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Saving Our Oceans

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Published Mar 27, 2017 | View the Assignment | Features Photos From 18 Contributors

    18 photos selected by

    Brian Skerry
    National Geographic Photographer
    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    A baby black-tip reef shark swims through a swarm of silver sprats at lunch time in the lagoon of...

    #silversprats #fish #reefshark #maldives #shareef #shark #dhonfuthu #mirihi

    There is something magical about a great underwater image. Bizarre-looking creatures, a stunning palette of colors, and an ethereal quality of light can be assembled into an especially memorable shot. Such was my experience while editing the ‘Saving Our Oceans’ Your Shot Assignment. While editing these submissions, I was transported not only underwater, but also around the globe. I found myself lingering on specific photos, musing about the difficulty it took to produce them, and then simply enjoying the interpretation of the scene through the photographer’s eye. Even the range of subjects was impressive—from small invertebrates to giant whales, and pretty much everything in between.

    Making photographs under the sea is a special type of wildlife photography with a unique set of challenges. Underwater photographers must place their cameras inside waterproof housings, and they cannot change lenses or media cards. Plus, they can only remain underwater for as long as their air supply lasts. On land, wildlife photographers might wait for hours in a camouflaged blind and use a 600mm lens to photograph some elusive animal or rare behavior, but the underwater photographer must get physically close (usually within a meter or two) and snap the picture within an hour.

    Sometimes whales want to fly , that is how i see their fins with the wings of seagulls in the air...

    #photooftheday #flying #ibelieveicanfly #svalbard #whales

    Editor's Note

    Great moment and framing! The timing is perfect with the birds coming through the frame.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    Due to over fishing and the high demand for shark fin soup, it is estimated that up to 100 millio...

    #saveoursharks #sharks #tahiti #stopsharkfinning #marineconservation

    Editor's Note

    Nice framing, nice split, nice energy.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    One of my favorite subject to shoot in the Southern CA waters, Schooling bait fish on the Eureka ...

    #underwaterphotgraphy #oilrigs #baitball #pier

    Editor's Note

    Fantastic. I love the graphic anchors of the composition - they keep you focused on the motion of the fish. Works on every level - composition, exposure, moment. Also love the pattern, and dispe... More

    Asher Jay
    National Geographic Explorer and Creative Conservationist

    This photo was taken in Zamami Island, Okinawa, South part of Japan. It's famous of huge coral re...

    #zamami #japan #coralreeef #okinawa

    Editor's Note

    It can sometimes be challenging to make a picture that illustrates order in what otherwise might seem to be a chaotic scene, but this picture does it well. The image shows abundance and the connect... More

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    The Bahamas banned commercial fishing of sharks in 2011, and long lining has been banned her for...

    #tigershark #sharks #tiger #tigerbeach #stopsharkfinning #nosoup #bahamas

    Editor's Note

    Lovely composition. Love the stacking of sharks.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    This blue shark had definitively met some humans before. Blue sharks are mostly taken as bycatch,...

    #wildlife #ocean #fishing #southafrica #survivor #underwater #shark #blueshark #hook

    Editor's Note

    Nice blend of natural history and conservation. Image has a nice balance to it in terms of message and composition. I wish that the entire fin was in on the left side, but strong frame.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    Photo taken using a long time tecnique combined with a use of a underwater snoot

    #dive #blue #sea #italy #snoot #seahorse #yellow #underwater #nimar #flash #nikon #slow

    Editor's Note

    Love the pop of motion. Excellent framing.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    The Southern Stingray (Dasyatis americana) is a common companion of divers on the coast of Brazil...

    #southernstingray #water

    Editor's Note

    A haunting quality to this image. Nicely lit, just the right touch to reveal the ray.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    It is highly likely this shark was killed by fisherman shortly after the image was made. I photog...

    #lemon #mangroves #underwater #pup #habitat #shark #action #eleuthera #bahamas

    Editor's Note

    Nice attempt to incorporate topside and underwater. Splits are incredibly challenging to do.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    A young, critically endangered hawksbill turtle looks into my lens just moments after hatching as...

