April 2020 Photo Contest Winner and Review

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WINNER CHOSEN AND REVIEW BY SCUBAVERSE.COM’S UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR NICK ROBERTSON-BROWN

WINNER: Soaring into the Sun by Jay Clue

When judging any underwater photography competition, the first thing I do is ask of each image: Is it in focus? The main subject has to be pin sharp. Is it exposed correctly?

I then look at lighting (photography is all about light) and composition. Backscatter, hot spots of light, messy backgrounds: all might see your image lose out.

Then there are other considerations that might get you knocked out of the first round: Was the image taken underwater? After all it is an underwater photography competition! Were any animals distressed or harassed to get the image? Was any environmental damage done to get the shot?

Once I have whittled out the images that do not pass these criteria, it is time to get down to picking a winner. A shot that makes me go wow – I wish I had taken that!


Wow – what a month! A record breaking number of images in the competition in April – sorry I cannot comment on them all, but there are well over 100! Here are some I picked out:

Curious Squid in Bonaire by Don Trumbell. This simple image of a squid is really well done. I love the fact that the background is in blur, yet still clear enough t show its environment. The in-focus coral in the foreground helps create a nice framing too.

Trying to get ahead by Josh Shellenberg. Super action/behaviour shot. It tells part of the story of a baited shark dive. Baiting is controversial, but as Rodney Fox once told me, “no bait, no shark”.

Curious Sea-Potato by Josh Shellenberg. Manatees make great models for underwater photographers, and not just that they move slowly. Their faces are full of personality and they seem to love human contact. This is a lovely pose too.

Lurk in the Dark by Erlanga Septama. I think this “snooted light” works really well on a subject that most people find hard to capture an interesting image with. The harsh shadowing creates an image that is quite spooky.

Hiding by Yosi Hirosiadi. I was drawn to this shot by blurring of the shell to help the octopus stand out. Personally, I would have cropped out some of the black negative space, but the idea is good, and the image works well.

Longnose Hawkfish in Black Coral by Chris Snyman. I love the way the photographer has captured the two subjects chasing each other’s tails. I have never seen more than one of this species together so I think this is unusual. The colours work really well too.

Magic Eggs by Jacek Bugajski. I really like these shots of fish guarding their eggs in their mouths. If you look closely, I’m sure you can see the faces of the young inside the egg cases. Love the black background.

Merry Christmas by Hugo Andres Cisternas. Janolus sp. has to be my favourite amongst nudibranchs. They vary slightly in colour, but as this image shows, the shape and colours are amazing. I do like the way the photographer has captured the subject on its habitat but brought it out by using a black background. Excellent.

Soaring into the Sun by Jay Clue. What a fabulous place to be with these majestic creatures. I have been to Baja twice and only managed to spot a couple leaping out of the water 10 metres from the boat. This is an amazing image, with sun bursts, an endless stream of mobulas and depth of field is perfect. It is one thing being lucky enough to be there for this aggregation, but getting the shot right is another story. Well done.

Hide & Seek by Mike Leeson. Every seasoned, travelling u/w photographer has lots of shots of these iconic critters. This one, however, stands out as being particularly good. The inclusion of the anemone (in focus) and against a black background really brings out the character and beauty of this guardian. The catchlight in the eye is a nice touch too.

Hawkward by Amy Wessels. Getting this close to a hawkfish is always a challenge but this shot has the subject head-on, with both eyes making contact with the camera. The fading of dof is accentuated by the loss of the red coral as the light dies away.

Bioluminescence by Temy Loing. I love the aggressive pose these guys give you when you put a camera in their faces. The colour is superb, and the black really shows it off. Nice.

Out of the Dark by Elizabeth Johnson: Really vibrant blue against the black, super focus on the eyes, superb! I just wish that the bottom jaw was not clipped. But bravo.

80s Nudi by Hunter Munson: Love the title and the image. Rare to see a nudi shot with a blue background like this.

Fuzzy by Kirstie Harris: These guys always look so sad! They are also a challenge to photograph at times. But they are super subjects.

Follow the Leader by Dylan Driscoll. A lovely image showing the behaviour of these fish leading the way.

Clownfish by Marco Tagliabue. This is a lovely shot of a common subject. The lighting is just lovely and the expression and fin position really sets this image off.

Underwater Tornado by Ryan Koh. Wow – what an experience to see this huge tower of baraccuda reaching from the seabed up to the surface. I love to see shots that make me wish I was there and this is certainly one of those.

Gorgonian Garden by Mok Wai Hoe: Super colours give this a dreamy quality. The light has been handled really well with the sun beams coming down and the pink gorgonian lit well.

Barracuda Party by Anastasia Kantzidou. Another lovely schooling barracuda image. This is really moody and it is always a challenge not to overexpose the shiny scales of the fish in a shot like this – well done.

Stairwell by Christian Llewellyn. An iconic shot of the Karwella wreck that shows off the staircase very well indeed, making the most of the natural light that reaches down to this wreck.

Endangered Leopard by Clayton Harris. This is a dive that is on my wish list and I would love to come home with this shot. I love the shark leaving the shot on the left of the frame.

Show off by Andre Talahatu. Love the colours, and the use of depth of field in this amazing macro image. Just gorgeous.

Takeoff by Karlo Macas. I love the simplicity in this shot. It shows movement. I especially like the surface texture. It really sets off the main stingray subject.

Confined to my sofa by Miguel Ramirez. This looks a really chilled out poreclain crab! One claw hanging off the anemone. Super composition. Sharp focus and super colours.

Home Sweet Home by Nicola Jaeger. I like this shot because it shows an interesting envionment and the detail is incredible.

Sweetlips by Luc Eeckhaut. Lovely colours! The yellow on blue, with the diver in yellow, really makes this a striking image. Well done.

Mirror by Sylvain Camps. The reflection of this shark really makes this shot stand out from other similar shots I have seen. I do just wish the shark was swimming more towards the camera, but you can’t always have what you want!

Two Peas in a Pod by William Goodwin. This image has a surreal quality to it, which I think is caused by the lighting through the sponge. It really catches the viewers eye. To get two shrimps together both facing the camera is a real bonus to what is already a super shot.

Dragon Portrait by Cristina Fernández González. Super image of a gorgeous nudibranch. You can almost feel the texture just looking at this image. The black background really makes the subject pop out.


After much deliberation by our judge….

The results

Winner: Soaring into the Sun by Jay Clue

Runner-up: Magic Eggs by Jacek Bugajski

3rd Place: Gorgonian Garden by Mok Wai Hoe

With so many images this month I have decided to add a couple of Highly Commended shots too. These are:

Highly Commended: Sweetlips by Luc Eeckhaut

Highly Commended: Confined to my sofa by Miguel Ramirez

Congratulations to those who were placed – there were a huge number of excellent images, and well done to all those that entered.

Scubaverse.com’s May 2020 Underwater Photo Contest is now open! Enter as many as three of your underwater photos here.

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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