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THE SECRET OF WINNING COMPETITIONS Sadly, there is no secret. A festival such as Image 2001 is set up to choose the most beautiful photographs, and judgment in such matters is extremely subjective. It depends entirely on personal tastes and value judgments, hence the disagreements that are always likely to break out among judging panels.
     I have had pictures rewarded in one photo contest which, in another event, were not even considered. I have had photos find success abroad which have bombed in my native Switzerland.
     All of which would suggest that it should help for the photographer to get to know the tastes of the judges and play to them - tricky in the case of Image 2001, as the panel has yet to be announced!
     I doubt in any case whether it would be possible to guess each individuals preferences, although you could perhaps get a feel for the overall flavour of an established event and the type of images that have done well in the past.
     But my advice would be to forget all that and concentrate not on others imagined tastes but on your own personality. Its better to risk failing in some events than to spend all your time vainly trying to second-guess judges, so trust to your own taste and creativity if you want the satisfaction of victory.
     Of course, your technique must be as close to perfection as possible, so the pictures you enter should be perfectly focused and their exposure correct.
     You might look at a picture and like the subject, which you feel is interesting, unusual and well-positioned, yet feel that perhaps its a little dark, a shade over-exposed or with the focus not exactly in the right place. However much you like the subject, dont bother entering that shot. You can be sure the judges will think the same as you, and the entry will be pushed back in the rankings accordingly.
     There is no room in competitions for good pictures with technical faults. They will never win, however dazzling the content.
     Consider the composition of your pictures - the position of the subjects; their isolation from the background; their direction, whether fish or divers, the balance of colour and all the other factors that go to make up a satisfying image. Photography manuals will explain the different ways of composing a picture, when and why a subject should be placed in the bottom left-hand corner rather than the top right and so on.
     Good composition can only strengthen a photograph, and in those terms the jury will spot the difference between a winning picture and an also-ran.
     Its worth mentioning that if I look back over winning pictures there are more that are vertical than there are horizontal.I wouldnt want to suggest that you ignore horizontal pictures, because some will win prizes, but the statistics speak for themselves. The reason, I believe, is that vertical shots have more impact in most situations.
     The picture must be easy to read, or understand. If it evokes a mood, all the better. You need to convey to the audience your own interest in the picture, and if it is the mood, it needs to be one that can be interpreted by a range of people. It might be a beautiful reef with brightly coloured fish and corals; an unusual animal encounter or interaction between divers and rays, dolphins or sharks; a freshwater lake with clear water; or light effects in caves.
     Eliminate ruthlessly any unnecessary distractions. In that way you will guide the viewer to respond strongly to your photograph. Employ your knowledge of design, colour and composition. If a fish is dark, try to alter your angle to include a light background. If its a light, do the same to get a dark mass behind it.
     This will give your photo a three-dimensional effect.
     If you use a model, he must look genuinely interested in what he is doing or looking at. If your model is exploring a wreck or cave, he will be using a torch, and this light will provide a focal point for the viewer, drawing the eye wherever you want it to go. Be careful in your choice of the models suit and equipment so that it fits well with the background, and make sure his kit is configured neatly.
     The interaction between a model and an animal makes a good photographic subject, if well done, but there is a very important consideration here, which is that it is the unusual sighting that has the best chance of making a potentially winning picture.
     Competitions are full of pictures of the unusual, so much so that it can almost become commonplace, but it remains a human reaction to prize unusual content and consider it before the other characteristics of a photograph. So although the animal considered common by one person might be less so for other viewers, pictures of whales, sharks, dolphins and frogfish are perhaps more carefully considered than those of more familiar species. A few years ago I won a competition with a picture of a frog under water. Living in Switzerland close to lakes and rivers, this was quite a normal subject for me, but that was not the case for the jury.
     The following year there were many more frog pictures but the jury was not impressed. The shots might have been better than mine, but the subject was no longer novel.
     Some photographers are not good at selecting their own pictures for competitions. They might treasure a photograph because it was taken in a specific situation, perhaps in tricky circumstances, or was one dreamt of for years before finally being captured. But remember, the jury doesnt know all that, and wont take your tribulations into account. Its a good idea to share your choice with friends or relatives, and see what they think. Often what they like will have escaped your notice. If it has technical faults you can always set it aside, but equally they might see faults that you havent recognised in a picture that has blinded you with pleasant memories.
     I have been considering photographs here mainly in terms of slides, but in a competition such as Image 2001 there are categories for slides, prints or both.
     Some transparencies make good pictures when projected but do not have the same impact as prints. Equally, some transparencies can be better as prints, and that might be because when you print a slide you can crop it to eliminate anything you dont like, or enlarge something you do. So give plenty of thought to deciding which format is the best for you to enter.
    Finally, bear in mind that luck always plays its part in underwater photography competitions, as in everything, and a winning picture is not invariably the best one - it's simply the one that won.


