Ray swims beneath a coralRay swims beneath a coralA large coral frames a colorful ray in this beautifully-composed underwater photo. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

Underwater photography captures mesmerizing marine life

Dive into Israeli photographer Gleb Tolstov's award-winning portfolio.

These aren't your typical underwater photos. Each of Israeli photographer Gleb Tolstov's images captures much more than the subject in question – it clues us in on their personalities, their habitats and ultimately, what makes them beautiful.

With an impressive collection of awards and accolades from the Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition and from UnderwaterPhotography.com, Tolstov's underwater pictures stand out above all the rest. It's his ardent love for nature, his appreciation for marine creatures and his adept diving skills that allow him to capture such striking photos.

Lionfish in school of fishA lionfish is caught in the middle of a school of glassfish. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

With the careful attention Tolstov pays to all of his subjects, it comes as no surprise that he can't pick a favorite. "I love them all," he tells From the Grapevine. "Colorful nudibranchs and shrimp, schools of glass fishes, baracudas, eels, squids, box fishes, crabs ... The list is very long and all of them look very good [in] a picture."

Fish peeking out of hiding spotA fish peeks out from his hiding spot in this perfectly-timed photo. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

We couldn't agree more – so we're sharing some of our favorites!

Transparent shrimpA transparent shrimp is barely visible on Eilat's coral reef. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

Tolstov's favorite dive site in Israel is (of course!) Eilat. The incredible coral reef offers plenty of subjects in a variety of settings, from the vast schools of fish and mysterious shipwrecks for wide-angle shots to the tiny creatures that Tolstov captures with his macro lens.

Fighting eelsEels are caught in an eerie dance-fight in this rare underwater scene. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

Just as important is the clarity of the water. The Red Sea's warm waters are clear and clean, offering a visibility up to 130 feet.

Mandarinfish in Philippine watersMandarinfish do an underwater tango off the coast of the Philippines. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

Photography equipment in hand, Tolstov recently took a diving trip to the Philippines and explored a new underwater environment, where he says he saw coral reefs, sharks, sea horses and even whale sharks.

That's one of the best parts about underwater photography – once you have the equipment and the skills, you can take on any marine environment for photo opportunities.

CuddlefishA cuddlefish scuttles along in the sands off the coast of the Philippines. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

Interested in trying your hand at underwater photography? Tolstov has a few words of wisdom.

"Before you go underwater and try to shoot, you have to know what you want to get [in] a picture," Tolstov explains. "You have to learn the habitat of the animal, its behavior, its natural friends and enemies."

CrabA crab's eyes stand out in this carefully lit underwater portrait. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

That's not all – in order to master underwater photography, you've got to be a skilled diver, Tolstov says. "You have to perfect your diving skills in order not to disturb your photo model and not to harm the environment."

Two bottlenose dolphinsTolstov captures the bubbly personality of bottlenose dolphins. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

Above all, Tolstov says: "You have to love nature. Every creature is wonderful and unique!"

Seahorse portrait A seahorse gets a dramatic portrait, thanks to a ray of light shining through the water. (Photo: © Gleb Tolstov)

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