National marine sanctuaries on display!

By Kaelyn Sheehan

September 2018

A lighthouse stands as a lonely sentinel on a rocky headland; stormy gray clouds scud across the sky. Sea nettles trail sinuous tentacles through Monterey Bay. A surfer observes thunderous waves, the sky ablaze with color. A mother sea otter tenderly grooms her pup. One may ask: what do these marine scenes have in common?

Though they differ in mood and subject, all of these settings share the merit of being the winners of our 2017 Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest, held each year as part of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Get Into Your Sanctuary Day activities.

point arena lighthouse
First place, 2017 "Sanctuary Views" category: The Point Arena Lighthouse, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Michael Beattie

The winning photos can currently be seen on display at the Gateway to NOAA exhibit in Silver Spring, Maryland. Each summer, the photo exhibition hosts winners that exemplify the wonder, diversity, and importance of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The exhibition showcases photographers from across the country who have contributed incredible images that help to celebrate their favorite places in the ocean and Great Lakes, while also promoting the protection of these special areas. Winning photos are additionally displayed on the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries website, in the NOAA Office’s Earth Is Blue magazine, and across NOAA’s social media platforms.

The exhibit features the winners of numerous categories, including Sanctuary Views, Sanctuary Life, and Sanctuary Portraits. For Sanctuary Views, participants are encouraged to submit photos of breathtaking scenery, while Sanctuary Life depicts the the ocean’s amazing inhabitants, from fish to birds to marine mammals. Sanctuary Portraits provides a platform to share premier images of people enjoying national marine sanctuaries.

sea nettle
First place, 2017 "Sanctuary Life" category: A bloom of sea nettles drifts through Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Curtis Wee

Cheryl Oliver, who manages the exhibit space, serves as the director of NOAA’s Heritage - Legacy Program (formerly NOAA Preserve America Initiative) for NOAA’s Office of Communications. This summer, Oliver arranged for the winning images to be showcased at the Gateway to NOAA Center on the NOAA Silver Spring campus. Oliver states, “I was thrilled that we were able to host the ‘Get Into Your Sanctuary’ photo contest winners as an exhibition in the Gateway to NOAA. The ‘Science and the Arts’ area in the space allows NOAA to highlight various NOAA programs through various media.”

The exhibition will remain on display until the middle of 2019, encouraging people of all ages to join the movement and get involved in the celebration of Get Into Your Sanctuary Day in 2019.

“The images captured by individuals that participated in the contest brings the National Marine Sanctuary System a little closer to those that may not have the opportunity to actually visit a sanctuary,” Cheryl says. “Photography speaks to everyone!”

a surfer standing on a cliff above waves
First place, 2017 "Sanctuary Portraits" category: A surfer contemplates the swell at Lighthouse Point in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Douglas Croft

The exhibit also highlights the idea that every marine sanctuary visitor can be a potential steward of the marine environment, meaning that photographers should be aware of maintaining and practicing good ocean etiquette. The Ocean Etiquette Program calls on each photographer to honor the responsibility of ensuring that delicate natural habitats and wildlife are not disturbed when the photos for the contest are being taken.

So next time you’re walking on the beach with the sand between your toes, diving deep in majestic habitats, or watching dolphins swim with ease through the water, remember to snap a photograph and celebrate what national marine sanctuaries mean to you!

Kaelyn Sheehan is an intern with ONMS’s Communications and Media Division and returns to school this fall.