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red starfish contrasts with green seagrass.


Winning shots

Whether youre buying your first or looking to upgrade, its vital to understand the features that matter under water, says Mark Koekemoer

hspace=5 Relevance
Its not just PhotoCall - underwater photography competitions often specify a particular theme or themes. It may seem obvious that you would enter an image to suit the theme, but I have witnessed again and again entries that are totally irrelevant. Such images are bound to be instantly disregarded, no matter how good.
Always read competition rules and guidelines carefully, and ensure that your entries are relevant to any given theme.

Composition
Composing your image plays a key role in making a winning shot. Images with interesting subject matter are often let down by poor composition.
There are two main orientations, landscape (horizontal) and portrait (vertical). Underwater photographers tend to shoot as we hold the camera, which is in the horizontal position.
Break the habit. Make a conscious effort to swing the camera and shoot vertically. Practise taking pictures of the same subject in landscape and portrait formats to see which works best.

Eye contact
Divers have another habit, that of shooting down towards their subjects. This makes for very flat, uninteresting images. By getting level with your subject and making eye contact, you are making
a more personalised picture.
The next time youre chatting with a friend, notice that you will probably both be either sitting or standing, because we seek eye contact to make an encounter more personal.
The same is true for the viewer or competition judge. Creating eye contact engages the viewer.

hspace=5 Rule of thirds
Imagine a grid placed over your image, with two lines running horizontally and two vertically. The idea is to frame your subject so that the focal point, for example the eye of a seahorse, is positioned around a point at which two lines intersect.
The end result is more pleasing to the eye - the human eye, that is.
Despite being called rule of thirds, this is more of a guide than a rule. To create winning shots, you also need to know when to break the rules. For example, a head-on shot of a scorpionfish will usually have more impact than a side-on shot.

Colour
All too often, competition entries suffer from lack of colour and contrast. Colour is delightful to the human eye. Primary colours such as red, green and blue in particular stand out, as well as yellow and orange. Colour helps to draw attention to your image, just as it helps wildlife to warn off predators.

Contrast
The degree to which two shades are clearly differentiated from each other is called contrast. Similar shades placed next to each other are low in contrast, and dissimilar or complementary shades are high in contrast.
Images high in contrast have more impact,
and stand out from the rest - for example, a red knobbly sea star sitting on a patch of green sea grass.

Merging
Once finalists have been shortlisted, judges have to decide on placings. How often has a potential first-place entry lost out because of a simple, but overlooked, technicality
Merging is what happens when part of the main subject merges with the horizon of the background, or with part of a secondary subject. This is unpleasing to the eye, because we humans tend to identify with wholly defined shapes.
When shapes are merged, it conflicts with the part of our brain that tries to differentiate one from another. Ensuring that your subject doesnt merge needs foresight and attention to detail.

hspace=5 Amputations
Amputations go alongside merging, in that you need to be aware of how you frame your subject. They are said to occur when appendages are cut off by the picture edge.
It just doesnt look right when a fishs fin has been chopped, or a divers leg sheared off. Either make a virtue of going in tight on a subject, or else aim to capture the entire subject.

Negative space
Just as important as the main subject is the space surrounding it. Referred to as negative space, this can be open water, sandy bottom, anemone or coral reef. Separate the subject from the reef by shooting at an upward angle, or position yourself so that the subject is photographed against open water.
By isolating the subject against good negative space, your image will be less cluttered, better defined and more eye-grabbing. Using wide apertures to deliberately throw the background out of focus is also very effective.

Precedent
Study the work of previous competition winners. This will give you ideas, as well as clues as to what judges look for in a winner. Browse through coffee-table books or underwater photographers websites to help get your eye in.
Submit as many images as you are allowed to enter to increase your chances. Never downplay your images - the more competitions you enter, the greater your chances of success.
And dont become despondent if you dont win at first, remember all those wonderful prizes out there to be won!

Next month - (December issue): Delve deeper into the world of close-up/macro photography.