    #hawksbill_turtle #turtle_hatchling #png #critically_endangered

    Editor's Note

    Wonderful moment, beautifully captured! Sharp focus and nicely exposed, this photo tells a story of this hatchlings first experience in the sea. I love the light. Seamlessly blending the light abov... More

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    Banggai cardinalfish are found only in the waters off Sulawesi. They are endangered because of ov...

    #indonesia #endangered #endemic #cardinal_fish #banggai #underwater

    Editor's Note

    Beautiful chaos!

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    While shooting a surf session in the Maldives , a friendly turtle posed for me right when a surfe...

    #crystalclearwaters #prisitne #wildlife #surf #saveourocean #maldives #underwater #nature #turtle

    Editor's Note

    At first glance I missed the surfer, but I was amazed at the sheer force of the wave and in awe of the environment that marine wildlife must navigate. Lots of interesting elements coming together ... More

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    While whale watching out of Monterey Ca. the skipper got a radio alert that a huge school of dolp...

    #dolphins #ocean_mammels

    Editor's Note

    This must have been a magical experience. I like the energy in the image and how you managed to capture multiple dolphins in different stages. I could wish that the lead animal had their head mo... More

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    Puffers died due to oil spill at bay of bengal sea. today i went Kovalam Beach in ECR, i felt ver...

    #watercave

    Editor's Note

    Horrific, but beautifully photographed, making for a compelling scene.

    Brian Skerry
    National Geographic Photographer

    A grey seal is enloying a bubble bath. Helgoland, Germany

    #seal #bath #bubble #sealhelgoland #grey #animal #nature

    Editor's Note

    Nice, but I wish that there was more focus on the face. The body and too much wave take away from the great expression. I would have gone for a tighter shot. This is fun, but I believe tighter w... More

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    Dead mangrove trees standing still and silent during one monsoon. Every year, more trees fall vic...

    #letsexplore #abstract #sea #savingouroceans #borneo #sarawak #trees

    Editor's Note

    I love the soft quality of the light and graphic element of the trees against the background.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    Indian fishermen struggling with raging waves ashore orrissa, India. This morning picture shows t...

    #struggle #fishermen #ocean #fishing #indianbeach #natgeoindia

    Editor's Note

    Great use of light and composition! Love the waves crashing beneath the boat.

    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor

    Most people will never personally experience the underwater treasures captured by marine photographers, which makes sharing that work all the more important. Every other breath we take comes from the sea, so our very existence depends on a healthy ocean. Within these images we see beauty, personality, hardship, and glimpses into another realm. Through these photographs, viewers immerse themselves into stories that matter: a seal playing in the surf, a turtle hatchling making its first swim, a shark slicing through baitfish, or a whale mother nurturing her calf.

    As the assignment progressed, we were amazed at the range of situations and species that were photographed underwater. We expected lots of beach scenes, but were surprised by how many people actually took their cameras underwater. With underwater photography presenting such daunting challenges, we were thrilled that the Your Shot audience embraced those challenges as well as this assignment.

    While editing the photographs, we looked for images that combined light, composition, and behavior. Occasionally we were drawn to frames that were simply graphic, but for the most part, the storytellers in us were looking for those telling moments: the swirl of fish around an artificial reef; fishermen breaking through the morning surf on their way to sea; blacktip reef sharks swimming right below the surface. We looked for photographs that would engage the viewer and create a sense of awe and an awareness of how interdependent we are with the seas. Now, we hope that these photographs will inspire people to care even more about our oceans and the incredible biodiversity within.

    About the Editors
    Brian Skerry
    Brian Skerry
    National Geographic Photographer
    Brian Skerry is a photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998 he has been a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine covering a wide range of subjects and stories. In 2014 he was one of five photographers named as a National Geographic Photography Fellow. In 2015 he ...
    Kathy Moran
    Kathy Moran
    National Geographic Senior Photo Editor
    Kathy Moran is Senior Photo Editor and National Geographic magazine’s first senior editor for natural history projects. A 30-year veteran of the Society, Kathy has produced feature stories about terrestrial and underwater ecosystems since 1990, and she has edited more than 200 stories for the magazine. Her recent projects include ...

    Photographers Published In the Story