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NUPG Annual Splash-In and Print Competition 2015

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Every summer since 2000, when the Northern Underwater Photography Group (NUPG) was founded, they have organised a one day underwater photography competition which takes place anywhere in North Wales. Anglesey has, traditionally, been the focal point for the judging of the event, and for the third year running, the society has synchronised the event to coincide with the Anglesey Scubafest. It features a splash-in competition, where competitors have to take images on the day, in the sea, and only in marine waters around the North Wales coast line. In the past, the competition has been restricted to NUPG members only, but since the linkup with Scubafest, the event is open to all comers and is now one of the best attended splash-ins in the country.

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Caroline Robertson-Brown receiving her award presented to her by Richard Corner of Mares.

Everyone has their own idea of where they think they can get the best pictures. Some head out on boats, others shore dive; but this year, everyone had particularly difficult conditions to deal with. Whilst the sun shone overhead, making it a lovey day to be out and about, underneath the surface the visibility was unforgiving for photographers at less than one metre, and many of the dives also had some annoying and vomit-inducing surge.

Each participant can choose to enter images into 5 categories: System Wide Angle; System Macro; Compact Wide Angle; Compact Macro and the Spirit of Scubafest. Once the dives are completed, the divers then all rush to the Scubafest venue, where the images have to be handed in by 7:30pm in time to be considered in the competition. The images that are submitted are not allowed to be cropped and only basic, whole image editing is allowed. The images have to be taken on the day and in order to discourage anyone from using an image taken earlier, a registration sheet is emailed out the evening before, and this has to be the first image on the memory card.

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The winning shot of the ‘Spirit of Scubafest’ award, taken by Roz Lunn.

On top of the splash-in competition, there is also a print competition, with four categories to enter: Overseas Wide Angle; Overseas Macro; British Wide Angle and British Macro. Each image has to have been taken within the last 12 months by NUPG members. These are displayed around the outside of the room for all those attending, whether they took part or not, to vote for their favourite images (two from each category). It was great to see so many lovely shots in each category making it a tough choice for every vote. It was generally felt amongst the NUPG members that this year’s entrants were of a particularly high standard.

The event was sponsored by 10 different companies from within the diving and underwater photography industry. This meant that each category winner, from both the splash-in and print competitions, got a trophy to take home and keep. Apeks, Frogfish Photography and Mares were on hand to give out their awards, whilst Mark Evans, Sport Diver editor, was on hand to present the rest. Many of the votes were extremely close, with only one vote in it and for 3 categories, a vote-off was required to decide the winners, and in another two cases, the runner-up. The four splash-in category winners were then voted for to decide the overall winner of the 2015 splash-in. The overall winner won a trophy to keep, but more importantly, they also collected the highly coveted NUPG Splash-In trophy (an underwater photographer made out of nuts and bolts) to keep until next year.

And the winners are:

Splash-In

System Wide Angle (sponsored by Frogfish Photography): Winner – Caroline Robertson-Brown with an image of the blue sky looking up through some seaweed at Mckenzies Pier; Runner-up – Nick Robertson-Brown with a split shot of his dog Paddy swimming through the seaweed, also at McKenzies Pier.

System Macro (sponsored by Apeks): Winner – Caroline Robertson-Brown with a shot of 3 shannies taken at Porth Dafarch; Runner-up – Jim Garland with a portrait shot of a lobster & John Spencer with a cute shot of a blenny.

Compact Camera Wide Angle (sponsored by Nauticam UK): Winner – Alex Tasker with a split shot, with a gull flying overhead; Runner-up – Nick Robertson-Brown with a shot of Star Wars characters fighting on a sandy seabed!

Compact Camera Macro (sponsored by DiveLife): Winner – Alex Tasker with a detailed shot of an anemone; Runner-up – Marc Hubble with a difficult shot of a tiny crab hanging upside down on seaweed.

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Winning shot of the Compact Camera Macro award by Alex Tasker.

Spirit of Scubafest (sponsored by Scubaverse.com): Winner – Roz Lunn with an image of a boy playing on an inflatable shark; Runner-up – Roz Lunn with an image of a horse on the beach with a boat full of divers in the background.

Overall Winner (sponsored by Mares): Winner – Caroline Robertson-Brown with the image of the shannies.

Print Competition

Overseas Wide Angle (sponsored by Equator Diving): Winner – Caroline Robertson-Brown with a split shot of a swimming pig from Exuma in The Bahamas; Runner-up – John Spencer with an evocative shot of a school of fish under a pier.

Overseas Macro (sponsored by Divequest): Winner – Paul Ansell with a lovely portrait of a colourful pipefish; Runner-up – Nick Robertson-Brown with a black background portrait of a leafy sea-dragon taken in South Australia and John Spencer with a tiny blenny on coral taken from above.

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Winning shot of the Overseas Macro award by Paul Ansell.

British Wide Angle (sponsored by INON UK): Winner – Caroline Robertson-Brown with a shot of a seal taken in the Farne Islands; Runner-up – Paul Kay with a shot of colourful brittle stars.

British Macro (sponsored by Frogsborn): Winner – Paul Kay with a bokeh (blurred) shot of an edible crab; Runner-up – Sue Spencer with a shot of an anemone with brittle stars.

Once again the event was very well attended, with a high standard of images on display (especially given the splash-in conditions). Caroline, who is the NUPG secretary, was overwhelmed at doing so well on the night. “The NUPG splash-in trophy is something I have wanted to win since joining the NUPG 8 years ago. I am extremely proud to have now done so and cannot wait to get my name engraved on the trophy alongside some of our society’s previous great underwater photographers.”

To find out more about the NUPG, visit www.nupg.org.uk.

