Photos: 2011's top underwater shots

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  1. Seeing double

    An unusual photograph of two see-through goby fish, each no bigger than an inch, is this year's overall winner in the 2011 Annual Underwater Photography Contest, hosted by the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. German photographer Tobias Friedrich captured the view during a dive near Marsa Alam in Egypt. More than 600 pictures were entered in the contest, from photographers representing 20 countries. (Tobias Friedrich) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Can you see the seahorse?

    British photographer Michael Gallagher took first place in the macro photography category for this closeup of a well-camouflaged pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus bargibanti). These creatures measure roughly an inch in length, and typically hides among Western Pacific sea fans. (Michael Gallagher) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Ablaze with color

    A colorful nudibranch (Cratena peregrina) floats in waters off the Catalonian coast, as seen in this picture from Spain's Jordi Benitez. The photograph won second place in the macro category. (Jordi Benitez) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Odd couple

    A nudibranch and a mantis shrimp sit side by side off Bali's Seraya Beach. The photograph of the odd couple, taken by Malaysia's Erika Antoniazzo, won third place in the macro category. (Erika Antoniazzo) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Public display of affection

    Two mating cuttlefish have an audience in the waters of the Oosterschelde estuary in the Netherlands. The photo by Belgium's Luc Rooman took first place in the 2011 Underwater Photography Contest's wide-angle category. (Luc Rooman) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A riot of red

    Cardinal fish swarm around a sting ray in the Canary Island's Atlantic waters. Spanish photographer David Barrio Colongues' picture won second place in the wide-angle category. (David Barrio Colongues) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Bunches of barracuda

    The Sudanese Red Sea teems with barracuda fish, as seen in this photography by Ireland's Jackie Campbell. The photo won third place in the wide-angle category. (Jackie Campbell) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Magic mushroom?

    That's no mushroom ... it's a jellyfish from Florida's Lake Worth Lagoon, photographed by Steven Kovacs. The Floridian's picture won first place in the category for portraits of fish and marine animals. (Steven Kovacs) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Smile for the camera

    You can almost see a smile on the face of this web burrfish (Chilomycterus antillarum), which was photographed by Florida's Susan Mears at Lake Worth Lagoon. This is the second-place winner in the portrait category. (Susan Mears) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Reflecting pool

    This view of a frog at the surface of a lake in Belgium won third place in the portrait category for Belgian photographer Luc Rooman. (Luc Rooman) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Filefish in Fiji

    The University of Miami's Laura Rock made a clean sweep of the student category in the 2011 Underwater Photography Contest. This first-place photograph shows an orange spotted filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris) amid Fiji's Yasawa Islands. (Laura Rock) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Sharkingly beautiful

    Laura Rock's picture of a whale shark (Rhincodon typus) at Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef took second place in the student category. (Laura Rock) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Clean sweep

    A blue striped cleaner wrasse can be seen at far left, cleaning an Emperor angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator) in the Yasawa Islands of Fiji. This picture, also by Laura Rock, won third place in the student category. (Laura Rock) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Tobias Friedrich
    Above: Slideshow (13) 2011's top underwater shots
  2. Julian Finn / Museum Victoria
    Slideshow (23) Wonders from the Census of Marine Life
updated 4/21/2011 7:26:13 PM ET 2011-04-21T23:26:13

A fleeting encounter of two translucent goby fish has won the top prize at the 2011 Annual Underwater Photography Contest, hosted by the University of Miami.

The winning photograph was of two tiny gobies, no bigger than an inch, spotted on a dive near Marsa Alam on Egypt's Red Sea coast. The sea creatures' quick get-together was captured by Tobias Friedrich of Germany.

"I spotted the first goby and set up my camera for a close angle," Friedrich said. "Slowly I was approaching the small fish so that it could fill out the picture a bit more. When I was ready for the shot, surprisingly, a second goby came out of nowhere and placed itself on top of the first one."

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Friedrich quickly snapped a couple of shots before the second goby disappeared seconds later, he said.

A panel of experts judged more than 600 photos from 20 countries. The judges included husband-and-wife underwater photographers Myron and Nicole Wang, marine biologist Michael Schmale of the University of Miami, and professional photographer Brian Call.

"The winning photograph has it all … color, balance and symmetry. The translucent goby are just spectacular!" said Myron Wang.

Winners were also announced on Wednesday in other categories, including fish or marine animal portrait, macro, wide angle and best University of Miami student photo. The winning photos include a pygmy seahorse, a pack of barracudas, a web burrfish and other freaky sea creatures. See the winning images here.

The underwater photography contest is held annually, and is open to all amateur photographers who earn no more than 20 percent of their income from their photography. The winning prize is a trip on Blackbeard's Cruises departing from Freeport, Bahamas.

© 2012 OurAmazingPlanet. All rights reserved. More from OurAmazingPlanet.

Explainer: 10 secrets of the deep ocean

  • Mark Spear / Woods Hole Oceanogr

    The oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth's surface, yet their depths remain largely unknown. It's a frontier that scientists are racing to explore using tools such as the deep-ocean submersible Alvin, shown here. Click the "Next" arrow above to learn about 10 deep-ocean secrets that have come to light.

  • Deep-ocean octopuses have Antarctic origins

    Image: Megaleledon setebos
    Census of Marine Life

    Many deep ocean octopuses trace their origins back to relatives that swam in the waters around Antarctica. The migration began about 30 million years ago when the continent cooled and large ice sheets grew, forcing octopuses there into ever deeper waters. The climate shift also created a northbound flow of deep, cold water that carried the cephalopods to new habitats. As they adapted to new niches, new species evolved. Many lost their defensive ink sacs because the pitch-black ocean depths required no camouflage screen. The species known as Megaleledon setebos, shown here, is the closest living relative of the deep-sea octopuses' common ancestor.

