then appearing in front of the camera. Regardless of the abundance of prey, competition between gannets is always going occur as when a gannet dives this indicates to the other gannets to dive creating several gannets diving for the same fish. Witnessing this behavior is something incredible and will remain engraved in my memory."
Location: Noss Island, Shetland, Scotland
Camera Gear: Nikon D7200, Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X107 AF DX Fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, two Ikelite DS160 strobes
Settings: f/11, 1/320 sec, ISO 200
WIDE-ANGLE PHOTOGRAPHY WINNERS
First Place Wide-Angle
"Last year I went to Tavarua, Fiji to do some surf photography with pro surfer Donavon Frankenreiter. When I discovered that Tonga was only a couple hours away, I called my travel agent to see about rerouting my trip last minute. It was highly recommended to have a reputable guide in place, but I figured I was so close that I had to take the chance. As luck would have it I caught the tail end of a group that had some guests depart early freeing up a spot for me. I had no idea what I was in for, but I had the shots in my head that I wanted to get and this was one of them. I was photographing the mom when this calf came from behind and breached right beside me. It was an experience I will never forget."
Location: Vavau, Tonga
Camera Gear: Nikon D800, Nikon AF FX fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/2.8D lens, Ikelite housing
Settings: f/22, 1/200 sec, ISO 320
Second Place, Wide-Angle
"When a wave breaks on a reef, it becomes a beachcomber. The underwater view offers incredible scenery, like a thunderstorm. Long Island is located on the Tropic of Cancer in the Atlantic Ocean; the contrast between the rough conditions on its windward side and the quiet ones on its lee coast is astounding. This area is a shallow lagoon separated from the ocean by a barrier reef. When we arrived to take pictures of freediving, the sea seemed to have been unleashed. It was very difficult to cross the reef because of the strong waves; we approached and attempted to pass to the other side underwater. It was impossible because the waves were too strong, but we discovered an incredible underwater show."
Location: Mangrove Bush, Long Island, Bahamas
Camera Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens, Subal DP-FE4 dome port housing
Settings: f/7, 1/200 sec, ISO 50
Third Place, Wide-Angle
"I’m always excited about our annual winter trip to dive with the local Steller sea lions off Hornby Island. These big pups know their diver toys well. Oh boy, do they get excited when they see us approaching their rock! We went out early that day, and the sun rose up into a cloudless blue sky. I was greeted in the water by several sea lions eager to investigate me. This was one of my first shots that day — and one of my favorites."
Location: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada
Camera Gear: Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens, Nauticam housing, two Sea&Sea YS-120 strobes
Settings: f/10, 1/320 sec, ISO 100
COMPACT CAMERA PHOTOGRAPHY WINNERS
First Place, Compact Camera
"At the end of a muck dive in Lembeh Strait, I found this incredibly photogenic coconut octopus sitting on the black-sand bottom right next to my dive boat at a depth of just 13 feet. What looks like nighttime was a sunny afternoon dive — my setup and settings allowed me to get the photo exactly the way I wanted. To get close enough to the subject, I used a wide-angle wet lens with a single snooted strobe for lighting from the top. You’d think the octopus was posing for me; in fact, I was lucky enough to capture a beautiful moment while it was getting ready for an escape. Five seconds before the shot, the octopus was hiding in between its shells. Five seconds later, it was already rushing away from me."
Location: Lembeh Strait, Indonesia
Camera Gear: Canon PowerShot G7X, Fantasea BigEye M67 Mark II lens, Isotta GX7 housing, Inon S-2000 strobe with Inon snoot
Settings: f/11, 1/400 sec, ISO 125
Second Place, Compact Camera
"We came across some jellyfish while snorkeling off Torrent de Pareis beach in Mallorca, Spain. The jellyfish were around 4 to 6 inches in size, so I put my camera in macro mode and used the internal flash. I tried diving under the jellyfish to get a shot with the subject and the sun; the first attempts didn’t really work, but I noticed the beautiful sun rays. I was determined to get the jellyfish directly in front of the sun for the classic shot. I must have tried about 40 times before finally getting the composition I was after."
Location: Torrent de Pareis, Mallorca, Spain
Camera Gear: Olympus Tough TG-4
Settings: f/9, 1/2000 sec, ISO 100
Third Place, Compact Camera
"A small river just over a mile from my home in Altomonte, Italy, is my refuge when I need the silence and tranquility of being surrounded by nature. Walking in the riverbed looking for some interesting subjects to photograph, I saw this little crab a few inches below the surface. I was able to shoot it at a very close distance — less than an inch — with a fisheye lens. We often have interesting subjects just a few steps away from us, accessible without having to go very far."
