Photo gallery: The underwater wonders of the UK's seas

Mark Kirkland – Basking Shark
Image (c) Mark Kirkland

​The Marine Conservation Society shares a selection of ocean photography showcasing the incredible animals on the UK's shores

From the Jurassic Coast of Dorset to the northernmost waters of Scotland, there is a huge array of incredible landscapes and animals beneath the water’s surface in the UK for swimmers to see.

Here the Marine Conservation Society gathers some of the amazing ocean imagery capturing the wonders of UK seas by talented photographers and divers around the country.

How many have you seen?

Kirsty Andrews Grey Seals

Grey seals in surge, taken at Eilean Cluimhrig, Loch Eriboll, Scotland, UK.

The story: The Grey seals on the North coast of Scotland are not as accustomed to divers as in some UK locations, but it was fun to watch them enjoying themselves at a distance. They were far more comfortable in the surging waves than I was, as I clung on to kelp to capture this photo.

Photographer: Kirsty Andrews

Kevin Morgans – Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin, Fair Isle, Shetland.

The story:When photographing an animal, eye contact is a critical component, allowing your viewer to connect with the image. This image breaks many of the traditional rules. The setting sun, the uneasy pose of the puffin and scene all throw up many questions and thoughts. Where is the puffin looking? What is it thinking? What lies beyond the horizon?

Photographer: Kevin Morgans

Mark Kirkland – Basking Shark

Basking shark, Isle of Coll, July 2020.

The story: I've been over to the Island regularly in the last few years to photograph this huge fish as it migrates up the west coast of Scotland. I wanted to do something different from the classic head-on open mouth shot so I had a custom bit of photography gear built to try and take split shots - something that was rarely seen. It was 2 years in the planning and a real technical challenge due to the dark, plankton rich waters but I had a glorious week on the island with multiple dreamy encounters. This shot was taken on the last night, just as the sun was setting.

Photographer: Mark Kirkland

Matt Doggett Bib Or Pouting

Bib or pouting (Trisopterus luscus), Jurassic Coast, Dorset.

The story:Photographing these large shoals can be a challenge as the fish are highly reflective and change direction constantly. One summer I was drifting through crystal clear waters over an area of huge boulders off the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. The boulder tops were covered with red seaweeds, sponges and antenna hydroids. Suddenly I was joined by this small shoal of bib which swam alongside and just in front of me for several minutes. They would often bunch together nicely, allowing me to snap away as we floated along in the gentle current. It's wonderful, relaxing dives like this that give you fond memories of British diving and keep you coming back for more.

Photographer: Matt Doggett

James Lynott – Brown Crab

Brown crab in amongst dense animal turf, Falls of Lora, Loch Etive. 15th August 2020.

The story: Situated at the narrow entrance to Loch Etive, near Oban, the Falls of Lora has a reputation of being a bit of a scary dive. Given that the tide races through creating upwells, whirlpools, and standing waves, it’s easy to understand why. But done at the right time it is an excellent site and easily a favourite shore dive of mine. There is such amazing underwater topography and proliferation of life at this site, there was plenty to admire and photograph. While swimming along one of the gullies this crab caught my eye as it seemed to be comfortably nestled into the yellow breadcrumb sponge and hydroids surrounding it.

Photographer: James Lynott

Alex Mustard Blue Shark

Blue Shark. Penzance, Cornwall, England. 29th September 2020

The story: I’d only seen blue sharks in British waters once before, so was delighted to get the chance on a sunny late-September day in 2020. After a few hours waiting the sharks started arriving, as their numbers built up they became more confident and rewarded me and my buddy with plenty of close passes. This frame of a beautiful female slicing through the autumnal sun was a favourite and stands out because of the blobs of atmospheric lens flare. Blue sharks are sadly the world’s most fished shark, so it was a real treat to see them.

Photographer: Alex Mustard

Dan Bolt Common Sun Star

Common sun star, 8 September 2020, Loch Carron, Wester Ross, Scotland.

The story: I spotted this large Common sun star at the end of a dive in the Loch. It was quite hard to miss, actually! It was on the vertical face of the slip-way I use to enter and exit the water. More often found on the seabed or on reefs, this one spent a few hours snuffling around on the pier, until at the end of my third dive of the day it had totally disappeared... quite a hard trick for such a large and brightly coloured animal!

Photographer: Dan Bolt

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) campaigns for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, and protection of marine life. Through education, community involvement and collaboration, MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual, industry and government action to protect the marine environment. MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the Good Fish Guide as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch. www.mcsuk.org.

01  Cover  April

Issue 48 April 2021

  • Revival! Celebrating our pools and lidos
  • The environmental impact of your swim kit
  • Top tips for returning to swimming after lockdown
  • How to find a wetsuit that fits
  • Legends of the selkies – the myths of underwater folk

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