February 2016 Photo Contest Winner and Review

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WINNER CHOSEN AND REVIEW BY SCUBAVERSE.COM’S UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR STUART PHILPOTT

WINNER: Nico Luzzi

PHOTOLINK: https://www.scubaverse.com/contestants/one-way-only/

Thank you for this month’s entries. There might not be as many pictures as last month’s competition but the quality has definitely made up for the lack of quantity. I really am impressed with the high standard of photography. It just seems to get better and better. Please keep up the good work!

As usual I will go through each picture on an individual basis starting with Denis Emeric’s shot called ‘lagoon’s clown fishes’ taken at Rodrigues Island near Mauritius. Not trying to sound rude I think the subject matter is nothing particularly special. It’s just a pair of anemone fish. And it’s only 1m deep so doesn’t score highly on the difficulty stakes, but in saying this the shot actually works really well. The anemone fish and their anemone host take up most of the foreground but I can also see coral clusters way off in the background which shows a spectacular depth of field. It looks as though you have used some flash on the main subject Denis even though it’s a shallow dive with plenty of ambient light. There’s not a lot I can criticise. It’s a good all round composition.

Wow, Nico Luzzi has done a great job with his picture called ‘one way only’ and it’s a fitting title. Thanks for your comments Nico describing how and why you took the shot. One day I will hopefully get the chance to visit Sipadan! There are so many places on my shopping list! I like your positioning, attacking from the front, swimming through the shoal. This has to be a strong contender for the February winner. I really like the composition, the exposure, focus, the colours are perfect and there is plenty of action. It’s a shame you haven’t got a shark or a dolphin swimming through the shoal – I’m just joking! The shot is perfect as it is. As with Denis’s shot there is very little to criticise.

Robert Chen’s entry called ‘gelatinous’ shows a number of jellyfish in shallow waters somewhere off Palau. It has all the ingredients that make a really striking picture. Unlike Nico’s fast moving Jacks picture the jellyfish in Robert’s shot are extremely slow moving which allows the photographer time to think about the composition he wants. Robert is shooting upwards towards the surface and has got a jellyfish in the foreground with the sunlight filtering down from the surface above. It looks as though you have used natural light Robert and no flash as there is some shadow on the right hand side of the main jelly.

When I look at Dave Peake’s shot called ‘Dartmoor stream’ words fail me! Dave, I’m not sure if you have the makings of a great photographer or a certified lunatic! You must be keen to jump into 4 degree water to get this shot! I think you should be awarded a special prize, ‘brass monkey of the month’. Back to being serious, I think you’ve done a really good job. The granite rocks make an interesting foreground subject with buddy Pete filling up most of the background. The rippling surface gives the shot some additional appeal. Great effort, I salute you!

Coral Groupers have to be one of the most beautifully coloured fish in the ocean. Dave Weeks’ shot is simply called ‘Grouper’ and shows a grouper sitting on a hard coral. It’s in focus and shows a front facing grouper so not a bad shot. Is there also a cleaner wrasse just behind its eyes? Maybe this is why the grouper stayed still long enough for you to get the shot Dave.

Dave Weeks’ second entry called ‘Exit stage right’ shows a pretty looking fish (I’m not sure what species?) on a hard coral background. Again it’s in focus and is lit up evenly with no shadows or hotspots.

Dave’s third entry called ‘Napoleon Wrasse’ shows a fairly close up shot of the aforementioned. I never seem to be able to get close to Napoleon Wrasse. They always seem to keep their distance from me. The only close encounter I have ever had was on a reef at Bora Bora in Tahiti where the guide was tempting the wrasse with hard boiled eggs which in hindsight was probably not an eco-friendly thing to do. Dave has captured the whole Napoleon on a blue sea background. I’m not sure what the dark patch is underneath the Napoleon?

It’s good to see Tam Warner Minton back this year. Tam’s first picture is called ‘Slipper Lobster on paradise reef’ which was taken on a night dive. It’s a great macro-ish side on view of a slipper, in focus and showing some nice colours.

Tam’s second action shot called ‘oops…caught in the Moray’s jaws’ shows a parrotfish being munched by a moray. I hope it wasn’t your light illuminating the parrotfish that sealed its fate? It’s quite rare to capture these moments on camera so 10/10 for effort. I have seen fish eating fish only on two occasions in 20 years. The first was at Taba Heights in Egypt where a stone fish was eating a blue tang and the second occasion was at Roots Camp in Egypt where I came across a grouper with a porcupine fish stuck in its mouth.