Location: Altomonte, Cosenza, Italy
Camera Gear: Nikon Coolpix P7000, Fantasea BigEye lens, Nikonos SB-105 Underwater Speedlight with fiber-optic cable and a homemade snoot
Settings: f/8, 1/160 sec, ISO 100
MACRO PHOTOGRAPHY WINNERS
First Place, Macro Photography
"It was a day for macro photography on the Pacific coast of Ecuador. I had decided to shoot small animals and prepared my whole kit for macro. As often in these parts, I met a wonderful, huge green sea turtle resting on the bottom. It was absolutely not afraid of my presence, and it let me approach closely without moving. My first reaction was, “Oh, why did I put on a macro lens?” And then I noticed a small cleaner fish turning around the head of the old mama turtle. Sometimes the fish swam really close to the turtle’s eye, so I decided to immortalize this moment with a picture."
Location: Islote El Pelado, Ayangue, Ecuador
Camera Gear: Nikon D7000, Nikon AF-S DX Micro Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G ED VR lens, Nauticam housing, two Subtronic Pro 160 strobes
Settings: f/13, 1/125 sec, ISO 200
Second Place, Macro Photography
"This photo was taken in Lembeh Strait, the underwater macro capital of Indonesia. The normal habitat of ribbon eels is the coastal reef and crest, normally in clear water between 10 and 200 feet deep. Usually they remain hidden in their small holes or caves, timidly inching their heads outside. They can show two color combinations: blue and yellow or black and yellow. This species has been photographed on many occasions, but rarely out in the open. That is what made this moment so special to me."
Location: Lembeh Strait, Indonesia
Camera Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 100mm f/2 macro lens, Inon Z-240 strobe, Seacam housing
Settings: f/11, 1/200 sec, ISO 100
Third Place, Macro Photography
"I took this photo during a solo dive in the middle of the night. For a long time, I had wanted to photograph a squid at night. I was swimming in a lagoon on Mayotte, a small French island near Madagascar, for only two minutes before I came face to face with this squid. I immediately saw that it had a small fish between its tentacles. It was a perfect subject for me because it did not move. I was also able to take some pictures while playing with its surface reflection. A squid with a mouthful ... bon appétit."
Location: Mayotte, Indian Ocean
Camera Gear: Canon EOS 5DS, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, Subal housing, two Subtronic Nova strobes
Settings: f/18, 1/100 sec, ISO 200
CONCEPTUAL PHOTOGRAPHY WINNERS
First Place, Conceptual Photography
"The idea came together with my friend Catalin Craciun, an underwater photographer, freedive instructor and my model. The image was taken at a depth of 25 to 40 feet. We wanted to convey that freediving isn’t only about going up and down on a rope, but it’s also about being natural underwater, exploring the underwater world in the purest way, without any equipment, relying only on your natural abilities. The challenge was to get a good photo; poor viz made it difficult, so I shot without strobe, using daylight and the Auto Magic Filter developed by Dr. Alex Mustard and Peter Rowlands."
Location: Barracuda Lake, Palawan, Philippines
Camera Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark lll, Sea&Sea MDX housing, Tokina 10-17 lens with Auto Magic Filter
Settings: f8, 1/80sec, ISO 800
Second Place, Conceptual Photography
"It’s typical to see groups of rays around the wrecks and reefs of the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Lately the ocean has seemed a bit more empty. I saw this one alone, off in the blue. Initially my intent was to go the opposite way with the background, but I opted to increase exposure and contrast for the final image with the white background. I wanted to really convey how isolated many species have become due to overfishing and bycatch."
Location: Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Camera Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 8-15mm lens, Subal housing
Settings: f/9, 1/250 sec, ISO 100
Third Place, Conceptual Photography
"There are many pictures of anemonefish tending to their eggs, but I wanted to shoot something different. At Seraya Secrets in Bali, Indonesia, I used a Retra Light-Shaping Device to backlight the eggs, highlighting only a small crescent. As the fish came to tend to its eggs, I focused on the interaction of the fin across the surface, using the backlight to its full effect."
Location: Seraya Secrets, Bali, Indonesia
Camera Gear: Nikon D3S, Nikon 105mm f2.8G AF-S VR lens, Seacam housing, Ikelite 161 strobe, Retra Underwater-Technology Light Shaping Device
Settings: f36, 1/160 sec, ISO 320
Without your remarkable contributions, we could not continue our support of this contest and the photographers who inspire us.