Sanctuaries At Home! Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest 2020

By Phoebe Landsman

August 2020

To celebrate the beauty of NOAA’s national marine sanctuary system, NOAA is accepting submissions for its annual Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest. This year, in recognizing travel is more difficult than previous years, we have created a new photo contest category, “Sanctuaries at Home.” Winning photos will be featured in Earth is Blue Magazine, Get Into Your Sanctuary recreation magazine, as well as the Earth is Blue social media campaign.

two barracudas over a reef
Two barracudas swim in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Mike Johnson, last year’s 2nd place winner of the Sanctuary Life category.

Sanctuaries at Home: New Photo Contest Category

Drawing of red squid with debris around it and a purple banner that reads'Keep the sea free of debris'.
Artwork by Krishi P, winner of Annual NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest.

This year, we are excited to introduce a new photo contest category: Sanctuaries at Home. While it’s important to get outside, experience nature, and recreate responsibly, we know that many of us are spending more time at home this year. We want to encourage and facilitate connections to our national marine sanctuaries even if you are unable to take a trip to our nation’s public waters. Show us how you’re staying in touch with your national marine sanctuary through art, stewardship activities from your home or neighborhood, and responsible water based recreation in your local communities. This category is wide open to creativity: hand draw your favorite marine creature, make a sculpture out of marine debris you find at the beach, create a home water filtration system, paint your favorite sanctuary site, or anything else you can think of! Find inspiration at NOAA’s marine debris program website, or check out the Get Into Your Sanctuary Games and Activities page for beautiful coloring pages to kickstart your artwork. You can also obtain virtual sanctuary badges through the ParkPassport App and share a photo of you getting into your sanctuary virtually!

Additional Categories

A wreck photographed from below as a large school of fish swarm around it and a diver drifts off to the left
Last year’s 1st place winner of the Sanctuary Life category. Schools of fish swim around the wreck of an old tugboat near Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Photo by Bruce Sudweeks.

In addition to this new category, the contest still includes the three original categories. Submit photos of sunsets or scenic shots of your favorite national marine sanctuary to the Sanctuary Views category, photos of marine mammals, birds, fish, and any creatures to Sanctuary Life, and images of people recreating responsibly in sanctuaries to the Sanctuary Recreation category. In these images, which can include people kayaking, boating, swimming, diving, conducting research, or just hanging out at the beach, please make sure they were either taken before the COVID-19 pandemic or that they show proper social distancing. No photograph is too old! Click here to learn more about the photo categories.

How to Enter

Aerial video of three kayaks over a submerged wreck.
Kayakers paddle over the Portland shipwreck in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, submitted to the Recreation category in 2019 Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest. Photo by Bryan Dort.

Whenever you’re ready to submit your entry for the photo contest, email it to Make sure your image is at least 1200 pixels wide, and that you include the following information in your email: the photographer’s name, a short description of when and where the photo was taken, and the content of the photo. Please include your Instagram handle if you would like us to tag you if we use it for a social media post. And remember, when posting any images of national marine sanctuaries on Instagram, use the hashtags #RecreateResponsibly and #ILoveMySanctuary. We can’t wait to see your photo entries!

Getting Into Your Sanctuary: Safety & Recreating Responsibly

Green sea turtle in the foreground with a diver swimming by in the background
A diver observes a green sea turtle from a non-threatening distance in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Olivia Williamson, last year’s 1st place winner in the Sanctuary Recreation category.

During the current public health crisis, spending time in outdoor spaces has become even more important for many Americans. Yet these unusual circumstances mean that all of us, from seasoned outdoor enthusiasts to families heading out to their local park for the first time, could use a little guidance about how to stay safe. If and when you go out into a national marine sanctuary to take photos, please remember to adhere to social distancing guidelines—more information on COVID-19 and national marine sanctuaries can be found here. Knowing the best way to enjoy the outdoors, while giving wildlife their needed space, can help protect marine species for years to come. Be sure that when you’re taking pictures of wildlife, do not touch them or get into their personal space! Make sure to learn about local regulations before you visit, maintain a safe distance from animals, and clean up any trash you see! Read how Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary recreates responsibly here, and learn more about other responsible recreation guidance here!

Phoebe Landsman is an undergraduate at Wesleyan University majoring in American Government and Environmental Studies. She is currently a Constituent and Legislative Affairs Intern for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.