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Scubaverse Underwater Photographer Interview: Conor Culver

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Conor Culver

In a brand new ongoing series, Scubaverse.com’s Underwater Photography Editors Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown talk to underwater photographers from around the world that they admire.

The first interview is with US-based underwater photographer Conor Culver.

ConorCulver

I am Conor Culver from Golden, Colorado. I have a BFA with a duel emphasis in Photography and Digital Design from the University of Colorado Denver. My diving career started when I was 12 years old and has taken over my life since then.

My awards include: 2nd in 2014’s Our World Underwater in the Conceptual/Fashion Category, 3rd Place in 2015 Scuba Diving Magazine Photo Contest, 1st and 3rd place in Liquid Capture: Masters of Underwater Photography, 3rd place in 2014 Underwaterphotography.com’s contest (Creative/Manipulated), and 1st in 2015 Underwaterphotography.com’s annual contest (Creative/Manipulated).

N/C: How did your underwater photography start?

CC: I started diving 18 years ago and began shooting underwater 14 years ago. The first time I ever shot underwater, I was 16 years old diving the island of Dominica. It wasn’t until I attended the University of Colorado Denver years later that I began to explore surreal art and photography. At first, I just created any surreal image that came to mind, but I didn’t start manipulating underwater images till my junior year. I began my thesis my senior year and that is when the foundations of my body of work titled “Underwater Surrealism” began. I wanted to say something unique about the animals in each image, but as a body of work I wanted the meaning to bring awareness to the reefs and oceans. I’ve found it interesting that ocean disasters almost always are not widely known or publicized, but disasters on land are always front-page news. Many people, even today, do not know about the lionfish invasion in the Atlantic, but I’ll always remember the cover of the news paper being a heard of elk that was struck by lightning here in Colorado. Both are horrible occurrences, but only the land disasters make the news. So with this work, if I bring these animals above water and into scenes on land, are they now just as important?  My work is created to bring awareness to these fish, animals and reefs.

Conor Culver

N/C: What is your favourite u/w camera equipment (past & present) & Why?

CC: I shoot with a Nikon D800E with and Ikelite housing and have 2 DS-160 Sunstrobes. For lenses, I shoot mostly with a 60mm macro because I can usually get the entire animal in the shot. For really small animals I use my 105mm macro and for wide-angle for the larger animals I use a 16-35mm. I’ve always loved Nikon and their lenses; my first DSLR was a Nikon D80, so I’ve always been shooting Nikon. My first underwater camera was a Sea & Sea MX-10 35mm camera. Loved that camera and being able to change between wide angle and macro underwater. The major downfall was being limited to only a few shots and not knowing if they came out immediately. Also since all my work is digitally created in Photoshop, it makes it easier sticking with digital and moving away from film.

N/C: Tell us how you go about creating the images in your Underwater Surrealism series. Do you plan the final image and then go and take the underwater and above water images? Or are you inspired by images you have already taken whilst diving?

CC: Creating my images can go either way. Sometimes my ideas are imagined before I go on my trips and other ideas come after a dive or even when I’m back at home. A good example of an image planned ahead of time was Clownfish Circus where I placed clownfish swimming around circus tents. I developed that idea way before I got the images of clownfish. I even shot the circus tents months before I left for my next trip.

Conor Culver

Home SecurityMost of my ideas for images are developed afterward. I don’t always know what I’m going to find and how that animal or fish will be positioned underwater. Most of my images and ideas are created afterwards when I have the shot of that animal. Sometimes immediately after the dive, I begin to think of the scenes to put the animals in. When the idea is envisioned, I search for background shots here in CO or wait till I can get them when I travel. I always have my camera around me.

Then in Photoshop, I clip the animals out and put them into the scenes on land, mask them, create the shadows, adjust the colors and lighting and finally add texture over the entire image. Texture helps trick the eye into believing the image. Many of the edits are just experimenting with what works and what doesn’t and just messing around letting things happen. That’s the surrealist in me coming out; most of my images never completely turn out exactly how I envisioned them and that is probably my favourite part.

N/C: What, or who, has been your single biggest inspiration for your underwater photography?

Conor Culver

CC: My absolute biggest inspiration in photography is Jerry Uelsmann. When I saw his work in Introduction to Photography in college I knew what I wanted to do as a photographer. I wanted to create images that challenge your sense of reality. It wasn’t just him – the early surrealists Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró played a big role and photographers Maggie Taylor, Robert and Shana Parke Harrison, and Ben Goossens are big inspirations as well. My parents for helping me along the way and the professors at UCD who helped develop my vision and meaning for my work are all responsible for the work I create today.

