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Sharks, shipwrecks and a lake full of jellyfish dazzle in underwater photo contest

During the coronavirus pandemic, underwater photographers found quieter, less crowded seascapes.

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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

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1 of 28 Renee Capozzola/UPY 2021

Sharks at sunset

Sea birds soar overhead as reef sharks swim in a tranquil corner of the Pacific Ocean off the island of Moorea. American Renee Capozzola made many attempts to capture just the right image of the sharks, and apparently succeeded -- this image won her the title of Underwater Photographer of the Year for 2021. See 27 more award-winning images in our gallery.

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2 of 28 Pasquale Vassallo/UPY 2021

Net negative

Italian Pasquale Vassallo captured this image of a small fish tangled inside a yellow plastic net. The discarded plastic takes hundreds of years to break down. The image was named the runner-up in the conservation category.

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3 of 28 Mark Kirkland/UPY 2021

Ribbiting image

Photographer Mark Kirkland spent 25 hours over four nights lying in mud in Glasgow, Scotland, hoping for just the right image of the common frogs he found there. He won the contest's new My Backyard Award, introduced to show that underwater photography can still thrive when many photographers are forced to stay close to home due to the global pandemic.

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4 of 28 SJ Alice Bennett/UPY 2021

Underwater cave

SJ Alice Bennett was praised for this image, taken underwater near Tulum, Mexico, for capturing a spirit of adventure while combining "incredible lighting and shallow depth of field." It won first place in the up and coming underwater photographer category.

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5 of 28 Sandra Stalker/UPY 2021

Pretty in pink

British photographer Sandra Stalker says she loves little gobies and their grumpy faces. To make this one stand out, she lit it with a colored filter and a strobe, "excited by the contrast of the vibrant pink to the glumness of the face." It claimed third place in the British waters, compact category.

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6 of 28 Sandra Stalker/UPY 2021

Hanging on

The little gobie in the previous photo wasn't the only winner from British photographer Sandra Stalker.  She also won runner-up honors in the British waters, compact category, for her photograph of a tiny stalked jellyfish clinging to a weed, taken in Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, England.

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7 of 28 Ian Wade/UPY 2021

Swan lake

British photographer Ian Wade attracted the attention of this curious mute swan by attaching a weight to a GoPro camera and tossing it into a lake in St. George Park, Bristol, England. The image won the British waters, compact category.

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8 of 28 Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2021

Wreck dive

British photographer Kirsty Andrews took this photo while diving one of her favorite shipwrecks, that of the SS Hispania in the Sound of Mull, off the coast of Scotland. It won first place in the British waters, living together category.

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9 of 28 Atanas Petrov/UPY 2021

Crabby couple

British photographer Atanas Petrov took this photograph during a dive on the SS Rosalie, a wreck off the coast of Weybourne, England. Petrov believes the two crabs had just mated and the male on the top was protecting the female underneath until her exoskeleton hardens. It was named runner-up in the British waters, living together category.

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10 of 28 Malcolm Nimmo/UPY 2021

Here's looking at you

This variable blenny, seen swimming in England's Plymouth Sound, was standing out proud on a reef ledge, British photographer Malcolm Nimmo says. The image won first place in the British waters, macro category.

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11 of 28 Dan Bolt/UPY 2021

Colorful pair

The fish in the background, a corkwing wrasse, was busy building a nest under England's Swanage Pier, while the colorful nudibranch was making its way along a nearby piece of kelp. British photographer Dan Bolt waited until both were just in the right spot before taking this photograph. It took third place in the British waters, macro category.

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12 of 28 Kirsty Andrews/UPY 2021

Seal of approval

British photographer Kirsty Andrews took third place in the British waters, wide angle category for her image of this curious grey seal taken off the coast of the Farne Islands, in Northumberland, England.

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13 of 28 Ryohei Ito/UPY 2021

Ray of light

Japanese photographer Ryohei Ito was named the runner-up in the up and coming category for this impressive photograph of a manta ray swimming off the Maldives.

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14 of 28 Danny Lee - Submerged Images Tasmania/UPY 2021

Floating away

Australian Danny Lee won third place in the up and coming category for this image of an albatross floating in the Bay of Fires, Tasmania.

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15 of 28 Isaías Cruz/UPY 2021

Spanish ray

This pelagic ray swam right up to photographer Isaías Cruz in the waters of Spain's Basque Country. The image won him third place in the compact category.

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16 of 28 ManBd/UPY 2021

Like a rainbow

Colors are everywhere in this photo of a hairy panda goby swimming off Indonesia, taken by Malaysian photographer ManBd. It scored a runner-up award in the compact category.

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17 of 28 Jack Berthomier/UPY 2021

Golden hour

Jack Berthomier of New Caledonia won first place in the compact category for this image of a New Caledonian carp swimming against a colorful background.

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18 of 28 Ryohei Ito/UPY 2021

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Japanese photographer Ryohei Ito won the portrait category for this image of the quirky Asian sheepshead wrasse, which changes sex from female to male and develops a large bump on its head as it ages.

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19 of 28 Michael Gallagher/UPY 2021

Underwater angel

British photographer Michael Gallagher won third place in the portrait category for this image of a French angelfish he spotted whilst scuba diving at Salt Pier in Bonaire in the Caribbean.

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20 of 28 Karim Iliya/UPY 2021

Night of the hunter

A striped marlin hunts for a meal in this photograph by American Karim Iliya, taken off the coast of Mexico. It won first place in the behavior category.

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21 of 28 JingGong Zhang/UPY 2021

Fight night

The two chaenopsid blennies shown here are fighting -- rare for their species, Chinese photographer JingGong Zhan says. The fish usually keep to themselves but are known to fight fiercely for a mate during breeding season. This image won the runner-up prize in the behavior category.

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22 of 28 Tobias Friedrich/UPY 2021

Wrecked world

This stunning photo took first place in the wrecks category. German Tobias Friedrich took this photo near Nassau, Bahamas. The ship's bow is hanging almost completely over a sandy overhang.

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23 of 28 Grant Thomas/UPY 2021

Tanks for the memories

This image won the runner-up honor in the wrecks category. British photographer Grant Thomas took it off the coast of Aqaba, Jordan. The tank didn't meet a tragic wartime end -- instead, it's part of a huge array of military hardware that's been purposely sunk for divers to enjoy.

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24 of 28 Renee Capozzola/UPY 2021

Golden Hour at the Georgios

American Renee Capozzola took third place in the wrecks category for this photograph of the Georgios shipwreck in Neom, Saudi Arabia. The crude oil tanker became stranded on a shallow coral reef one night in 1978 and then caught on fire. Some locals refer to this site as the "Saudi Titanic."

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25 of 28 Chien-Ting Hou/UPY 2021

Hitchhiking creatures

Chien-Ting Hou took third place in the macro category for this eerie image. It shows a jellyfish with two bugs grabbing a free ride.

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26 of 28 Steven Kovacs/UPY 2021

Glorious display

This one-inch larval lionfish briefly flared its fins, just in time for American Steven Kovacs to snap its photo off Palm Beach, Florida. It won the runner-up award in the macro category.

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27 of 28 Galice Hoarau/UPY 2021

Horsing around

This pygmy seahorse image, taken by Norwegian Galice Hoarau in Indonesia, won first place in the macro category.

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28 of 28 Oleg Gaponyuk/UPY 2021

Jellyfish soup

Millions of jellyfish reportedly gather in this lake in Palau. Russian photographer Oleg Gaponyuk won third place in the wide-angle category for this image.

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