December 2019 Photo Contest Winner and Review



WINNER: Young Whaleshark in ….. by Tim Steenssens

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!

December saw fewer entries than usual, I guess you were getting ready for the festivities… so I had the chance to mention each image in my review in this final month of the year.

Muraena helena by Lorenzo Buccio

This portrait shot has a very small depth of field, but in the moray’s mouth you can see a parasite on the right hand side. The texture on top of the critter’s head is nicely captured too.

Ghost by Sofia Tenngrono

Pipefish are notoriously difficult to capture on lens and this robust Ghost Pipefish is one of the hardest. Isolating it against a blue background really helps to see the animal clearly. The small piece of coral helps to break-up the negative space.

Silent Reflection by Sean Steininger

What a cool shot of a Humpback, diving inverted. The reflected light from its underside creates a patch of light on the surface and the darkness of the rest of the image creates a contrast that works really well in this image.

Eye Contact by Sean Steininger

Coming face to face with one of the ocean’s giants is a great experience and to capture the moment on camera is always a thrill. Unfortunately, clipping its nose doesn’t help with the overall presentation.

Solar Power by Marc Eeckhaut

This shot is taken at a great angle and shows all the main components of this amazing nudibranch. The dark patches on the body are clusters of chlorophyll and the photosynthesise the light to give extra energy to the critter.

Bottled by Marc Eeckhaut

I love the lighting in this shot. The light has been put through the brown bottle to create an amber colouring on the subject, which is sitting at a sufficient angle for the shot.

Lips by Marc Eeckhaut

I really like the use of a large depth of field on this image which allows the photographer to get the amazing eyes and the lips in focus. Shot on the sand, in its usual, ambush pose, the black background adds impetus to the overall dynamic of the image.

Family by Serge Melesan

I love the idea of this image but I feel it would have benefited from taking the highlights down as the anemone is over-exposed. It is also, in my opinion, one of those shots that would have benefited from a larger depth of field, especially as the title suggests all the family.

To the deep by Serge Melesen

Sea lions make such wonderful subjects and this shot captures the mischievous nature of these iconic mammals. There is always, at least one, that has to come and check-out the photographer.

Portrait by Serge Melesen

This is a great angle for this much-photographed fish. I love the small depth of field and the catch-light in its eye. I think I would have reduced the highlights a bit as the bright white stripe is distracting and the detail in its face is a little bit lost.

Green Turtle in Black by Tim Steenssens.

It’s always nice to encounter a turtle on a night-dive and this one has been captured at the perfect angle. The black and white works well as there is a lot of contrast.

Frogfish taking a stroll

This is a double exposure shot, presumably of the tiny 1cm frogfish laid onto the sun as a background is very nicely done. The lighting and composition are excellent.

Young Whaleshark in ….. by Tim Steenssens

This is a cool shot of a young Whaleshark feeding at the surface. Excellent.

After much deliberation by our judge….

Whilst numbers were low, quality was very high!

The results

Winner: Young Whaleshark in ….. by Tim Steenssens

Runner-up: Bottled by Marc Eeckhaut

Congratulations to those who were placed – some really nice images here, and well done to all those that entered. I cannot wait to see what 2020 has to offer.’s January 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

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