N/C: If you could photograph any one thing/place what or where would that be?

CC: My number one place I always wanted to go was Indonesia, but I just travelled there in November and was blown away. If I could photograph any one thing, it would be the Great Hammerhead Shark. With all the 18 years of diving, I’ve never seen a hammerhead and they have always been my top creature to see. I was trying to plan a trip to Bimini this year, but it didn’t work out. So now I’ll try for next year!

You can view Conor’s work at www.conorculver.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/conorculverphotographyanddesign

Twitter: @Conor_Culver

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

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11th Annual Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest Winners Announced

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The prestigious Ocean Art Underwater Photo Competition, organized by the Underwater Photography Guide, has announced the results of the 11th Annual competition and the world’s largest underwater photo contest.

The competition organiser’s said:

“It is clear from this year’s winning images that our community of underwater photographers has dived into a new and exciting post-pandemic era. An unprecedented caliber of photos was ushered in by the lifting of travel restrictions – including our best in show image featuring another teachable moment from an octopus. This photo, captured in Palm Beach, Florida by Kat Zhou, depicts the bittersweet final days between a mother octopus and her young before dying of old age.”

Winning photos can be seen at the Underwater Photography Guide at https://www.uwphotographyguide.com/ocean-art-contest-winners-2022

This year’s competition debuted a new Mobile Phone category, with inspiring images captured by a tool that almost every ocean lover has in their pocket. Other extraordinary winners included extra-terrestrial blackwater scenes of the crazy domain of pelagic critters, images that brought hope and solutions for ocean conservation, exhibitions of imaginative photographic technique, and inspiring animal portraits.

14 different categories ensure a competitive contest for all levels and disciplines of underwater photography. The judges evaluated thousands of entries from 96 countries before selecting the final set of images as Ocean Art winners. Ocean Art 2022 judges included prestigious underwater photographers Tony Wu, Mark Strickland, and Marty Snyderman.

Over $100,000 in prizes  was awarded provided by some of the world’s top scuba diving resorts, liveaboard dive yachts, and underwater photo gear manufacturers.

As the world resumes activities once considered normal, Ocean Art 2022 is a testament to the promise of novel photographic talent and innovation ahead. The competition was overseen by Nirupam Nigam, Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and a partner in Bluewater Photo and Bluewater Travel.

Nirupam commented: “The winners of Ocean Art 2022 surprised me. I expected an “instagramable” moment to steal the show. Instead, each image is that of photographic excellence or poetic reflection of the natural world around us. These images will be seared in my mind of years to come.”

Complete list of winners:

Best in Show
“Octopus Mother” by Kat Zhou

Best of Show – ‘Octopus Mother’ – Kat Zhou

Wide Angle
1st Place Renee Capozzola
2nd Place Daniel Nicholson
3rd Place Martin Broen
4th Place Julian Gunther
Honorable Mention Josh Blank
Honorable Mention Adam Martin

1st place Wide Angle – Renee Capozzola

Macro
1st Place Kat Zhou
2nd Place Matthew Sullivan
3rd Place Nicolas Remy
Honorable Mention Novrizal Herdananto
Honorable Mention Kat Zhou

Best of Show and 1st place Macro – Kat Zhou

Marine Life Behavior
1st Place Galice Hoarau
2nd Place Bryant Turffs
3rd Place Tom Shlesinger
4th Place Mirko Zanni
Honorable Mention Luc Rooman
Honorable Mention Mark Green

1st place Marine Life Behavior – Galice Hoarau

Portrait
1st Place Kuo-Wei Kao
2nd Place Gabriella Luongo
3rd Place Kim Briers
4th Place Andrew Cummings
Honorable Mention Frank Begun
Honorable Mention Jeff Molder
Honorable Mention Lorenzo Terraneo

1st place Portrait – Kuo-Wei Kao

Coldwater
1st Place Nicolas Remy
2nd Place Yannick Gouguenheim
3rd Place Jon Anderson
Honorable Mention Shouhao Ren
Honorable Mention Sage Ono

1st place Coldwater – Nicolas Remy

Nudibranch
1st Place Aleksei Permiakov
2nd Place Veronika Nagy
3rd Place Luke Gordon
Honorable Mention Mayumi Takeuchi-Ebbins
Honorable Mention Talia Greis