 

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Mares EOS LRZ Torch Range

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What does LRZ stand for I hear you ask? The answer is: LED lights, Rechargeable, Zoomable. Mares have created a versatile set of seven underwater lights in the new range to suit all needs and budgets.

I tested the most powerful of them – the EOS 32LRZ at Capernwray on a cold but bright spring day. I was diving with Alex Mustard, and so all the underwater images are by him, showing me trying out the torch in both the shallows and in some of the wrecks at this site.

All the torches in the new line have an LED visual battery charge indicator that allows you to keep the battery level under control.

Want to use it out of the water? No problem! The new EOS LRZ torches feature an innovative temperature control system that allows you to use them both underwater and on land. I can see myself using this on gloomy dog walks later in the year!

As you can see from the video I filmed just after getting back from a dive, the torch is easy to use, even with thick gloves in cold water. The zoomable light beam means that you can highlight a particular spot, or have a wide beam, which is great for both modeling for a photographer, and exploring different underwater environments.

The EOS 32LRZ has a powerful beam with 3200 lumens of power and 135 minutes of burn time. Perfect for some of the darker dives you can experience in the UK, but also for exploring overhead or enclosed environments. I easily got 2 long dives out of a single charge, and then was able to recharge it in my car using a USB cable on the way home, ready for the next day of diving.

The look and feel of these torches are great. In your hand you can feel the quality of the torches. They are solid and well built. They also look great. Each torch in the range comes with a padded case to keep them safe during transport.

For more, visit the Mares website by clicking here.

All underwater images by Alex Mustard

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Marine Life & Conservation

Reef-World launches Green Fins Japan!

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The Reef-World Foundation, the Onna Village Diving Association, the local government, and Oceana are delighted to announce that Japan is now the 14th country globally to implement the Green Fins initiative – a UN Environment Programme initiative. Onna Village in Okinawa is the first Japanese tourist destination to adopt Green Fins environmental standards to reduce the threats associated with diving and snorkelling on the marine environment.

Green Fins is piloted in Onna Village, Okinawa prefecture, an area renowned for its marine sports and has been working to protect its reefs for many years. Green Fins is implemented as part of the national Sustainable Development Goals project, which aims to manage and illustrate to the local industry how sustainable tourism can play a role in reef conservation. The economic benefits of the reefs benefit not only the fisheries industry but also the tourism industry as it has rocketed in recent decades.

If the project is successful – proving the value of sustainable tourism – the model has the potential to be escalated to a national level. A wide rollout would allow Reef-World to focus on uptake and expansion into other marine tourism and biodiversity hotspots across Japan. Green Fins implementation in Japan would provide practical solutions to many of the common problems faced in the area. It would also help to promote high standards for diving in the country. Improving the quality of the diving industry through Green Fins would demonstrate the added value of Onna Village’s tourism product. This, in turn, will encourage tourists to spend more time and money diving in the region.

Following a week of training by Reef-World (23 to 28 May 2022), Japan now has a national Green Fins team comprised of four fully certified Green Fins Assessors and two Green Fins Coordinators from Oceana and the local government. They will be responsible for recruiting, assessing, training and certifying dive and snorkel operators to become Green Fins members in the country. This involves providing training about the ecology and threats to coral reefs, simple and local everyday solutions to these threats and Green Fins’ environmental standards to dive and snorkel operators. Green Fins membership will help marine tourism operators improve their sustainability and prove they are working hard to follow environmental best practices as a way of attracting eco-minded tourists.

James Harvey, Director at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We are really excited to finally introduce Green Fins in Japan. We have been planning this for almost three years, but the travel restrictions related to the pandemic hindered progress. The diving industry in Okinawa and the marine life upon which it has been built is so unique, it must be preserved for generations to come. The Okinawa diving community is very passionate about protecting their marine environment, and Green Fins has given them an opportunity to collectively work to reduce their environmental impact and pursue exemplary environmental standards.”

Diving and snorkelling related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or plastic debris and the effects of climate change. Based on robust individual assessments, the Green Fins initiative helps identify and mitigate these risks by providing environmental consultation and support to dive and snorkel operators. Through Green Fins implementation in Japan, Reef-World aims to reduce negative environmental impacts in the region by reaching 10 marine tourism operators, training 50 dive guides and raising awareness of sustainability best practices among 10,000 tourists in the first year.

Yuta Kawamoto, CEO of Oceana, said: “Green Fins will help to unify all the conservation efforts in Okinawa by applying the guidelines in many areas and raising tourists awareness. We hope this will increase the sustainable value in the diving industry and in turn increase the diving standards in the country.”

Green Fins is a UN Environment Programme initiative, internationally coordinated by The Reef-World Foundation, which aims to protect and conserve coral reefs through environmentally friendly guidelines to promote a sustainable diving and snorkelling tourism industry. Green Fins provides the only internationally recognised environmental standards for the diving and snorkelling industry and has a robust assessment system to measure compliance.

To date, four dive operators in Onna Village have joined the global network of 600+ trained and assessed Green Fins members. These are: Benthos Divers, Okinawa Diving Center, Arch Angel and Pink Marlin Club. There has also been significant interest from other operators, even those that are not located in Onna Village, for Green Fins training and assessment.

Suika Tsumita from Oceana said: “Green Fins serve as an important tool for local diving communities to move towards a more sustainable use of their dive sites; so that they can maintain their scenic beauty and biological richness to provide livelihoods for many generations to come.”

For more information, please visit www.reef-world.org or  www.greenfins.net/countries/japan. Dive and snorkel operators interested in signing up for Green Fins can find the membership application form at: www.greenfins.net/how-to-join.

Dive and snorkel operators in Japan interested in signing up to be Green Fins members can contact the Green Fins Japan team at japan@greenfins.net.

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