WIN AN ATLANTIS FORTNIGHT
Our online PhotoCall competition gives you the chance to upload your best work to Divernet.com, and to win not only wider exposure and monthly prizes but, ultimately, a wonderful fortnight in the Philippines.
Each month at Divernet.com we offer you a theme, and invite you to upload up to three images. Mark Koekemoer selects the winning image, reproduced both online and in DIVER.
hspace=4 NOVEMBERS WINNER
The winner of the November Photocall Competition is John Hill of Yateley, Hants, with his head-on shot of a thornback trunkfish, to fit the theme High Impact.
John wins a £300 INON UK voucher redeemable against lenses, flashguns or accessories.
A year on, the work of all 12 winners will be judged to find the winner of the Grand Prize - a £2800 two-centre, two-week trip to the Philippines, including all flights, full-board accommodation and unlimited diving!
This amazing prize is offered by Atlantis Dive Resorts, which has centres in two prime Philippines diving locations, Puerto Galera and Dumaguete, and runs the Atlantis Foto Festival (www.atlantishotel.com).
The winner will join Mark Koekemoer on an INON UK group trip to the festival in summer 2011, and Diver will reproduce the results of his or her diving experiences.

A year on, the work of all 12 winners will be judged to find the winner of the Grand Prize - a £2800 two-centre, two-week trip to the Philippines, including all flights, full-board accommodation and unlimited diving!
This amazing prize is offered by Atlantis Dive Resorts, which has centres in two prime Philippines diving locations, Puerto Galera and Dumaguete, and runs the Atlantis Foto Festival (www.atlantishotel.com).
The winner will join Mark Koekemoer on an INON UK group trip to the festival in summer 2011, and Diver will reproduce the results of his or her diving experiences.


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 The theme for November entries is -
High Impact.





Help on uploading your photos - PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

  1. You need to be registered on the Divernet Forums. If you are not registered and logged-in then you will be asked to do so when you click on ENTER above. Complete the registration form selecting your username and password. There may be a delay before your registration is confirmed while our filter checks that your registration request comes from a real person! As soon as you receive your confirmation you can proceed with the upload of your photos by going to the upload page. If you are already registered with the Divernet Forums you can go directly to the upload page.
  2. Select your photo file from your own computer using the Browse button. Make sure it does not exceed 600pixels in width or height.
  3. Give your image a title and CHANGE THE FILE NAME so that we can connect it to your entry details.
  4. Add a description - location, subject, your NAME if you want to take full credit for the photo, etc.
  5. Select the category you are entering - this will need to be the correct category for the monthly competition, such as March 2010 PhotoCall Competition - Peak of the Action for the March competition.
  6. Add some keywords which would help people find your photo (e.g. include your name, the location, etc.)
  7. Add your registered username so that we can identify you if your photo is selected as a winner.
  8. Hit the Submit button. You may submit up to 3 photos in each monthly competition.

Please study these terms & conditions:
  • Submitted images must be taken on a digital compact camera
  • Only images that have not previously won a place in a photo competition are eligible for the competition.
  • Images uploaded must have a maximum width or height of 600 pixels.
  • Entrants must have their own hi-res version of the image available in case of short-listing.
  • Entrants retain the copyright on their images, but by entering the PhotoCall competition automatically grant permission for Diver and Divernet to publish winning photographs.
  • The grand prize-winner must be available to travel at the times stipulated during the Atlantis Foto Festival, between June and 20 August 2011.
  • If the winner wishes to bring a companion and share a room, normal double-occupancy rates will apply to that second person.
  • The winner agrees to provide any images taken during the festival for subsequent publication in Diver and on Divernet and the Atlantis and INON UK websites.
  • The prize is strictly non-transferrable.
  • This competition is not open to staff, family or commercial associates of Diver Group, Atlantis Dive Resorts, Inon UK or associated companies.
  • In all judgments, the judges’ decision is final.