• The Through Your Lens underwater photo contest is developed and produced by Scuba Diving Magazine.
  • The 2020 competition received 2,636 entries, the most in its 16-year history.
  • The grand prize-winning photo features a whale shark with a mouthful of remoras.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Underwater photography requires patience, endurance, and split-second timing to capture fast-moving creatures on film.

This week, Scuba Diving Magazine's Through Your Lens underwater photo contest announced the winners of its 2020 competition, recognizing outstanding achievements in wildlife photography beneath the waves.

Out of 2,636 entries — the most in the contest's 16-year history — here are 12 award-winning images.

During a night dive in the Sea of Japan, Andrey Shpatak captured this photo of a colourful cuttlefish that earned an honorable mention.

"Sepiola birostrata is one of two species of cuttlefish resident in the northern Sea of Japan," Shpatak wrote. "During the day, it hides on the sandy bottom and can be found only by chance. But at night it goes hunting. Despite their small size (around an inch), these cuttlefish are predators, catching shrimps and crabs. There are usually a lot of them in July, above the sandy bottom, at depths from 15 to 40 feet. I managed to meet this beauty during a night dive. Its color was simply gorgeous."

Martina Andres encountered an oceanic whitetip shark while diving in the Red Sea. Her magical photo earned an honourable mention.

"As a diver, you will never forget your first big shark," Andres wrote. "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."

Marc Henauer also won an honourable mention with a photo of this otherworldly underwater cave in Amorgos Island, Greece.

Location: Amorgos Island, Greece.

"This image was taken in Greece, on Amorgos Island," Henauer wrote. "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."

Third place in the behaviour category went to Thomas Van Puymbroeck, who was on his honeymoon when he saw a stingray in the silt.

"This shot was taken in very shallow water," Van Puymbroeck wrote. "While on our 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."

In the compact category, Enrico Somogyi's photo of a goby and a lionfish in a beer bottle took third place.

Location: Anilao, the Philippines.

"While diving in Anilao, the macro capital of the Philippines, my spotter showed me a seemingly empty beer bottle in the sand," Somogyi wrote. "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."

In third place in the wide-angle category, Raffaele Livornese photographed sea lions over a school of sardines.

Location: Baja California, Mexico.

"I took this picture last October in Baja California," Livornese wrote. "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."

Marc Henauer worked hard to capture this shot of a shipwreck in Greece, and his effort paid off with second place in the wide-angle category.

Location: Amorgos Island, Greece.

"The Olympia shipwreck can be seen in the 1988 Luc Besson movie 'The Big Blue,'" Henauer wrote. "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."

In first place in the macro category, Jeffrey Haines photographed a seahorse hiding in clumps of sargassum.

Location: West Palm Beach, Florida.

"You never know what you are going to find when you go on a black-water dive," Haines wrote. "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."

Jules Casey's photo of a shorthead seahorse holding on to a pipefish in Port Phillip Bay, Australia, won first place in the behaviour category.

Location: Port Phillip Bay, Australia.

"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," Casey wrote. "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."

Martin Strmiska's photo of a diver enveloped in rays of light won first place in the wide-angle category.

Location: Puerto Morelos, Mexico.

"On the surface at the cenote's entrance, I had no idea what sort of space lay beneath the small pool," Strmiska wrote. "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."

Tobias Friedrich won first place in the compact camera category by photographing a vibrant wonderpus on a palm leaf in the Philippines.

Location: Anilao, Philippines.

"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," Friedrich wrote. "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."

Evans Baudin won the grand prize with this in-your-face photo of a whale shark carrying dozens of suckerfish in Baja California, Mexico.

Location: Baja California, Mexico.

"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," Baudin wrote. "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 (40-foot) female. The surprise was twofold when I discovered about 50 remoras peacefully enjoying a free ride in her mouth!"

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