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Announcing the winner of Scubaverse.com’s Photo of the Year 2020

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This year, Scubaverse.com’s Underwater Photography Editor Nick Robertson-Brown is joined by UK-based Tour Operator Scuba Travel’s resident Underwater Photo Pro Mario Vitalini to choose a winner of our Photo of the Year award. Nick and Mario had a tough job on their hands to pick an overall champion for 2020; the winners of the monthly contest provided 12 fantastic images to select from, including marine life big and small, images using advanced photo techniques, and examples of animal behaviour. But after much deliberation, and in reverse order….

Highly Commended: Curious Booby by MichaelG

Nick: If there was an award for most humorous this would surely win! It is a super and unusual shot that made me smile and was unlucky not to do even better. It is a super shot.

Mario: This was my favourite picture and would have loved to put it in first but unfortunately on my laptop and my monitor it looks very soft, otherwise I have to say it is a very charming character with loads of personality and very well composed. 

3rd Place: Rana Verde Minore by Giannaccini Alessandro

Mario: This is an interesting example of split level, the background is not sharp, is even fairly out of focus but it shows very well the environment. In my opinion if the photographer had the background perfectly in focus it would have detracted interest from the main subject. The eye contact is perfect and the image is perfectly composed. I did not give it first because I think it lacks something on the bottom right. A rock or plant would have balanced the image.

Nick: I picked this image as it is striking, different and has several elements that hold your attention. I particularly like the meniscus and how the surface tension lifts it over the subject.

2nd Place: A Mother’s Love by Cedric Peneau

Nick: This image jumps out of the screen and absorbs you in the moment. Reflections, sunbeams, diagonals and eye-contact. Excellent Shot. 

Mario: Humpback whale and calf. A huge subject but the photographer managed to get a perfect composition including some beautiful sunbeams and a very interesting reflection. Both faces are pin-sharp and the eye contact perfect. Cannot fault the shot.

Winner: Soaring into the Sun by Jay Clue

Mario: A gorgeous shot with beautiful lighting but in my opinion suffers a bit from the main ray, where my eyes get drawn, swimming away already.

Nick: I am in awe of this image and quite a bit jealous too! The sun’s rays, the motion the image invokes and the light on their backs. To have been there must have been amazing, but to capture it for us all to share… priceless.


Congratulations from all of the Scubaverse team to our winner and runners-up. Thank you to everyone that entered in 2020. We hope to see plenty more of your images in 2021!

Prizes include Mares diving equipment and travel vouchers from Scuba Travel!

Scubaverse.com would like to say a big thank you to our Photo of the Year’s sponsors, Mares and Scuba Travel.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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Protecting England’s Wreck Sites: Site Security Protocols Launched

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The security of heritage assets is of the utmost importance; a monetary value cannot be attached to the significance of a site or its associated artefacts. This statement is true for both on land and underwater sites.

The policing of underwater sites however, is often a trickier affair, with out-of-sight often equalling out-of-mind. Unfortunately, a site’s underwater location does not stop thieves from stealing or damaging artefacts.

To aid in the protection of our underwater cultural heritage, a selection of sites of historical, artistic and archaeological importance have been protected by law under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/protected-wreck-sites/). Historic England manage these sites on behalf of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, Digital and Sport (DCMS), and a team of Licensees, effectively voluntary custodians, play a key role in their ongoing management.

The licensees work tirelessly on the wrecks and have had a special relationship with them since the very first days of the Protection of Wrecks Act. If it wasn’t for them, many of the sites would still be unknown and we would have very little knowledge of many of the existing sites. Their presence on the sites acts as a deterrent to anyone thinking of accessing the sites illegally and their monitoring ensures that the sites are understood and enjoyed by many people.

To further aid in the physical protection of these significant sites, Historic England funded a partnership project between the Protected Wreck Association (PWA https://protectedwrecks.org.uk/) and MSDS Marine (https://msdsmarine.com/). This national-level project has seen the development of Site Security Plans for protected wreck sites. The model developed is based on the highly successful model developed by Ron Howell and the SWMAG team who are Licensees for the Salcombe Cannon and Moor Sands protected wreck sites.

A Site Security Plan is the end result of a process which assesses how secure a site is from illegal access. By completing two very easy to use but highly specialised forms, the site is given:

  • Its own Site Security Champion
  • Its own Heritage Crime Officer in the Police
  • A level of risk of heritage crime occurring to enable appropriate response to be put in place and to allow targeting of resources
  • Quick win opportunities to decrease its level of risk
  • A protocol for the licensees to follow every time they access the site
  • Specialist guidelines to enable crime reporting to enforcement authorities
  • A toolkit consisting of: A High Vis vest, to help identify the Site Security Champion to the public / authorities and pocket-sized card, summarising guidance on reporting crimes.

The project team will be supporting Licensees and their teams in completing a Site Security Plan and Risk Assessment for each Protected Wreck Site. MSDS Marine will be contacting Licensees inviting them to book a slot to work through the process. Individual Licensees and teams can also follow the guidance to complete the documents on their own with MSDS Marine on hand to support as required.

The Site Security Forms are accessible on the Protected Wreck Association website, in the members only area https://protectedwrecks.org.uk/members-area/site-security/ . If you are not a member and would like to join, this is an excellent time, as its free!

Assessing the security of a wreck site will inform Historic England of any sites which are at a high risk of heritage crime, and aid them in the future management of these sites. It will assist Licensees in highlighting areas for concern and in turn offer positive actions that can be taken to reduce the threat. It is hoped that the scheme will help put practical measures in place to ensure that the sites are protected from illegal activity in future.

Alison James, Project Manager at MSDS Marine said: “I spent ten years working at Historic England managing England’s protected wreck sites and at times was incredibly frustrated by being unable to ‘police’ the sites. The model we have developed is based on the highly successful model developed by SWMAG which has been shown to work on a number of occasions. We hope this will make a real difference to the sites and the teams that work on them.”

Professor Mike Williams, Chair of the Protected Wreck Association said: “We are delighted and grateful that Historic England has funded this project. It will enable us to undertake valuable work to support our members, who are dedicated volunteers protecting our maritime heritage.”

Hefin Meara, Marine Archaeologist at Historic England said: “We are pleased to support this important project and recognise the enormous contribution that licensed volunteer divers are making to help protect England’s fascinating marine historic environment.”

For more information please visit www.ProtectedWrecks.org.uk , www.MSDSMarine.co.uk, and www.historicengland.org.uk.

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Take an immersive dive below the waves off the Welsh coast using 360 VR: Seagrass Meadows (Watch Video)

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A week-long series from Jake Davies…

Below the waves off the Welsh coast, there are a range of species and habitats that can be seen. However, you don’t have to venture too far from the shore to see them or don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. Using 360 videos provides an immersive feeling of being below the water and encountering many species and habitats from diving one of the most important habitats and species that aren’t often seen whilst diving. For more of an experience of being below the waves, the VR videos can be viewed using a VR headset.

Take a calming VR dive at one of the largest and densest seagrass meadow found along the Welsh coast, located at Porthdinllaen in North West Wales.

Seagrass meadows are important habitats as they provide a range of ecosystem services from carbon sequestration, production of Oxygen, coastal protection and act as a nursery area for many commercial fish species such as plaice and cod. Seagrass also help to improve water quality within the region as seagrass blades (leaves) help to trap particles within the water column, often making them great sites to dive in at due to increased visibility.


Follow Jake aka JD Scuba on the YouTube channel @Don’t Think Just Blog.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email john@thescubaplace.co.uk

www.thescubaplace.co.uk

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