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Relative newcomer scoops award for the British & Irish Underwater Photography Championship 2020

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Forty one competitors submitted ninety four images in BSoUP’s annual British & Irish Underwater Photography Championship, a tough on-the-day competition that demands competitors to take, process and submit images taken anywhere in UK and Irish waters in the space of only 24 hours.

Judges Paul Colley from the UK and Diarmuid O’Donnavan from Ireland were impressed with the quality of entires, particularly in the category for Mankind’s Impact on the Environment, which has now started to attract serious interest from competitors.  Entry numbers were up on the previous year, although down on historical norms, possibly due to the impact of the pandemic and ongoing restrictions with social distancing, which has made boat diving in particular more difficult.

BIUPC Champion 2020: Georgie Bull

Some well-known faces continue to show their ability, including three-time champion Trevor Rees who took top spot in both the close-up and environment categories, Mark Kirkland who once again took the runner-up position for the wide-angle category, and a fist full of other photographers who are well known on the UK and Irish circuit.  However, it was relative newcomer Georgie Bull, only narrowly missing to qualify for the newcomer category, who produced a stunning image of sunlit seagrass to take top marks from both judges and scoop the title BIUPC champion 2020.

Close Up 1st: Trevor Rees

Due to a combination of competitors and images failing to meet the strict vetting criteria for this unique on-the-day competition that has electronic image verification procedures to allow submission from anywhere in UK and Ireland, there were a significant number of spoiled entries, particularly in the newcomer category, which accordingly was not awarded this year.  But the full list of winners, runners-up and highly commended images shows quite clearly the impressive results that can be achieved in just one day’s diving.

Compact 1st: Grant McCarry

At the on line awards ceremony hosted by the British Society of Underwater Photographers, Georgie expressed her huge enthusiasm for our underwater world and her delight and surprise at winning.  She was awarded with the Peter Scoones trophy in memory of one of BSoUP’s founding fathers, a BSoUP trophy to keep for life and a certificate embellished with her winning image.

Environment 1st: Trevor Rees

BIUPC 2020 Roll of Honour

Wide-angle winner and BIUPC Champion 2020: Georgie Bull

Close-up winner: Trevor Rees

Restricted Camera winner: Grant McCarry

Mankind’s Impact on the Environment winner: Trevor Rees


Wide-angle runner-up: Mark Kirkland

Wide-angle highly commended: Mike Orth

Wide-angle highly commended: Rick Ayrton


Close-up runner-up: Kirsty Andrews

Close-up highly commended: James Lynott

Close-up highly commended: Jonathan Bunker


Restricted Camera winner: Grant McCarry

Restricted Camera runner-up: Ronan Murray


Mankind’s Impact on the Environment runner-up: Rob Bailey

Mankind’s Impact on the Environment highly commended: Rick Ayrton


For more information about the BUICP visit the BSOUP website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive

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British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.


All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives

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Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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