 

If you can get your photographs to look like these taken by Franco Banfi in Walindi, Papua New Guinea, you could be on to a winner:

A
A featherstar attached to a coral
a
a diver approaches a gorgonian
common
common bigeye on outer reef slops of the Brothers Islands, Red Sea
diver
diver approaches a big pink elephants ear sponge, Walindi
diver
diver in the clear waters of Lake Cornino, Italy
soft
soft coral, Egypt

IMAGE 2001: GIVE IT YOUR BEST SHOTS
From the 60s until the late 80s, Divers International Festivals of Underwater Photography and Film became world-famous and made the reputations of some of todays best-known professional cameramen.
    
     The festivals were rested after 1987 in the belief that that years event could not be surpassed for the volume and quality of the entries.
    
     We were wrong! We have discovered that things have moved on. For Image 99, the relaunched festival, we received more than 2500 individual images from 16 countries, and in most categories the overall quality was superb.
    
     Now is your chance to make or enhance your reputation by entering Image 2001, the 10th Festival. The competition will have no fewer than five categories and 18 classes for underwater photographers at all levels of experience, covering prints, slides, manipulated images, portfolios, videos and cine films.
    
     There are categories for professionals as well as non-professionals, and there are also distinctions between film shot in British waters and elsewhere.
    
     A total of nine stunning trophies, 66 gold, silver and bronze medals, and up to 100 Highly Commended Certificates are to be won, together with valuable prizes for the trophy-winners.
    
     A primary aim of the Festival is to reward merit in underwater photography and film, and to obtain wide recognition for achievement in this field for those who successfully take part, be they beginners or otherwise.


CATEGORIES & CLASSES

SECTION ONE
This section is NOT, repeat NOT, open to those who have previously won an award in a national or international underwater photographic competition.

Category 1: Prints
Classes:

  • (a) Marine Life
  • (b) People and/or Scenery
  • (c) Macro

Entrants placed first, second and third in each class will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.

Category 2: Slides
Classes:

  • (a) Marine Life
  • (b) People and/or Scenery
  • (c) Macro

Entrants placed first, second and third in each class will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.

Category 3: Portfolios
Six slides or six prints.
Entrants placed first, second and third will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.


SECTION TWO
This section is open to ALL underwater photographers, whether or not they have previously won an award in an underwater photographic competition.

Category 4: Manipulated Images
To include double or multiple exposures (either in-camera or in-darkroom), and digital images. Such images are not eligible for the Prints or Slides categories in Section One.
Entrants placed first, second and third will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.


SECTION THREE
Category 5: Moving Images
Videos and ciné films:

  • (a)Non-professional
  • (b)Professional.

Entrants placed first, second and third in both will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.

Grand Master of Underwater Photography
Separate awards will be made to those who have previously won an award of any kind in a national or international photographic competition.
The categories and classes named in Section One - ie, categories 1, 2 and 3 - will apply here. Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in each appropriate case.

SPECIAL BRITISH AWARDS
There will be additional special awards for the best entries in categories 1, 2, 3 and 6 for images/footage shot in waters around the British Isles. Grand Master contestants will be eligible
Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded in the relevant categories and classes.

TROPHIES

  • A trophy for the Best Festival Print will be awarded to one of the gold medallists in Category 1
  • A trophy for the Best Festival Slide will be awarded to one of the gold medallists in Category 2
  • A trophy for the Best Festival Portfolio will be awarded to one of the gold medallists in Category 3
  • A trophy for the Best Manipulated Image will be awarded to the gold medallist in Category 4
  • A trophy for the Best Video/Ciné Film (Non-professional) will be awarded to the gold medallist in Category 5 (a)
  • A trophy for the Best Video/Ciné Film (Professional) will be awarded to the gold medallist in Category 5 (b)

PLUS:

  • A trophy for the Most Promising Underwater Photographer will go to the photographer whose entries in Section One show the greatest promise in the opinion of the judges
  • A trophy for the Best British Underwater Photographer will go to the British photographer whose overall entry in categories 1 to 4, wherever shot, is of the most outstanding quality, proving consistent photographic technique and talent
  • The Diver Trophy for the Grand Master of Underwater Photography will go to the photographer whose overall entry in categories 1 to 4 is of the most outstanding quality, proving consistent photographic technique and talent

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Middlesex TW11 8HA, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 8943 4288.
Fax: +44 (0)20 8943 4312.

E-mail: ceta@divermag.co.uk

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WINNERS FROM IMAGE99