Skip to content
For WHOI personnel, vendors, and visitors: COVID-19 Guidelines

Our Ocean in Focus Photography Contest

2020 Winners

We are pleased to share the 2020 Our Ocean In Focus Photography contest winners! We thank all 9k of you for your participation! It was a great success. We also thank our judging panel and the public for helping to choose the finalists. We hope you join us again next year!

Adult Contest

Grand Prize Winner

Nirupam Nigram

A face only a mother could love
Ocean Shores, WA
Wolf eels live most of their adult lives as many humans do - in the same den with a single monogamous partner. Each "wolfie" has an individual personality and many of us Pacific Northwestern divers get to know them quite well over the years. This male eel is particularly friendly and will come out of its den to greet passing divers. I took this photo of my dive buddy Joyce taking a photo of our wolf eel friend. The water was green, but clear which made the conditions perfect for wide angle photography. I took the photo with a Nikon Z7 camera, Nikon 8-15mm fisheye lens, an Ikelite Z7 housing, dual Ikelite DS 161 strobes, and an Ikelite TTL converter which automatically set the exposure from my strobes. Although this wolf eel was friendly, I needed to shoot at 3 frames per second to keep up with his fast pace.

Category Winners


Aurora Lampson

Walrus Play
Amsterdam Island in Spitsbwegen
While observing Walrus from the shore of Amsterdam Island in Spitsbergen, several very curious male walruses kept getting closer. It seemed like they were just as curious of our small group as we were of them. They rolled around in the shallow water for a few minutes playing peek a boo before swimming along the shore and hauling out onto the beach. Such an incredible sight to see. I am very lucky to get such a close view of these big gentle creatures. Taken with my Nikon D850 - Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 at 72mm.


Tom Shlesinger

Fishy Courtship
Gulf of Eilat and Aqaba
A male (upper one) Bluetail trunkfish wooing the female (lower one) in the Gulf of Eilat and Aqaba, northern Red Sea. While snorkeling and freediving, waiting for corals to spawn, I lifted my flashlight towards the open sea that simply looks like black space at night. Suddenly, I noticed a couple of shadows moving rapidly in the distance. I turned my lights off so I can get closer to these shadows without scaring them away. The moon was shining bright that day so once I got closer, I could vaguely see that it’s a couple of fish in the midst of their love dance: The male swimming fast towards the female, bumping into her, pushing and biting, but in the end, they stayed together. An aggressive dance of courtship and mating.

Marine Life

Nancy Arehart

Beauty May Fade, Love is Always
Galápagos Islands
Marine Iguanas are plentiful in the Galápagos Islands, but they are not particularly easy to photograph. They congregate in large groups (called a "mess"), often draping themselves over one another, making it difficult to isolate a subject. On this particular day, while waiting for my panga ride back to the ship, I noticed these two snuggling together on the lava rocks and away from the mess. Scientists often claim that animals do not display emotions, but to me, these two were clearly showing much affection for one another.

Sea Birds

Madeline Camera

First Catch
York, ME
I've always thought that unplanned photo adventures turn out the best. There's something so exciting about having to be creative and observant in an unfamiliar environment. A few years ago I spent a summer in Maine and my favorite thing to do was to just drive along the coast on Route 1 and take side roads. I found so many amazing coves, fisherman shacks, lighthouses, and beaches. I spotted this heron on one of these driving excursions. It was just outside of York, ME near a public dock. The heron was completely unbothered by all of the boats moving about, as it was focused on hunting. It noticed me approach but thankfully decided I wasn't a threat. He stalked around the small cove for nearly an hour with many failed attempts. Finally, his patience (and mine) was rewarded.

Public Choice

Lyrid Meteror Shower

Nick Valentine

Lyrid Meteor Shower at Sea
We were underway in the middle of the Caribbean and the Laird Meteor shower, one of the oldest recorded meteor showers, was going to hit its peak that night in April. Taken off of the bridge wing of the US Flagged Cable Ship Global Sentinel, I set up my camera to take a 2 sec exposure photo in sets of 5 shots. The goal was to “catch” a meteor, which was very difficult due to the roll of the vessel and the interval of the meteors. I was out on the bridge wing for close to 4 hours and took almost 500 photos that night. Searching through the shots afterwards, I was floored to find that this photo had not only "caught" a meteor, but had also remained sharp. Although it was one of the longest nights I had aboard the vessel as the cadet, it sure was one of the most beautiful. (Shot on Sony a7rIII, 24mm f/1.4)

Teen Contest

Grand Prize Winner

Changing Tides

Janna Mantere

Changing Tides
Huntington Beach, CA
I was watching the sunset underneath the pier, and wanted to capture the sunset in a new way. The tide was moving in and out, and I thought I'd capture all of the motion in the water by zooming in and out while taking the photo.

Category Winners

Where Land Meets the Sea

hear me roar

Noah Barber

Hear Me Roar
Galápagos Islands
The story of my follows is as follows. I was on a trip to the Galápagos Islands, and came across a beach covered in sea lions. They kept reading up, and from a distance the way their head were looked like they were roaring. I decided to take a picture of the majestic sight. Turns out however, that the sea lions were just yawning, but hey, you can’t hear that so it just looks like a majestic roar.

Wonderfully Weird

Eel in the Keys

Erick Morales Oyola

Eel of the Keys
Key West, FL

Public Choice

sea horses

Jordan Bridger

Sea Horses
Mechanicsville, VA
My mom and I were driving down the beach when we saw them standing in a line and I knew that it would be a great picture. But I knew it wasn’t complete so I told my mom to wait until the wave crashed so you could see it in the picture.