Get Inspired:

Amazing Images in National Marine Sanctuaries

By: Ella Sadikman

August 2022

Your national marine sanctuaries are beautiful spaces meant to respect and protect the incredible habitats and wildlife that flourish both in and around the water. We can appreciate these wonderful areas in many ways, whether it be grabbing some "vitamin sea," some fresh air, or taking photos of local wildlife. As we are in the midst of the 2022 Get into your Sanctuary Photo Contest, let's take a moment to reflect on some of the extraordinary natural beauty captured last year.

Photography is another of the many ways to enjoy and preserve nature, and your national marine sanctuaries are the perfect place to experience the wildlife that lives around us. Taking photos is a special way to view Earth because it allows us to observe creatures or scenes in a much more detailed way through a still frame. Not only do we have the pleasure of seeing animals or scenery in their natural habitats, but we can take a piece of the sanctuary home with us to continue appreciating nature. We can also share these memories with friends and inspire others to visit these incredible places in person one day! Here are some amazing images from the past year to inspire your next adventure and photoshoot.

rocky outcrops in a blue ocean with the sun shining in a blue sky
Southeast Farallon in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: James Moskito
a hawaiian monk seal on a beach
Hawaiian monk seal in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Joyce Hsieh
closeup of a white and red speckled shrimp
Red Coral Shrimp in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. By: Russell Wilkins
a night sky filled with stars
Starry night in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Dustin Harris

We can preserve nature by capturing images of it, but let's not forget to preserve it in real life too! When taking photos, it is always important to keep the wildlife viewing guidelines in mind.

When we enter into a national marine sanctuary, we're entering into the home of many beautiful and sensitive creatures, and should be respectful of their habitat and natural behaviors. Some of the easy to remember practices include making sure to leave no trace by cleaning up after ourselves, and keeping a safe distance between us and any wildlife we spot, even if it means our photo doesn't turn out exactly as planned. After all, experiencing nature in real life is always wonderful, so let's work together to help it continue to thrive.

Photos provide the chance to enjoy, share, and preserve nature. As the weather gets warmer, let's get outside and take advantage of all that the beautiful sanctuaries have to offer. If you get the chance to snap a photo, be sure to share it with those around you so everyone can appreciate and learn about the wildlife and habitats these special places protect. Want to enter some of your photos to the Get into your Sanctuary Photo Contest? There's still time! The contest runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day and we are accepting submissions for four categories: Sanctuary Views, Sanctuary Life, Sanctuary Recreation, and Sanctuaries at Home.

a collage of images showing an eel, an anemone, a sea lion, surfers on a  beach, a shipwreck, a sea turtle, and a tropic bird in flight
Incredible images captured during the 2020 and 2021 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contests from across the National Marine Sanctuary System. Image credit from left to right: Bruce Sudweeks; Kaelyn De Young; Stefanie Flax; Meg McWhinney; Marc Hoeksema; Bill Pigott; Anna Mikkelsen.

If you're looking to get involved with a national marine sanctuary near you, check out our opportunities page to see how you can make a difference. For now, keep on capturing photos and remember to respect, protect, and enjoy.

Ella Sadikman is a former Virtual Student Federal Service recreation and tourism intern with NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and a student at Wake Forest University.