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Once again, the National Geographic Society dazzles with nature photography made in the most difficult of circumstances. To produce the images in “Ocean Soul: Photographs by Brian Skerry,” the photographer spent 10,000 hours underwater, some of it under 25 feet of ice or feet away from 70-ton whales. Skerry found a riot of color—glowing clams,  a fog of squid ink, a purple jellyfish, a translucent blue “sea angel,” ridiculously vibrant Pacific reefs—as well as a wealth of vital details, from tiny air bubbles to the jagged teeth of a crocodile. The exhibit includes its share of adorable megafauna—penguins, harp seals, manatees—but the most powerful images are downright depressing. In one, a commercial trawler leaves a deadly “bycatch” in its wake; in another, a tiny fish known as a yellow goby peers through the top of an encrusted top of a soda can.

Through Feb. 12, 2012 at the National Geographic Society, 1145 17th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., daily 10-6.

Photos courtesy National Geographic Society