Revealed: Underwater Photographer of the Year
Three esteemed judges – Alex Mustard, Martin Edge and Peter Rowlands – had the pleasure of going through the entries to select the award winners. “It was astounding and humbling seeing the quality,” said Alex Mustard, chair of the judging panel and the driving force behind UPY.
“It’s a tough job distilling them down to the very best. Every single image that placed is an amazing moment from the underwater world.
And many that nearly made the collection were almost as stunning. There has never been such strength in depth in underwater photography.”
“Selecting the winners is enjoyable, but also pressured,” went on Mustard. “Nobody’s work is judged as meticulously as the judges’! We take the process very seriously, bringing all the judges together in one room, all looking at and discussing the images face to face over two days.
“Many competitions are judged online these days, with judges never meeting, and I think our old-school approach really strikes a chord with the entrants, who appreciate the effort we put into evaluating their images.
“I’m very happy judging with Peter and Martin. We all have different tastes, which leads to a diverse collection, but we’re united by insatiable enthusiasm for seeing underwater photos.”
The main award and the title of Underwater Photographer of the Year went to Italian photographer Davide Lopresti, for his artistic portrait of a spiny seahorse taken in Trieste, Italy.
His photo Gold aims to celebrate the return of seahorses to areas of the Mediterranean that have been protected from destructive fisheries such as trawling. Artistically and technically impressive, Lopresti’s photo combines panning and a long exposure to create painterly textures in the seabed.
He then used a strobe restricted to make a spotlight to pick out the details of the seahorse. It is simply “beautiful and creative, a very worthy overall winner,” commented Mustard.
“Blue surrounds the entire four corners, which helps to keep the eye of the viewer firmly focused on the detail of the seahorse,” added judge Martin Edge. “The eye cannot escape the frame; it continues to rotate in circles.
“Complementary colours of blue and yellow are entirely responsible for the ‘wow factor’, which this image has from first viewing.”
The title of British Underwater Photographer of the Year was awarded to Dan Bolt from Devon for his photo Catshark Supernova. This award is open to all British residents and nationals wherever they are based in the world.
Bolt’s winning picture was taken close to home in Thurlstone Bay. “The reef system there is a favoured laying ground for the smallspotted catshark,” said Bolt.
“The eggs are also known as mermaid’s purses. I carefully positioned my strobe behind the egg to reveal its hidden beauty.”
“This image grew on me over the judging days,” said Edge. “Day one, it was all about the silhouette of the shark within the egg. By day two it was the balanced shape and ethereal light of the silhouette. Its masterstroke is to shape the backlighting in the form of wings. Outstanding.”
UPY also aims to promote new talent. Pier Mane from South Africa was named Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year for his image Three Pillars – Practice, Patience & Luck!, photographed in the Bahamas.
“Shark dives are exciting, but that makes them one of the hardest places to think as a photographer,” commented Mustard.
“Pier deserves particular praise in producing such a powerful composition, when most of us would have lenses fixed only on the sharks.”
The title of Most Promising British Underwater Photographer, 2016, was awarded to Marty Engels Dunmore from Suffolk for Fired Up and ‘Almost’ Ready to Go!, taken on the Kittiwake wreck in Grand Cayman.
Preparation paid off for Engels Dunmore: “It isn't easy to produce a unique image of this well-loved wreck and I did a lot of research to see how others have photographed her. Deep inside I found this wonderful old machine, and placed my dive torch inside, as if the fire was still burning.”
In addition to these four special awards, the competition was divided into 8 categories, testing photographers’ skills in macro, wide angle, wrecks and behaviour. There were also categories just for photos taken in UK waters. The full results are given in the following pages.
The winners collect high-quality prizes from popular brands: Scuba Travel, Nauticam, Apeks, Fisheye and Fourth Element.
“I’m really excited to be presenting the images and the prizes on stage on Saturday at LIDS, where we’ll also have a display of super-sized prints,” added Mustard in the run-up to the London Dive Show.
“All three judges will be there and we’re very happy to give our feedback on your entries. Just bring them along on an iPad or similar.
“Later that evening, the British Society of Underwater Photographers is organising a photographers’ social meal, where British photographers will have the chance to make contacts and exchange ideas with the international visitors that the awards attract.”