In my mind Tam’s third shot called ‘Barracuda waiting’ is the best of the three entries. The barracuda really does stand out in this black and white composition. It actually looks like a 35mm film negative. Definitely one of my favourites for this month.

Hans Lange’s entry is called ‘tube worm’. I’m guessing the shot was taken on a reef at Dahab? How is Dahab doing at the moment Hans? I haven’t been for several years so I guess I am due a visit. I think you are right Hans, the colours of the tube worm are really striking and it works well with this particular background colour.

Simon Gardner’s shot called ‘the star at night’ definitely shows some arty flair. I really like the composition and the colours of the brittle star.

One of the major benefits of cave diving photography is usually the super clear visibility but Laurent Minoult’s shot called ‘diving the milky way’ shows quite a lot of sediment particles hence the picture’s name I guess. I can clearly see the halocline around by the diver’s fins. There are some spectacular rock formations on display.

Mrodoc’s shot called ‘sleeping parrotfish’ shows a close up of a very colourful parrot minus the mucus membrane that usually surrounds the fish at night. Is it true that they can only produce one protective membrane every night?  It’s a front facing shot and in focus and shows some nice mouth detail.

Mrodoc’s second entry called ‘Axinellid sponge with diver’ taken at the poor knights in New Zealand shows a healthy looking sponge/soft coral wall and there’s even a few scattered fish in the frame. It’s difficult to highlight the diver’s eyes when they are wearing a black mask but Mrodoc has managed to do the job quite nicely, and the exhaled bubbles aren’t obscuring the diver or the reef in any way.

Mrodoc’s third entry called ‘riot of colour’ shows a diver looking at a reef under Busselton jetty in Western Australia. I am all for close up model shots but I can’t help but wonder why there isn’t more of the jetty in the background. Usually the jetty legs look great in pictures, especially silhouetted in the background, but Mrodoc hasn’t shown this for some reason? I have never dived under Busselton jetty but I reckon a portrait shot showing less diver and more jetty would make a more interesting composition. Let me know your thoughts, Mrodoc.

It’s nice to see Janice Nigro back again this year. Janice has entered a shot called ‘stare down’ which shows a spiny tiger shrimp on a shallow reef at Lembeh. It’s a great shot especially considering the dangers involved! Kids swimming over your head must have been quite scary! I really like the colours and the detail on the shrimp. Good lighting and focus.

Dave Peake’s second entry called ‘Coming home’ shows a really nice composition of a salmon taken in Dartmoor National Park in the UK. This has to be another of my top favourites this month. The fish stands out well on the rock background. Lighting, colours and composition are all good. I have never taken any pictures of salmon before but your shot Dave has inspired me to give it a go. If you don’t mind I would like to contact you for more details on the dive site. Please can you e-mail me at adventurediving@yahoo.co.uk or contact me on facebook.

Dave Peake’s third entry called ‘ocean wanderer’ is a shot of a barrel jelly taken in Cornwall in the UK. I like the reflection coming from the surface. A half above/below shot would have been really nice. Are you using a fisheye dome port? I’m guessing not?  It’s a shame that there isn’t a diver in the picture just to give the jelly some size perspective (where’s your buddy Pete when you need him?).

The Giannis D must have one of the most photographed sterns in the Red Sea. Christian Llewellyn’s entry called ‘Sleeping Goliath’ shows the Giannis D in all its glory. This is a great wide angle shot showing the whole of the wreck’s stern and a dive tender waiting on the surface above. Normally this shot works well in black and white, but Christian’s colour version is equally as good and shows plenty of detail. A few fish swimming by in the foreground would have been the icing on the cake! Normally there are hundreds of divers swimming about so you were lucky to have the wreck all to yourself – or have you used a few photo editing tweaks Christian? Great shot by the way.

Simon Gardener’s second macro entry called ‘cleaning time’ taken on a reef in Muscat in Oman shows a little bream being preened by a cleaner wrasse. Capturing this composition with a 50mm lens is by no means easy task. This is a great picture. It’s clear, well-lit and tells a story. It’s a slight shame that the bream is looking slightly away to the left of the frame, but otherwise no other comments from me.

