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Midnight Cannibalism takes Top Award at Yap’s Annual MantaFest 2019

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MantaFest brings professional and amateur underwater photographers together to Yap, a hidden gem in the Pacific.

Long after sunset, 35 feet down and miles offshore, a squid stalks in the inky darkness of the Yap Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. With a lightning fast strike, it captures its prey in a forceful act of cannibalism. The split seconds that unfolded in this drama of one squid catching and devouring another of the same species was captured by blackwater diver/photographer Sheila Ott of Switzerland. Her image was recognized as the Best of Show by the international panel of judges during MantaFest 2019 held August 24 to September 8 and hosted by the Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers on the remote island of Yap in Micronesia.

Blackwater diving is a fairly new scuba diving endeavor, done well after dark and far away from land. Lights are hung from a boat that drifts in the open sea. During MantaFest, the divers entered the water in the Yap Trench, the second deepest ocean trench in the world, that falls to depths past five miles. Then, camera in hand, they wait to see what the lights will attract. They search for photogenic pelagic larvae to drift by, but anything can show up. In this case, for Ott, it brought an act of nature few people have ever seen.

“Black water night diving is so addicting!”, exclaimed Ott. “If you get a chance, just do it! I first saw the squid attack at some distance and took off kicking to try to get a shot.” Ott’s efforts paid off as she won the top prize and racked up a free dive trip and other prizes.

Image: Mike Fusco

During the annual two week photo school and contest, the protected reef and ocean off Yap’s pristine shores produce daily shows from marine creatures big and small including its famous resident sharks and manta rays and a plethora of small, colorful tropicals like the brightly colored mandarinfish, MantaFest Photo School 2020 will take place August 31 to September 13, 2020.

Now in its 13th year, MantaFest brings underwater photographers, both amateur and professional, to the small island to compete for prizes, attend workshops, take tours of the island, and experience the unique culture of Yap, considered to be among the best preserved in the Pacific region.

Workshops are led by experts in the field providing their knowledge of still photography and video workflow and editing software. They also offer advice during sessions with local models in settings that include the island’s unique stone money banks and traditional dance performances. Daily underwater shoots provide opportunities to dive with the manta rays, sharks and other creatures that inhabit the surrounding, protected reefs and steep coral walls.

Image: Katja Jakobsen

In addition to Ott, who lives in Les Monts-de-Corsier, Switzerland, grand prize winners were Mike Fusco of Guam, Best of Class DSLR ; Katja Jakobsen of Smorum, Denmark, Best of Class Non-DSLR; and Judy Bennett, New Orleans, Louisiana, Best Video Submission. Prizes were dive vacations and gear from leading manufacturers of diving and photo equipment from Dive Damai, Siren Fleet, Truk Odyssey Adventures, Aquanautic Elba, Mares, Ikelite, Akona, Diver Design, Ear Shield, Henderson, Dive 1st Aid, Gear Aid and Light & Motion.

Bennett was also the proud winner of the Crying Towel Award. “This special award is for the last dive day, after everyone has submitted their contest entries,” said Bill Acker, founder/owner of Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers. “’Murphy’s law’ is that one of the best images or video clips is captured the day after and, as history repeats itself, a video of a Zebra shark waking up and swimming off into the channel won a special edition MARES – Just Add Water mask and snorkel and a custom crying towel.” Bennett was overcome and immediately used the towel for its stated purpose.

MantaFest Photo School 2020 will take place August 31 to September 13, 2020. For more information, go to www.mantafest.com.

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Scubaverse UWP Winners Gallery: Raffaele Livornese

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Each month we give the winner of the Scubaverse Underwater Photography competition the opportunity to show off a little more of their work in a gallery. The January winner was Raffaele Livornese and you can see his winning image at the top of this page.


What do you love about diving & underwater photography?

I love the sensation of liberty when I’m diving and love so much uw photography because it permits me to report to all the people what they normally are unable to see. Often I love the interaction with some animals I’m shooting, they looks at me curiously, it seems they are trying to understand what I’m doing.

Where do you dive?

I dive normally in Italy on Sunday or when I’m free from work, but 2 times a year I travel with my wife, 1 time for macro photography and 1 time for wide-angle photography, so we look for the best destinations like Philippines, Indonesia and Baja California.

What equipment do you use?

I use a Nikon D850 full frame camera with a Hugyfot housing, Nikkor 60mm and 105mm macro lens, Sigma 15mm fisheye lens and a Nikkor 16-35 wide angle zoom lens. For the light I have 2 Inon Z330 strobes and an Orcatorch D910V focus light.

Where can our readers see more of your work?


To enter the latest Scubaverse Underwater Photography competition, with a chance to win some great prizes as well as have your own gallery published, head over to the competition page and upload up to 3 images.

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DAN’s new travel insurance has you covered

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As we look beyond the pandemic to the spring and summer ahead, many of us are eager to get out and see the world. If you’re planning to hit the road in 2021, don’t leave home without insurance.

For 40 years, DAN has protected divers against the risks associated with dive injuries. With this experience they have gained an intimate understanding of what can and does go wrong — for travelers as well as divers. Available to U.S. residents, DAN’s new travel insurance plans offer coverage for events including trip cancellations, missed connections, illnesses and injuries, baggage delays — and even qualifying COVID-19-related cancellations and interruptions.

With optional cancel-for-any-reason coverage, these plans are ideal for any kind of travel, from family road trips to long international stays, and can be purchased to cover a singular adventure or an entire year of travel. From delays to emergencies to lost dive gear, the events covered by these plans have been customized to meet divers’ needs and today’s changing circumstances.

If you’re looking forward to a change of scenery in 2021, DAN has you covered.

To find out more, visit the DAN website here.

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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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