CATEGORY1:INTERNATIONAL WIDE ANGLE For wide-angle underwater photos taken anywhere in the world
Winner: Mike Korostelev (Russia)
Photographer’s comments: “Cages are more commonly associated with photographing great white sharks, but I made a cage to keep me safe as I captured the fishing behaviour of the bear. I waited many hours in the cold water for the bear to come close enough to make my photo. The bear starts his fishing by sitting down, putting his head under the water and looking for fish. Once the fish start to ignore him and move closer he makes his crucial lunge to snare a large salmon in his paws, or teeth. He would usually stay under water for about 20 seconds. This bear came to this place in the river several times a day. Each time he caught about five fish and then went for a rest on the beach.”
Technical: August 2015 at Kuril Lake, Kamchatka, Russia. Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 8-15 lens, Ikelite housing, ambient lighting. ISO 500, 1/800th @ f/7.1.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”This unforgettable image is far more than an amazing portrait of a wild brown bear under water. It is a precisely timed behavioural portrait, capturing the peak of the action as the bear leaps for a meal and swishes his paw through the stones to snag his food. It’s a great composition, taken in a split second in the frigid waters of Kamchatka.”
Runner-Up: Fabio Galbiati (Italy)
“The first days bad weather prevented the boat from going out but we wanted to go into the water – why not take advantage of the pristine mangrove nearby? It was a big surprise, many subjects everywhere and the light effects produced by the sun and mangroves were very special. I decided to make a shot at sunset, and after a long search I found the right root with this nudibranch (Jorunna funebris) intent on feeding. After framing to restrict the backscatter I had only to wait for the sun to do its duty and… press the shutter!”
Technical: August 2015 at Coraleye research outpost, Bangka island, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Olympus OMD-EM5 MK1, Panasonic 8mm f3.5 fisheye lens, Nauticam NA-EM5 housing & Nauticam 3.5 minidome port, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes. ISO 200, 1/80th @ f/8.
Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”An immediate winner for me, one of the best examples of wide-angle macro I’ve seen for some time. The perspective composition of all elements is so well thought out. Notice how the curve of Snell’s Window wraps around the nudi, which emphasises the curve of ‘Snell' at the bottom of the frame. The tree leads the eye through the surface and up towards the sky. We have golden tones of sunset towards the bottom which the author had the foresight to use to his advantage. The trees add their own depth to the image but in no way obstruct the perceived use of depth perspective from middle right of the frame, diagonally through Snell towards the colourful blue sky at top left. One of my favourites from the competition.”
Third: Greg Lecoeur (France)
Photographer’s comments: ”French Polynesia is an amazing place for nature-lovers. In the lagoon of Moorea I was snorkelling with an abundance of marine life, most notably these blacktip sharks. The topography of the mountains in the background inspired me to realise this half-and-half photo.”
Technical: September 2015 in Moorea, French Polynesia. Nikon D7200, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Nauticam NA-D7200 housing, two Ikelite DS160 strobes. ISO 100, 1/250th @ f/13.
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): ”If ever there was an image that captured ‘excitement’ it is this perfect combination of frozen movement, split-level scene-setting and great composition. The reflected surface lighting on the sharks and the sand lifts it to another level.”
Highly Commended: Gabriel Barathieu (Green Turtle with Remora),Greg Lecouer (Pilot Whales), Davide Lopresti (Swim), Alejandro Prieto (Beach Guardians). Commended: Mathieu Foulquié (Seven), Damien Mauric (Blue Ballet), Tobias Friedrich (Icebreaker).
CATEGORY 2:INTERNATIONAL macro For macro and close-up underwater photos taken anywhere in the world
Winner & Underwater Photographer of the Year: davide lopresti (Italy)
Photographer’s comments: “Over the years seahorses have been drastically reduced in the Mediterranean sea, and only recently has there been a significant restocking thanks to a public awareness campaign. Areas of the sea have now been preserved, off-limits for fishing, and vulnerable and delicate creatures such as seahorses have returned. For this shot, I used a long exposure time to give dynamism to the image, combining the ambient light and artificial light with the aid of a snoot, freezing my main subject from the rest of the scene and giving a sense of grace and strength at the same time.”