  • 'Brittlestar City' found on undersea mountain

    Census Of Marine Life  /  AP

    The orange and red starfish relatives called brittlestars have managed to defy the odds and colonize the flanks of a giant, underwater peak on the Macquarie Ridge, an 870-mile-long underwater mountain range that stretches south from New Zealand to just short of the Antarctic Circle. The peak, known as a seamount, juts up into a swirling circumpolar current that flows by at 2.5 miles per hour, delivering ample food for the brittlestars to grab while sweeping away fish and other would-be predators. Another brittlestar species has settled on the seamount's flat summit, a habitat normally settled by corals and sponges.

  • Deep Antarctic waters, cradle of marine life

    Wiebke Brokeland / GCMB

    This pale crustacean from the genus Cylindrarcturus is one of more than 700 species new to science found scurrying, scampering and swimming in the frigid waters between 2,000 and 21,000 feet below the surface of the Weddell Sea off Antarctica. The discoveries were part of a research project to determine how species at different depths are related to each other there, and to other creatures around the world. "The Antarctic deep sea is potentially the cradle of life of the global marine species," team leader Angelika Brandt, an expert from the Zoological Institute and Zoological Museum at the University of Hamburg, said in a statement announcing the discoveries.

  • Northernmost black smokers discovered

    Credit: Center for Geobiology/U. of Bergen

    Scientists working deep inside the Arctic Circle have discovered a cluster of five hydrothermal vents, also known as black smokers, which spew out liquid as hot as 570 degrees Fahrenheit. The vents are 120 miles further north than the closest known vents, which tend to occur where the seafloor spreads apart at a quicker pace. This image shows the arm of a remotely operated vehicle reaching out to sample fluids billowing from the top three feet of the tallest vent, which reaches four stories off the seafloor. The chimney is covered with white bacteria that feast on the freshly delivered minerals.

  • Black smoker fossils hint at life's beginnings

    Timothy Kusky / Gondwana Research

    The discovery of primitive bacteria on 1.43 billion-year-old black-smoker fossils – a crosscut is shown here – unearthed from a Chinese mine adds weight to the idea that life may have originated in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, according to geologist Timothy Kusky at Saint Louis University. The ancient microbe dined on metal sulfide that lined the fringes of the chimneys. The oldest-known life forms on Earth are 3.5 billion-year-old clumps of bacteria found in Western Australia. That find suggested that shallow seas, not the deep oceans, were the birthplace of life. Neither discovery, however, serves as the definitive answer about life's origins.

  • Microbes feast on ocean-bottom crust

    Image: Basalt rocks

    Once thought barren and sparsely populated, the deep-ocean floor is home to rich and diverse communities of bacteria. In fact, scientists have found that the seafloor contains three to four times more bacteria than the waters above, raising the question of how the organisms survive. Lab analyses suggest that chemical reactions with the rocks themselves provide the fuel for life. The discovery is another tantalizing hint that life could have originated in the ocean depths. In a statement about the find, the University of Southern California's Katrina Edwards said: "I hope that people turn their heads and notice: There's life down there."

  • Where do deep-sea fish go to spawn?

    Harbor Branch / E.widder

    Life in the dark, cold and vast depths of the sea was long thought to be lonely for the few fish that dared eke out an existence there, mostly from organic detritus that sinks from shallower waters. That picture began to change in 2006, when researchers probing the Mid-Atlantic Ridge discovered that fishes may occasionally gather at features such as seamounts to spawn. The evidence for these gatherings comes from the sheer volume of fish collected at seamounts – much higher than would have been expected if the fish were purely nomadic wanderers. What's more, images made from acoustical "scatterings" are suggestive of a massive fish aggregation. The 35-pound anglerfish shown here is one of the rare species hauled up from the deep during the project.

  • Colossal squid has, well, colossal eyes

    Image: New Zealand colossal squid
    Ross Setford  /  AP

    What did you expect? Would a colossal squid have anything but eyes big enough to generate a few over-the-top superlatives? Probably not - but still, when researchers thawed out this squid in New Zealand, the wow factor was undeniable. The creature's eye measured about 11 inches across; its lens was the size of an orange. Scientists suspect the big eye allows the huge squid to capture a lot of light in the dark depths in which it hunts. The squid weighed about 1,000 pounds when caught in the Antarctic's Ross Sea and measured 26 feet long. Scientists believe the species, which can descend to 6,500 feet, may grow as long as 46 feet.

  • Deep-sea corals record history

    Image: Scuba divers collect coral samples
    Rob Dunba  /  Stanford University

    Some coral reefs are found thousands of feet below the ocean surface, where they have grown amid frigid waters for millennia. Like tree rings, they serve as a faithful archive of global environmental change, according to Robert Dunbar, a professor of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University. His team travels the world to collect samples of these corals, such as this one from a colony near Easter Island. In 2007, the team published a 300-year archive of soil erosion in Kenya, as recorded by coral samples collected from the bottom of the Indian Ocean. They are now analyzing 4,000-year-old corals discovered off Hawaii to create an archive of climate change.

  • Trawling destruction visible from space

    Sky Truth

    Some scientists are working urgently to expose more secrets of the deep ocean before unexplored treasures are plundered. Their biggest concern is the fishing practice known as bottom trawling. This image shows the billowing plumes of sediment left in the wake of trawlers dragging giant nets across the ocean floor in the Gulf of Mexico. The practice has been shown to strip coral reefs bare and ravage underwater ecosystems such as seamounts, where thousands of species are known to gather. Though the practice is increasingly restricted, tens of thousands of trawlers continue to ply the deep oceans.


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