Simon Gardener’s third macro entry called ‘lonely’ shows a colourful nudi on a reef in Qatar. Simon’s managed to get all of the nudi in focus. I think the composition works pretty well.

It’s really worth reading Alex Brinnen’s picture description/story before looking closely at the picture. Alex’s shot called ‘Are you looking at me chief!’ shows a head on view of a lionfish taken on a wreck off Phi Phi Island in Thailand. I really like the bits of wreckage around the outside. I think there is also a bit of additional vignetting but it really works well and draws you into the picture. Definitely the best storyline of the month Alex.

Sharks are always make fascinating subjects for photos. Don Rhodes has taken an impressive shot of a 13 foot hammerhead shark encountered off Bimini Island in the Bahamas. Don’s picture called ‘great hammerhead swimming by divers in Bimini’ shows a close up of an open mouthed hammerhead cruising by Don with a couple of divers watching in the background. Great piece of shark/diver interaction. I’ve only ever seen hammerheads from a distance, never this close.

For the second time this month I am saying ‘wow’. Don has stuck with the shark theme for his second entry called ‘great hammerhead shark in Bimini, the Bahamas’. This time Don has taken an underbelly shot of a hammerhead swimming over his head. This is a pro quality shot. What camera are you using Don? This has to be a housed DSLR? Great composition, the whole shark is filling the frame. The shark is also head on to camera and has an open mouth displaying an impressive set of teeth. Excellent shot. I’m very envious. This is without doubt a top 5 entry this month.

Don’s third entry simply called ‘grey triggerfish’ shows a full frame trigger and it’s quite an interesting pose, head on with the whole body also in the frame. Has the area under the fish’s mouth been over exposed and then coloured in Don? The image looks a little bit too contrasty but I have to admit that in this instance I think it actually works. I like the fact that the ‘trigger’ fin is in the raised position. For years I used to run triggerfish photo workshops off the coast of Portland, UK on a little wreck called the Royal Adelaide. Every year around the end of August the grey triggers would appear in reasonably large numbers and stay until the water temperature dropped and then they would sadly die. On one occasion I was surrounded by more than 100 triggers. The grey triggers were always inquisitive and would come right up to my mask. On one occasion I was actually snapped by another photographer ‘kissing’ a trigger. Yes, I actually took out my reg and the triggerfish came in for a nibble. I don’t think I would try to do this with a hammerhead shark!

Don’s last entry called ‘Spanish grunt on deck of USCG cutter Duane’ was taken in the Florida Keys and shows a close up of the fish with some of the shipwreck showing in the background. The colours are absolutely spectacular. Have you enhanced them in any way Don?  It’s a superb shot and has to be in the top macro shots of the month.

And so to the final entry of the month by Chris Court and called ‘reef scene’. Is this shot supposed to be portrait? Where are you Chris? Somewhere off Giftun Island? It’s a great scenic view of a reef and I’m pleased to see there are plenty of fish life and healthy soft and hard corals in view. Your shot makes me think about visiting again, especially while it’s still quiet.

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Okay, I thought that last month’s competition was tough to judge, but this month is an equally difficult decision. Don Rhodes’ Hammerhead shot is pretty spectacular but I also like his shot of a Spanish Grunt, the colours are just mesmerising.  Christian Llewellyn’s Giannis D shot is top of the wrecks and Dave Peake has entered some superb UK entries. And I have to mention Tam Warner Minton’s black and white barracuda which was absolutely top notch. Nico Luzzi’s shoal of Jacks shot was also outstanding. I have checked off the usual points I am looking for which include focus, lighting, interesting composition etc, etc and I am left with the two shots that gave me the  extra ‘wow’ factor and that was Don’s hammerhead and Nicco’s shoal of Jacks. I have looked at both pictures over and over again and I think Nicco’s shot ‘one way only’ just about pips it. Thank you again for all of your entries.

Scubaverse.com’s March 2016 Underwater Photo Contest is now open! You have until midnight on Friday 25th March to enter up to 3 of your best underwater pictures. Enter here.

Stuart Philpott

Stuart Philpott

Stuart has spent the past 26 years taking pictures and writing stories for diving magazines and other publications. In fact, this equates to more than a year of his life spent underwater. There have been plenty of exciting moments from close encounters with crocodiles and sharks to exploration of deep wrecks and more recently rebreathers. He lives in Poole, Dorset and is very much an advocate of UK diving.

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