Technical: August 2015 at Sistiana, Trieste in Italy. Nikon D600, 105 macro Nikkor 2.8 vr lens, Nimar housing, Inon Z240 strobe with Retra snoot. ISO 200, 1/8th @ f/18.
Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): “Another of my favourites from the competition. I see many motion-blur images but this one has been shot to perfection. A simple composition with a balanced amputation of muted colour at bottom right of the frame. Blue surrounds the entire four corners, which helps to keep the eye of the viewer firmly focused on the detail of the seahorse. The eye cannot escape the frame, it continues to rotate in circles. Complementary colours of blue and yellow are entirely responsible for the 'wow factor' which this image had on me when I first viewed it.”
Runner-Up: Helen Brierley (USA)
Pelagic Octopus at Night
Photographer’s comments: ”Suspended in the inky blackness of the open ocean where the water is thousands of feet deep, a myriad of weird and wonderful creatures came into view in the narrow-focus light beam. They were making their nightly journey towards the surface to feed, before heading back down to the depths in time to escape the light of another day. Using our lights to help locate their prey, we were truly in another world, and we didn’t want ever to leave. I was able to take several shots of this tiny octopus as it drifted by, but it disappeared again into the darkness all too soon.”
Technical: November 2014 off Kona, Hawaii. Nikon D800, Sigma 70mm lens, Nauticam housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes. ISO 320, 1/125th @ f/11.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”Helen definitely took on one of macro photography’s big challenges to produce this eye-catching image. It’s not easy to shoot macro portraits of tiny, semi-transparent critters while suspended in the darkness of inner space – an open-ocean blackwater dive. Capturing such a pleasing composition of an attractive species in these conditions is a great achievement.”
Third: Gianni Colucci (Italy)
The Odd Couple
Photographer’s comments: “On a night-dive at around midnight with a full moon, I found this pair of seahorses (Hippocampus guttulatus), which swam in the shallows holding each other by the tail. The scene that I photographed was majestic, a magic only enhanced by the beauty of the site and the evening’s full moon.”
Technical: September 2015 at Taranto, Ionian Sea, Italy. Nikon D700, Nikkor 60 mm Micro lens, Nauticam housing, Inon Z240 strobe. ISO 100. 1/320th @ f/22.
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): ”Individual seahorses have a mythical visual appeal. Cute, vulnerable and delicate, they have grace and weirdness in equal measures. Capture two entwined, simply lit on a beautifully black, eye-concentrating background, and you have a shot that went straight to the winners’ enclosure.”
Highly Commended: Behnaz Afsahi (Timeless Moment!), Qing Lin (Lace Model), Greg Lecoeur (Black Water), Adriano Morettin (Lightning). Commended: Marc Casanovas (Happiness), Ross Gudgeon (Goby on a Sea Pen), Matteo Visconti (Harlequin Spotlight).
CATEGORY 3: INTERNATIONAL wrecks For wide-angle and macro photos taken on wrecks (which can be the main subject or the setting)
Winner: Thomas Heckmann (Germany)
A family affair
Photographer’s comments: “I was unable to descend because I had to take care of Maja, my five-year-old daughter, who can’t snorkel by herself. The only possibility was a shot from the surface under these circumstances. It was too rough for a normal over/under shot. I decided to try a wave & wreck shot with the island of Curaçao in the background. I needed several tries to compose wreck, wave and island in one shot but in the end I got a real over/under shot with a total other view of the famous wreck.”
Technical: September 2014 at Tugboat site in Curaçao. Nikon D800E, Sigma fisheye 15 mm/2.8 lens, Seacam Silver D800 housing, ambient lighting. ISO 400, 1/160th @ f/16.
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “Shots like this don’t just happen. They’re the result of planning peppered with good luck. To achieve it while snorkelling is very impressive, and the choice of the curved split level rather than the traditional horizontal creates a very dynamic image that leaves the viewer in no doubt. Winning images must have everything right and then an ace up their sleeve to make them rise above the competition. This, to my mind, is a perfect example.”
Runner-Up: Anders Nyberg (Sweden)
Photographer’s comments: “I can’t get enough of the beautiful Thistlegorm. What makes the wreck unique is the great opportunity to create stunning images, especially if you add one or more off-camera strobes to create more depth. For lighting, my buddy and I placed the three off-camera strobes, one in each truck and a torch in the engine compartment in the first truck. I can easily spend the entire dive inside the wreck. What’s important to remember is to move carefully when placing the off-camera strobes so that you don’t silt up the area and ruin the image.”
Technical: July 2015, Thistlegorm, Egypt, Red Sea. Nikon D800, Tokina 10-17mm at 17mm lens, Hugyfot D800 housing, Inon Z240 and three Inon and Ikelite off-camera strobes. ISO 320, 1/25th @ f/10.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “This picture sparked an interesting debate in the judging room: can a photographer show off too much in a competition?! These Ford trucks inside the Thistlegorm wreck are in almost total darkness in 25m of water. This is not an easy place to produce an image that uses four separate off-camera light sources. More importantly, Anders has produced a striking and well-crafted composition with the row of repeating windows, the sprinkling of fish and the blue opening in the background providing depth and a feeling of place.”
Third: Steve Jones (UK)
“This is the wreck of an RAF Beaufighter, a heavily armed attack aircraft used extensively in WW2. The wreckage lies upside-down on bright white sand at 38m. I wanted an image of the whole wreck that was different from what I’d seen before, and as my buddy moved near the undercarriage I realised that the best angle was from directly above. Using rebreathers made the task much easier, as I didn't have to worry about any annoying bubbles!”
Technical: June 2015 near St Julians, Malta. Nikon D4, Nikon RS R-UW Fisheye 13mm F2.8 lens (Seacam conversion), Seacam D4 housing, ambient lighting. ISO 320, 1/100th @ F/11.
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “It's easy when you see an image like this to think it was a great way to produce a fresh and different image of an often photographed wreck, but it’s your job as an underwater photographer to come up with that angle before anyone else does, and that’s what will make you and your underwater photography stand out in competitions. Steve did just that and has produced a fresh and appealing image. Never underestimate the effect that the corners of a frame can have. The lighter blue frame edges really lift this image and give it great depth. The diver adds scale and interest without detracting from the main focal point.”
Highly Commended: Anders Nyberg (Need to Change a Tyre), Saeed Rashid (The Tank), Christian Vizl (USS Kittiwake &?Diver), Spencer Burrows (Exploring the Podsnap). Commended: Rui Guerra (The Steering Wheel), Trevor Rees (Rozi Tugboat), Susannah H Snowden-Smith (Kittiwake Shipwreck).
CATEGORY 4:INTERNATIONAL Behaviour For underwater photos of natural marine-life behaviour, taken anywhere in the world
Winner: Richard Carey (Thailand)
Turtle eating jellyfish
Photographer’s comments: After an early-morning dive we stopped in a bay for breakfast. A green turtle (Chelonia mydas) surfaced near our boat. I snorkelled with it, watching it search for food. It spotted a large mosaic jellyfish (Thysanostoma thysanura) a couple of metres below the surface, swam over to it, dived and started feeding on it. The turtle obviously wanted to keep the jelly near the surface, so every time it swam deeper it would bite onto it and drag it back upwards. I spent a few minutes watching and taking photos, then left the turtle to finish its meal in peace.”
Technical: November 2015 at the Similan Islands, Thailand.
Canon Eos 60D, Tokina 10-17 len, Seacam Prelude 60D housing, two 2 x Ikelite DS 160 strobes. ISO 400, 1/200th @ f/10
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “Such a good example of what you can make of a chance encounter. It would have been so easy to have finished breakfast and missed this shot! It captures so much, and with the background story it’s the pinnacle of a visual experience that must have been fascinating to watch, and even more satisfying to capture with a moment in time. Simply beautiful, too.”
Runner-Up: Alejandro Prieto (Mexico)
What feeds beneath
Photographer’s comments: “I entered the cold November water to photograph a pair of humpback whales that passed on very quickly. Swimming back to the boat I saw a small moving object ahead – a Hawaiian petrel submerging its head to feed on tiny crustaceans. Normally as you get close it will fly away, but surprisingly it just kept feeding in front of me. By approaching very slowly I was able to get close from beneath, and thankfully it stayed for a few moments, allowing me to capture its behaviour. The Hawaiian petrel is classified as endangered by the IUCN.”
Technical: November 2014 at Todos Santos, Mexico. Canon 5D Mk II, Sigma 15mm fisheye lens, Subal CD5DII housing, Sea & Sea strobes. ISO 200, 1/160th @ f/13.
Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): “It’s common for seabirds to join in with the bait-balls, and on this occasion a beautiful portrait was created by the author. The bright tones within Snell’s Window give an ethereal look to this petrel submerging to feed. The dark tones outside Snell frame the composition and keep the eye of the viewer within the frame. The result is a beautiful image.”
Third: Rui Guerra (Portugal)
Millions of crabs
Photographer’s comments: “Every year, millions of crabs (Polybius henslowii) form large red masses in places along the coast of Portugal. This high density of swimming crabs is somewhat rare to see, and although we saw some dispersed crabs, it took us almost an hour to spot a higher concentration. It was only after another 20 minutes of bluewater diving that I noticed an immense ‘red cloud’ made up of maybe several thousand crabs swimming through the water.”
Technical: July 2015 at Berlengas Natural Reserve, Portugal. Nikon D800, Sigma 15mm f2.8 fisheye lens, Subal ND800 housing, two Inon Z240 strobes. ISO 320, 1/250th @ f/14.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “This is a jaw-dropping scene that just gets better and better the bigger you see it and the longer you look. The behaviour is fascinating, but the photography is even better.
Rui’s sensitive use of light and the satisfying composition transports the viewer to the heart of this natural phenomenon. I love the depth of the aggregation, with the crabs disappearing into the blue, seemingly going on forever.”
Highly Commended: Theresa A Guise (Crunch), Paolo Bausani (Cleaners), Vania Kam (All-You-Can-Eat Eggs Buffet); Damien McGuirk (Hunting Long Nosed Hawkfish).
Commended: Ralph Pace (Battle at the Nine), Richard Barnden (Life Begins – Bumphead Parrotfish Spawning), Susannah H Snowden-Smith (Torrent).
CATEGORY 5:Up and Coming Worldwide For any type of underwater photos taken by unpublished photographers who have yet to win a major award for their images. Photos can be taken anywhere in the world.
Winner & Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year: Pier Mane (South Africa)
Three Pillars - Practice, Patience & Luck!
Photographer’s comments: “Weary of shooting sharks head-on, and keen to avoid diver’s bubbles in my shot, I decided to turn away from the peak action and the crowds it attracts.
I wanted sun rays, dramatic foreground, background perspective, and – the cherry on top – to capture the ‘master of the house’ in all of its mystique. The three sponges were well-positioned to set the scene beneath the boat and it took countless shots to balance the elements I wanted; but perseverance, patience and practice all paid off. I would like to dedicate my first winning shot to my father, for his introduction to photography, and to my mother for passing on her resilient attitude.”
Technical: September 2015 at Tiger Beach, Bahamas. Olympus EM-1 Micro 4/3 Mirrorless, M Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 @ 9mm lens, Nauticam NA-EM1 housing,two Sea & Sea YSD1 strobes. ISO 400, 1/250th @ f/9.
Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): “Throughout the judging process, this image grew and grew on me. It got better every time I viewed it, to the point that I was looking forward to seeing it again in the next round. While the shark is perfectly composed within the frame I have a gut feeling that the author framed the boat and three sponges together with the light shafts at top left. This was the backdrop, the stage, and it was
just a matter of patience and position for the shark placement. The composition in this image is so balanced that it looks easy to simply press the shutter every time it swam into that particular space. Imagine it as a manta, turtle or hammerhead. All would have worked well. The underbelly of the shark could so easily have proved difficult with the flash illumination but the subtle tones and circles of the near-view sponges bring it all together.”
Runner-Up & Most Promising British Underwater Photographer of the Year: Marty Engels Dunmore (UK)
Fired Up and ‘Almost’ Ready to Go
Photographer’s comments: ”Today it isn't easy to produce a unique image of the well-loved wreck the Kittiwake, and I did a lot of research before I dived to see how others had photographed her before me. In 18m of water I found this wonderful old machine – in fact there are two of these engines, positioned opposite to each other. The image is produced without any strobes, but with the aid of my dive-torch, which I positioned within the engine to give me an extra focal point.”
Technical: May 2015 on the USS Kittiwake, Grand Cayman. Nikon D4s, Nikon 16mm lens, Nauticam housing, natural light and torch. ISO 5000, 1/20th @ f/9.
