Intrepid photographers submitted over 700 underwater images for the 2012 Underwater Photography Contest and an adorable red sea slug grinning for the camera was awarded the contest's star.

The annual contest, put on by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, showcases the colorful creatures typically beneath reach and awards prizes in three categories: macro, fish or marine animal portrait, and wide angle.

UM lecturer Myron Wang, one of the judges on the panel of experts, said the quality of photos keeps getting better each year.

Judging becomes more difficult when you have so many wonderful pictures to choose from, Wang gushed in a statement. For me, there were excellent entries in every category but this year's standout was the great picture of the juvenile sperm whale taken by Douglas Lahle in Dominica. It is spectacular.

Yet, the best overall photo, equivalent to first place, went to Ximena Olds' shot of the headshield sea slug against a brilliant background of emerald green sea grass. Olds captured the creature on a trip to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A new addition to this year's contest was an online Fan Favorite poll on the Rosenstiel School blog. Over half of the 1,200 votes went to Todd Aki's shot of a jellyfish in Monterey, California.

The contest was open to all amateur photographers who earn no more than 20 percent of their annual income from photography. The winner received a trip on Blackbeard's Cruises, departing from Freeport, Bahamas.

Check out the beauties and beasts of the sea in the award-winning shots below: