March 2016 Photo Contest Winner and Review



WINNER: Wesley Oosthuizen


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

We 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 we 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 us both go wow – I wish I had taken that!

March 2016

This month saw 34 entries into the competition and there were some lovely images. One of the toughest judging decisions is selecting the winner from both worthy macro and wide angle images.

Our favourites


Tom St George’s sidemount cave diver is wonderfully lit with no overexposed areas on the cave walls, and makes me want to go diving there, which is a sign of a great diving photo.

Marcia Melton’s beautiful nudibranch, taken in Anilao, is lovely and sharp, with good use of Bokeh in the background.

Graham Owen’s diver at the prop is another shot that makes me want to be there – The Imperial Eagle in Malta

Cat Briggs’ images of the diver on Giannis D wreck is lovely. I really like the way the coral is lit so well, the diver positioning is good and you can just make out the wreck behind.

Wesley Oosthuizen’s shot of a feather-duster worm is gorgeous. The lighting is perfect and you can feel the current just by looking at this image. Super composition.

Jesse Alpert’s image of a school of scalloped hammerheads in the Galapagos Islands shows off these amazing sharks in silhouette, a shot that is getting rarer and rarer to get.

Sean Chin’s shark – so hard to get them head on like this, great texture in the sand and surface and the shark just pops out of the image.

Kate Jonker’s image of a school of big eyes caught my eye, because of the eye contact with these fish. If you see red – shoot it.

Christian Llewellyn’s BSA motorbike shot from the Thistlegorm is creative, using red off camera lighting. I love the way this red light comes through the spokes.

Caroline’s Top 4:

Christian’s motorbike; Graham’s Diver at the Prop; Sean’s Tiger Shark; Wesley’s Feather Duster Worm.


The motorbike on the Thistlegorm, by Christian Llewellyn, is a really nice shot and whilst it’s been done many times, the red backlighting and the white strobe lighting does give it a different feel. I think if the strobe lighting had been a bit softer, the rays coming off the spokes with the red light may have been more prominent and hence make the image even better.

I really love Wesley Oosthuizen’s shot of the feather duster worm. I think the spot lighting with a black background works really well and the feathers are beautifully clear.

Octopus by Pierluigi Peis – I think overall the lighting of the subject is excellent and the fact, the photographer has created the right angle to put the subject, against blue water works really well. However, the blurred foreground is all a bit too much of a distraction for my liking.

Jesse Alpert’s Hammerhead silhouette – classic shot taken looking up at a mass of hammerheads. Simple and effective, but a super shot.

Debbie Wallace’s balanced lighting shot of the shark against the Sun burst is really nicely done, but I’m distracted by the strange pose of the diver to the right of the image and the sun itself is overcooked.

Emeric DENIS’ Clownfish on the anemone – this is a nice image, but I’m distracted by the fussiness on the right hand side where the lionfish is hiding and the prominent lighting is coming from the right, when it should be coming from the left and illuminating the subject itself, the clownfish.

Michelle Taylor’s Shark and the fish burst – love this shot, although the silver fish are bit red due to the colour balance, but the composition is brilliant as the snappers disperse when the shark bursts through the middle of them.

David Niddam’s White frogfish – I love the angle on this one, but the eye is just not quite in focus. The image is slightly bull’s-eye, whereby the attempted focus of the subject is right in the middle of the image. I like the use of negative space and the way the image bokehs away from the focal point of the eye.

Graham Owen’s Diver at the prop – very nicely lit by strobes and the diver with the light. This balances the image cleverly as the diver is sitting in a good pose in the negative space.

Kate Jonker’s Clownfish in the bubble anemone – Everyone has a picture of a clownfish in an anemone, but I particularly like the way the subject was lit.

Cat Briggs’ Coral on the wreck with diver – the colour of the corals just pops out at you and the diver creates a really well balanced image. Personally, I would have cropped in just a tiny bit.

Sean Chin’s Tiger shark – super, head-on shot, which is difficult to capture; however, I think it would have been better had you brought the strobes higher up rather than illuminate the sand in front of you.

Kate Jonker’s Big Eyes shot on a dark black background – this is an almost brilliant shot of a really common subject. The angle, for me, is not quite right – it is a little bit tale dominant. I love the way they pop out from a black background, and whilst I think black backgrounds are being currently overused, the eye contact and colour make this a lovely image.

Kate Jonker’s Gobi on a whip coral – this image is well taken, and perfectly in focus. I just think that with a slight change of angle you may have led to the Gobi not been quite so buried in the coral. Yet another example of using black background to pop the subject.

Nick’s Top 4:

Cat’s Coral on the wreck with diver; Graham’s diver at the prop; Jesse’s hammerhead silhouette; Wesley’s feather duster.

Nick and Caroline go through the images separately and as you can see, whilst they agree broadly on the top 10 or so, when we get down to their favourite 4 images, only 2 make it into both their selections.

After much deliberations between our two judges….

Runner-up is Graham Owen with At the Prop (The prop of The Imperial Eagle in Malta. The Imperial Eagle served as a ferry amongst other things and was the sister ship to the Jacques Cousteau’s ship Calypso. It now rests at 46m and provides a fantastic dive site. The decks have largely rotted away leaving a skeletal wreck in places)

And the winner is…

The winner is Wesley Oosthuizen with The Ballet of Sabellidae (It’s always a pleasure to watch feather duster worms dance in tune with the motion of the water). Congratulations Wesley!

Both first and second place images stood out because of their great lighting.

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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