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): ”It takes a lot to impress an old wreck photographer lag like me but here is a quite superb example of how, with a comparatively simple touch, a straightforward technical shot has been so effectively elevated to the eye. But such a simple addition of the furnace lighting is not enough on its own. The composition, use of mixed light and graphic simplicity all contribute to a very powerful and successful image.”
Third: Spencer Burrows (UK)
The eye of a butterfly
Photographer’s comments: “While masked butterflyfish are fairly common in the Red Sea, they are quite skittish and often swim away on approach. As I wanted to try to capture this common fish in a different way,
I had an abstract shot in mind and I felt the eye with its blue and yellow surroundings were key to the shot working. Having failed to get this to work with a standard macro lens, I equipped a tele-converter for additional reach, which allowed me to keep my distance from the fish.”
Technical: September 2015 at Sharks Bay house reef, Egypt. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm VR + Kenko 1.4 TC lens, Nauticam housing, two Sea and Sea YSD1 strobes. ISO 125, 1/125th @ f/11.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “Every photographer who has dived in the Red Sea will have photographed masked butterflyfish. However, none of the judging panel had ever seen this powerful composition before, captured by Spencer’s original photographic vision. Perhaps the sincerest compliments he will receive about its strength is that it is sure to be regularly replicated. Remember, you saw it here first!”
Highly Commended: Pier Mane (The Great Sea Eagle), Marty Engels Dunmore (Caribbean Reef Sharks), Ferenc Lorincz (Transparent Trick), Oliver Anlauf (Bass). Commended: Fabio Russo (White-Spotted Fighter), Pier Mane (The Majestic Purple Dame), Spencer Burrows (Lighting the Cockpit).
CATEGORY 6:BRITISH WATERS WIDE ANGLE For wide-angle photos taken in British seas and fresh water (not including pools, aquariums etc)
Winner: Marcus Blatchford (UK)
Part of the illusion
Photographer’s comments: “The National Diving & Activity Centre is the deepest inland dive-centre in the UK. The day the photo was taken, the dive plan was to bimble around the deep end, a dive we had done many times before, but this time I dived ‘unplugged’ and using no artificial light. With the exception of a variation of camera technique, there were no planned shots my buddy or I wanted to achieve – just a fun dive with ad hoc photos along the way. Shortly after this photo was captured, in 6° water and with two hours of decompression ahead of us, we turned and started the long ascent back to the surface.”
Technical: May 2015 at the NDAC, Chepstow. Canon EOS 5d Mk III, Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye USM lens, Hugyfot HFC-5D MKIII housing, ambient light. ISO 12800, 1/60th @ f/4.
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “While this may have been an ‘unplanned’ photo dive, these two, the model and the photographer, knew exactly what they were doing, either by instinct or design. Graphic simplicity and beautiful composition are the trademark starting points for a winning shot. Add that special light that depth produces and you have a captivating result. Shooting at such a depth ‘unplugged’ without artificial light has introduced some image noise but, as far as I’m concerned, this only adds to the mood. A well-deserved winner.”
Runner-Up: WILL CLARK (UK)
Photographer’s comments: “This juvenile blue shark was the first to arrive at our boat after an hour of chumming. We were alerted to its presence by the bobbing of a small buoy that had fresh mackerel tied to it. I leaned over the side with my housing not quite fully submerged as the skipper tried to coax the shark nearer. He got the blue very close to me, and at the last moment whipped the bait out of the water, which got a reaction from this little shark.”
Technical: August 2015, a few miles south of Penzance, Cornwall. Canon EOS 7D Mk II, Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L fisheye USM lens, two Inon Z240 strobes, Nauticam housing. ISO 400, 1/160th @ f/13.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): ”A couple of years ago, even a grainy, soft image of a blue shark in British waters would have caused jaws to drop, but standard portraits are now consigned to the “seen it before” folder in competition terms. Will’s perfectly timed portrait rises far above this as a fresh take on this subject. Itis full of energy and reveals much of the character of this enigmatic shark.”
