November 2018 Photo Contest Winner and Review



WINNER: Behind a Humpback Whale by François Baelen

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!

November 2018

Lots of great entries this month that really show off the wonderful underwater world we are privileged to experience. Here are the ones I have picked out to discuss this month:

My Favourites

Manta Ray at Night by Chris Bush: This is a nice behaviour shot of a manta having fun on a night dive. They can often be seen beneath the lights of a boat filtering the small prey that is attracted to them. It is also a good shot for Manta ID purposes.

Soft Coral Macro by James Parra: this is a simple but effective way to use a black background to isolate the subject. Good use of depth of field too.

Coconut Octopus by Justin Beevor: This is a smasher of a shot! The full focussing really works giving the effect that you could be there. I love the detail, especially on the suckers, the snoot lighting which gives depth to the image and the eyes isolated by the black background. Super Shot!

Fishing Lesson by Justin Beevor: This is a lovely example of a behaviour portrait shot. A small depth of field leaves just one eye in focus.

Nudibranch Shrimp Love by Justin Beevor: Fantastic colours and contrast really bring out the nudibranch out of the frame in this shot. Another behaviour shot which shows true artistic thought.

Spanish Dancer by François Baelen: I keep trying to find a Spanish Dancer wherever I travel but they seem to be eluding me. This lovely reflection shot is stunning. It is beautifully executed and I am not jealous at all!

Behind a Humpback Whale by François Baelen:

As a general rule, the backside of a subject does not make for a good image, but just every now and then…The diver and the whale’s companion balance the image and the pectoral fins look like struts to the fluke. Impressive.

Love from a Father by François Baelen: This is a very good shot indeed. The fact that the clownfish eye and a cluster of young are in focus whilst the rest of the shot fades to bokeh is brilliant.

Disco time Goby on the colours by Deniz Muzaffer Gokmen: I really like this shot for the colours. The subject has been isolated using a black background and I love the goby’s expression. I does look rather noisy and I suspect the ISO has been pushed beyond the camera’s limits.

Thornies Secret by Deniz Muzaffer Gokmen: Wonderfully simple back-lit seahorse. the illuminated outline is just super.

My Blue Goby by Girly Misola: This is a pleasing snooted shot which really compliments the blue against black background.

Bottled Up Grouper by Christian Divina Moises: This is a cleverly created shot with the light coming through the bottle to illuminate the juvenile grouper’s face.

Mermaid meets Stoer by Margit Sablowski: A very different image from most on this site. The depth of field at the mid-point is just right and both subjects balance and complement each other.

Landscape Mexico by Margit Sablowski: I was drawn to this shot by its unusual nature. The rocks in the window framed by red create a lovely and discint image.

Seahorse by Paul Hewart: I love this unusual angle of a seahorse isolated against a dark background. I think I would have preferred the snout and eyes to be the dominant focus but the effect is still clever.

Donald Duck Shrimp by Jack Pokoj: This is an interesting image of an unusual subject. Shot against a black background and a blurry “branch”, it stands out.

Purple Rain by Jack Pokoj: This is a super shot of a beautiful subject shot against a black background but still on its natural environment. It looks like a crazy hairdo!

Intense by Mark Paul Genuino: This is a beautiful “fine-art” style shot of a nudibranch in black. I really like the large depth of field which shows off all the texture of the subject.

Stretching by Mark Paul Genuino: Another nudi shot against black. It looks like the nudibranch is shaking itself like a dog does! The colours are fabulous and the depth of field is perfect for this image.

Octopus at Night by Jack Alexander: This is a good spot. It is always difficult to get a good shot of an octopus which is out in the open, but this works.

Tell Tales by Sean Steininger: There is something compelling about this image. Another rear-end shot that works. I cannot define why I like it, but I do!

After much deliberation by our judge….

There were so many great shots, it was impossible to comment on them all, let alone select the top three! It was a tough call, but the results are:

Winner: Behind a Humpback Whale by François Baelen

Runner-Up: Coconut Octopus by Justin Beevor

Third: Love from a Father by François Baelen

There were so many amazing images this month that I also want to award a couple of Highly Commended. These go to Intense by Mark Paul Genuino & Spanish Dancer by François Baelen.

Congratulations to the those who were placed – some really nice images here, and well done to all those that entered. I cannot wait to see what December has to offer.’s December 2018 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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