1st place Nudibranch – Aleksei Permiakov

Blackwater
1st Place Dennis Corpuz
2nd Place Josh Raia
3rd Place Steven Kovacs
4th Place Marcello Zof
Honorable Mention Steven Kovacs
Honorable Mention Galice Hoarau

1st place Blackwater – Dennis Corpuz

Underwater Conservation
1st Place Lawrence Alex Wu
2nd Place Caroline Power
3rd Place Gabriella Luongo
4th Place Celia Kujala
Honorable Mention Alessandro Giannaccini
Honorable Mention Daniel Pio

1st place Underwater Conservation – Lawrence Alex Wu

Underwater Art
1st Place Sarah Teveldal
2nd Place Julian Nedev
3rd Place Lilian Koh
Honorable Mention Jenny Stock

1st place Underwater Art – Sarah Teveldal

Black & White
1st Place Martin Broen
2nd Place Brooke Pyke
3rd Place Piers Baillie
Honorable Mention Renee Capozzola
Honorable Mention Richard Condlyffe

1st place Black & White – Martin Broen

Compact Wide Angle
1st Place Enrico Somogyi
2nd Place Felix Beck
3rd Place Martina Favero

1st place Compact Wide Angle – Enrico Somogyi

Compact Macro
1st Place Eunhee Cho
2nd Place Regie Casia
3rd Place David Pleuvret
4th Place Ipah Uid Lynn
Honorable Mention Martina Favero
Honorable Mention Andrew Michelutti
Honorable Mention Man Bd

1st place Compact Macro – Eunhee Cho

Compact Behavior
1st Place PT Hirschfield
2nd Place Sheryl Wright
3rd Place PT Hirschfield
4th Place João Pontes
Honorable Mention Sofia K. Tenggrono

1st place Compact Behavior – PT Hirschfield

Mobile Phone
1st Place Buzzichelli Alessandro
2nd Place Chris Gug
3rd Place Grega Verc

1st place Mobile Phone – Buzzichelli Alessandro

For more information, please visit http://www.uwphotographyguide.com

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News

Mantis Sub launches the RS360 deep diving 360-degree VR camera housing

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Mantis Sub, a leading innovator in underwater VR solutions, has announced the launch of the Mantis RS360, a compact new underwater VR camera housing specifically designed for the ground-breaking Insta360 ONE RS 1-Inch 360 Edition. This allows videographers to capture stunning 6K 360-degree underwater videos and 21MP photos with outstanding dynamic range thanks to the large dual 1-inch sensors of the camera.

Most affordable 360-degree camera housing with a durable aluminum body

Each Mantis RS360 housing is machined from an aluminum block and hard anodized for optimal strength and corrosion protection, making it a durable and long-lasting solution for underwater videography that has been tested to 300m (984 feet). The housing is engineered to optimally dissipate the heat generated by the camera into the surrounding water, allowing the camera to operate continuously without heat exhaustion – a common problem with consumer housings made from polycarbonate plastic. At the same time, it is a fraction of the price of other aluminum-body 360 degree camera housings.

User-friendly and extensible

Leveraging the camera’s quick capture mode, the Mantis RS360 housing provides a single button to turn the camera on/off and start/stop a recording at the same time. This saves precious battery life and makes it the perfect companion for underwater 360 photographers and videographers of all skill levels.

An integrated bulkhead port allows the user to power and control the camera externally, for example with a separate battery pack or from an underwater drone (ROV).

“We are excited to introduce the Mantis RS360, a top-of-the-line underwater VR camera housing that offers unparalleled durability and performance in its class,” said Axel Busch, Chief Engineer of Mantis Sub. “With 6K video and 21MP photo capabilities, ease of use and extreme depth rating, this housing opens up new possibilities for underwater videographers, scientists and deep sea explorers looking to capture stunning, high- resolution images and videos of the ocean’s beauty and marine life.”

“The RS360 is as small and as easy to operate as a consumer housing, while still offering the quality, durability and versatility of a professional tool,” said Andrew Simpson, Head of Sales of Mantis Sub. “Our larger housing for the Insta360 Pro 2 is extremely popular with Universities, Institutes and Production Houses around the world. With the RS360 housing we can now put a highly capable and versatile 360-degree camera system into the hands of enthusiasts and into places and at depths where the larger system can’t go.”

The Mantis RS360 is available for purchase now on the Mantis Sub website at https://www.mantis-sub.com/products/p/mantis-rs360, for US$1,680.00 and from Mantis Sub dealers worldwide.

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