Third: Trevor Rees (UK)
Elan Valley trout in winter
Photographer’s comments: “This is a half-and-half scene taken on a snowy January morning. I have used my fisheye lens behind a large dome port for ease of creating the split image. The depth of the water is no more than 30cm and the brown trout (Salmo trutta) has been subsequently added to the scene in Photoshop, so this is very much a composite image. The trout was actually shot at a different time and location. The inspiration may be from images I have seen of migrating salmon struggling up a river to then be found lying exhausted in the shallows – a poor substitute, I know, but I like the effect.”
Technical: January 2013 at Elan Valley, Powys, Wales. Nikon D90, Nikkor 10.5mm lens, Sea & Sea DX-D80 housing, dual Sea & Sea YS110 strobes. ISO 200, 1/200th @ f/20.
Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”The layers of interest and depth perspective in this image grab the eye of the viewer instantly. Firstly, the angle of the trout and pattern of ice above. The reeds continue the pattern of viewing all the way to the hills in the distance, blue sky and fluffy white clouds. It’s got it all.”
Highly Commended: Nick Blake (Set the Ray to Jelly), Richard Shucksmith (Inquisitive Flatties), Matt Doggett (Tadpole Shoal), Steve Jones (Discovery). Commended: Trevor Rees (Pike in Quarry), Will Clark (Blue Blur), Dan Bolt (Early Morning Plumose Anemones)
CATEGORY 7: BRITISH WATERS MACRO For macro and close-up photos taken in British seas and fresh water (not including pools, aquariums etc)
Winner & British Underwater Photographer of the Year: DAN BOLT
Photographer’s comments: ”Just off a headland in this beautiful bay is a reef system favoured as a laying ground for the eggs, or ‘mermaids purse’, of the smallspotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula). The day I chose to visit the reef for a snorkel I came across many egg-cases wrapped tightly into the weed. Positioning my strobe carefully took some time, but the resulting image, with the low visibility providing a celestial-like quality, shows the hidden beauty within this system of reproduction.”
Technical: December 2014 at Thurlestone, Devon. Olympus E-PL5, Olympus 9-18mm lens, Olympus PT-EP10 housing, Sea & Sea YS-D1 & Snoot. ISO 200, 1/250th @ f/10.
Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): ”This particular image grew on me over the judging days, and with the last category to resolve it got better and better. Day one, it was all about the silhouette of the catshark within the egg-case. By day two it was the balanced shape and ethereal light of the silhouette. It was a masterstroke to shape the backlighting with a snooted strobe in the form of wings. Outstanding simplicity.”
Runner-Up: George Stoyle (UK)
Photographer’s comments: “In the summer of 2015 Scottish Natural Heritage asked dive teams to conduct site-monitoring of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), including North Rona. We had come to the end of a dive inside a cave, and just before we reached the surface we noticed an unusual amount of zooplankton that had become trapped inside the cave entrance. We then spotted a couple of tiny, post-larval monkfish feeding on the plankton, something none of us had ever seen. Getting an in-focus shot with my macro lens was easier said than done with the prevailing swell, but I managed a few before the boat came to pick us up.”
Technical: August 2015 at North Rona. Nikon D700, 105mm macro lens, Nauticam housing, two Inon Z240 strobes. ISO 400, 1/160th @ f/10.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “This is the most remarkable-looking creature I have ever seen photographed in British waters. This juvenile monkfish doesn’t even look as if it comes from our planet, let alone our shores. An amazing subject photographed flawlessly, it is definitely one of the most memorable pictures in this year’s collection.”
Third: Cathy Lewis (UK)
Photographer’s comments: “It was our first dive of the season, on the Scylla wreck in Whitsand Bay. The water was thick with plankton and a strong current was funnelling small compass jellyfish towards the starboard side of the wreck. Some of the jellyfish were host to a large number of juvenile codfish, possibly whiting, which use them for protection. The larger fry were perched on top while the smaller ones swam among the tentacles, somehow avoiding being stung. Photographing the highly reflective silver fry was a frustrating challenge, but I have never seen so many fish crammed into such small jellies, so I knew that I was witnessing something rather special.”
Technical: May 2015 on the Scylla, Plymouth. Nikon D7000, 60mm lens, Nauticam housing, Sea & Sea YS110 strobe. ISO 160, 1/80th @ f/16
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “I know this wreck well and am far too familiar with the conditions described so I’m really impressed with the photographic skills pulled out to capture such a clean image. As if conditions weren't difficult enough, the lighting and exposure are spot on and the composition is dynamic without taking the eye away from the subject matter. Once settled, the eye looks around and discovers the smaller fry seeking shelter. Altogether a most captivating image.”
Highly Commended: Mark Thomas (Shanny), Alex Tattersall (Nudibranch), Richard Shucksmith (Angel), Trevor Rees (Skeleton Shrimp). Commended: Cathy Lewis (Intruder Beware), Saeed Rashid (Inquisitive Cuckoo Wrasse), Dan Bolt (Friend or Foe?)
CATEGORY 8: British Waters Compact For any underwater photos taken in British seas and fresh water (not including pools, aquariums etc) with compact cameras.
Winner: Paul Colley (UK)
Photographer’s comments: “While trying to photograph trout during a year-long river project with a home-made pole-cam, a raft of mallard ducks muscled in to steal food intended to entice trout to the camera. This initial nuisance became an interesting opportunity and, shooting blind with the camera on the pole, I managed to catch the trout below water with a duck swimming overhead. Snell’s Window was an important predetermined part of the composition. This needed a low viewpoint, an upward camera angle and a metric tonne of patience to allow all the elements to come together and make the picture work.”
Technical: September 2015 on the River Test, Hampshire. Olympus XZ-2, INON UWL100 wet lens, Olympus PT-054 housing, natural light. ISO 320, 1/320th @ f/6.3.
Judge’s comments (Alex Mustard): “River fish are notoriously shy and difficult to photograph, which makes Paul’s image all the more remarkable. Not only is it a handsome photograph of a brown trout but the perfectly framed female mallard is an exceptional secondary subject. This compact camera picture took dogged determination, a custom-built pole-cam and outstanding photographic vision to conceive such original images.”
Runner-Up: Trevor Rees (UK)
Tompot Looking Out
Photographer’s comments: “Who doesn’t love the look of these charismatic fish? This tompot blenny (Parablennius gattorugine) was found hiding in a hole among the legs of a sea pier. Some of these fish are quite shy, while others are rather inquisitive and like to see what’s going on. This one was happy to pose for as long as I needed, although it did disappear for a few minutes every so often before popping out again. I made sure that I had both the fish’s eyes facing forward in the same direction and that the head tentacles were isolated against a black background, As tompot blennies are very popular and very well photographed fish, I opted for an off-centre composition with quite a lot of negative space to perhaps give a slightly different feel to my take on this fish.”
Technical: July 2015 at Trefor Pier, Lleyn Peninsula, North Wales. Olympus TG-3, Olympus PT-056 housing, Sea & Sea YS110 strobe. ISO 200, 1/200th @ f/6.3.
Judge’s comments (Martin Edge): “This image has all the technique for an excellent fish portrait. As the author points out, the eyes do need to be symmetrical.”
Third: Trevor Rees (UK)
British Native Crayfish
Photographer’s comments: “The British native crayfish (Austropotambius pallipes) is a species now under threat as it struggles to compete against the larger American signal crayfish. The crayfish at
this freshwater quarry are all native ones and there are a good number to be seen.
I found the small form factor of a compact camera ideal for holding at arm’s length to
get a low angle and to get close to an individual that was nicely out in the open. The auto-exposure-only nature of my camera was restricting but I was pleased to get a light green water background and be able to add a little strobe light to bring out the colour of the crustacean.”
Technical: October 2015 at Stoney Cove, Leicestershire. Olympus TG-3, Olympus PT-056 housing, Sea & Sea YS110 strobe. ISO 200.
1/60th @ f/3.2.
Judge’s comments (Peter Rowlands): “It has long been an irritation of mine that so many UK macro shots have black or murky backgrounds. Such shots have single-handedly tainted UK diving with a negative impression, yet the truth can be so different,as this excellent shot illustrates. Balancing ambient and artificial light is a technical start. Then add a great composition, a powerful upward angle and a sublime emerald-green background combine to produce a celebratory ‘British’ shot.”
Highly Commended: Trevor Rees (Lobster) & (Pike on the Move), Sara Bowring (Pink Fins Taste Much Better) & (Hello, Give Us a Kiss). Commended: Nic Faulks (Scilly Seal!), Sara Bowring (Night Time Stroll) & (Lazy Day In The Sun).