Shark Week approaches. The Discovery Channel’s annual programming stunt begins July 23, and in anticipation, we’re celebrating a species that sparks both fantasy and fear for anyone who dares enter its habitat. From the Bahamas to Bora Bora, whether swimming alone or with an entourage, sleek and smooth or shaped like a hammer, sharks rarely disappoint when it comes to being camera-ready. Those toothy smiles don’t hurt.

Below, view a selection of the best images submitted by the Smithsonian magazine photography contest entrants over the years.

a shark in blue water eats a lionfish
A reef shark makes a meal of a venomous lionfish in the waters of Grand Bahama. Lions may be kings of the jungle, but sharks are among the top predators of the seas. Christopher Doherty, the Bahamas, 2012
Sharks, stingrays and blackwedged butterflyfish swim in clear, shallow waters
Sharks, stingrays and blackwedged butterflyfish swim in clear, shallow waters in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. Thomas Tsutsumoto, French Polynesia, 2010
A shark in blue ocean shows its teeth
The shark at the center of Jaws was a great white, but if a movie about this sand tiger shark were made, it should be called Teeth. Despite their chompers, sand tigers are very docile and tolerant of divers, which makes it easy to capture close images showing off their beautiful metallic skin. Tanya Houppermans, North Carolina, 2015
a shark showing its teeth swims amongst smaller fish
Underneath tranquil blue waters, a shark with a toothy grin makes its way through a school of smaller fish.   Pam Wood, the Bahamas, 2009
a group of sharks feeding
They say there’s safety in numbers. For divers, it may be for the best that these sharks are seemingly engaged with one another and not focused on dining on a photographer. Thomas Pepper, the Bahamas, 2011
shark breach the surface at sunset
With the sun on the horizon, blacktip reef sharks circle in the shallow waters off Tetepare in the Solomon Islands. Robin Moore, Solomon Islands, 2011
a black and white photograph of a shark
Like a flashlight illuminating a dark room, the sun’s rays pierce the water’s surface, lighting a path for a lone shark. Matthew Potenski, the Bahamas, 2008
a whitetip shark sleeps on the ocean bottom
Although some shark species must remain in motion to intake oxygen from the sea, the whitetip is able to “sleep.” Terry Goss, Mexico, 2013
a blacktip reef shark swims in clear water
The fin of a blacktip reef shark almost pierces the water’s surface in a clear, shallow lagoon in Bora Bora. Ethan Daniels, French Polynesia, 2009
a group of bull sharks in the ocean
During a dive, seemingly curious bull sharks circle their visitors. Is it a welcome or a warning? Gilles Auroux, Fiji, 2022
a shark showing its teeth is shown partly above water
Living between two worlds, a shark just grazes the ocean’s surface, enjoying the sights above water while taking a sip of the sea. Chris Fallows, South Africa, 2009
a shark swimming a smack of jellyfish
A shark finds itself swimming in the midst of thousands of jellyfish, seemingly confident in their ability to sting away any threat from their visitor. Annie Guttridge, the Bahamas, 2022
a spotted whale shark swims in dark blue water
The spots on whale sharks, the largest species of fish, may make them more difficult to see, but they also make the sharks easy to distinguish. Ron Spilman, Belize, 2008
a shark swims dangerously close to a couple of fish
A possible threat lurks close to an unsuspecting pair of fish. Also, a shark contemplates whether it’s time for a snack. It’s all about perspective. Craig O’Connell, the Bahamas, 2011

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