We look at so many gorgeous images every day that it takes something really unique to make us stop and say, “Whoa.” For me, that “wow” moment came while exploring images of sharks (because of Shark Week, of course), when I came across a series of larger-than-life waves by Zacarias Pereira da Mata.

The Portuguese photographer is just one of several Shutterstock contributors who document the beauty of the ocean, capturing terrifying-but-fascinating images of waves exploding onto shores, piers, and lighthouses. Many of the photos were taken at harbors around Portugal, particularly on the Douro river, which runs through both Portugal and Spain. In one image, the contributor even wrote a caption describing winds up to 150 km per hour.

Below, you can explore a dramatic collection of images captured by four different Shutterstock contributors. Each photograph shows an enormous wave frozen in time — some look like fluffy clouds; others look like pillars of smoke; and a few even appear to be explosions beneath the ocean’s surface.

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Top image: First big storm of the year at the Douro River by Zacarias Pereira da Mata

Fascinated by what’s happening below the surface of the ocean?
Explore our “Deep-Sea Dwellers” collection: