September 2015 Photo Contest Winner and Review



WINNER: ‘Follow my Lead!’ by Sue Barnes


I’m really pleased to see that this month’s competition has attracted so many entries. Could it be the lure of some great looking prizes that has upped the interest? I’m sure it has had some bearing.  I was even going to sneak in a few of my own pictures under a pseudonym. I’m sure that Dave, Scubaverse’s Editor in Chief, wouldn’t notice.

I’ve just had a skirt through this month’s images and they all look amazing. Well done and thanks for your submissions. As usual I will go through each image one at a time and give my own perspective, constructively of course.

It’s good to see that Janice is back for a second go. Her first entry called ‘anemone massage’ shows a porcelain crab sitting inside an anemone. I love the way Janice has composed the shot with the crab sitting at the apex of a naturally formed U-shape gully inside the anemone tentacles.  This makes the image far more interesting to look at. There’s something about green backgrounds; isn’t green supposed to be the most soothing colour for eyes? This has to be my favourite of Janice’s three entries.

Janice seems to have a fetish with crabs this month. This time around the shot is called ‘Linus’ and shows a crab sitting on a sea cucumber. I like the fact that the crab isn’t central and as Janice points out in her description the black sea cucumber has brought out the shell pattern on the crab. Maui is quite an exotic (and expensive) location. I don’t think there’s much chance of getting a magazine assignment arranged – maybe Scubaverse will fund a trip! (Dream on Stu – Ed.)

I am always drawn to the eye of a pipefish and Janice’s ‘profile of a pipefish’ image has a colourful looking pipefish with a very detailed eye that does just that. There are quite a few pipefish along the UK’s south coast but I’ve yet to get a shot that I am happy with.

The colours and detail on Joe Redfern’s shot ‘want to be friends’ look almost animated, just like a scene from the movie Finding Nemo. I’m in two minds as to whether I would crop it to a portrait shot or leave it as it is with all the blue background. To be honest it kind of works really well as it is. Joe hasn’t put down any more information about how he took the shot but it’s a head on, perfect focus surgeon fish shot – say no more apart from very nice indeed. This shot is one of my top three for this month.

Mark Milburn’s ‘I have friends’ is a very topical jellyfish shot. I’m guessing it’s been taken somewhere in the UK Mark? This year there seems to be a huge amount of jellies around the UK coast including the barrel variety shown in Mark’s picture. If I was to be critical I would have taken the image from the front or dome part of the jellyfish and shoot upwards getting more of the sun’s rays in the composition or maybe placing the sun right behind the jellyfish for a sunburst effect. They don’t move all that fast so it’s quite easy to manoeuvre oneself into the best position. Great effort and I’m pleased to see a UK entry.

Sue Barnes has submitted a very atmospheric black and white image called ‘follow my lead’ taken with a Fuji compact. Not bad at all Sue. I’m racking my brains as to where this shot was taken. The deep canyons look very impressive but it doesn’t look like the Red Sea and it can’t be tech as everyone is wearing single cylinders. It looks Mediterranean-ish but I’m not sure where? Getting back to the composition, I’m drawn to the streams of bubbles rising to the surface – this gives the image movement, and the contours of the steep sided rock walls look very dramatic. Definitely one of my favourites.

Sue’s second entry ‘Gozo solo’ may well give me a better idea where the first image was taken but if  it is Gozo I don’t recognise the site? Sue, I’m not so taken with this silhouette shot of a diver. Your first entry is so much better.

Jenny Stock’s ‘flying through the blues’ was probably taken at stingray city in the Cayman’s. A polished looking image, nice colour balance and well composed. I would say that Jenny is shooting upwards with a fish eye lens making great use of the clear blue sky above. This is also one of my top three.

Joe Redfern has probably been using stealth diver tactics to get this picture called ‘hygenic barracuda’. It’s not easy to get a close-up front facing shot of a barracuda although they are usually distracted during cleaning which allows photographers a slight advantage.  I think the main subject, i.e. barracuda, is lost slightly in the reef background but a great set of teeth!

Mathew Sullivan’s ‘underwater wood turtle’ looks like a 3D image. The turtle literally comes out of the picture! I like taking what I call 50/50 images, i.e. half  below/half above the surface. This shot has worked well. I normally get a few water droplets on my dome port and have to edit them out afterwards. Nice colours and the turtle really is striking the pose with a head up, neck extended posture.

What a beautiful looking anemone in Ken Byrne’s ‘fireworks’ taken in Loch Hourn on the west coast of Scotland. I googled Loch Hourn and it looks absolutely stunning. You are a lucky man to have dived there Ken. I hope you weren’t the diver that got rescued following a mayday call earlier this year? Anyway, back to the image, I like the plan view of the anemone and the intricate detail of the tentacles.

Ken Byrne’s second macro entry called ‘friends’ is another nice example of a Brit pic. If I could chosoe a group winner then I it would definitely be Ken’s three pictures. Please send in more next month.

Ken’s third image ‘plumose’ is crying out for a diver silhouette in the green patch on the left. But the wall of anemones look incredible; you really have made me think about visiting. You haven’t left any information about your camera Ken. It doesn’t look like you are using a compact, but who knows these days.

Well, there are plenty of fish in Jonatan Sanchez’s ‘having fun with the boys’. A great wide angle composition with diver/photographer in the foreground and a shoal of jacks circling around in the foreground/background. Shame about the other diver getting in the way, and what is that hanging down on a bungy cord? I would have probably edited this out during post processing. Getting rid of the second diver would have been more difficult but not impossible. I’ve heard there are so many good photo opportunities around Sipadan. Yet another destination to put on my to-dive list!

Rickey L Ferand has submitted ‘king of the reef’. The composition works well with the Lionfish cruising past the shoal. On a more critical note it looks a bit too contrasty for my liking and there is the silhouette of a diver mixed up with the lionfish. Again I would have cloned the diver out. This would only take a couple of minutes to do.

Rickey’s second offering ‘watch me whip’ is a classic goby on whip coral angled across the image. This goby has a very strange curly tail. I’ve never seen this before.

I actually slept on it last night before making a final decision. My top three images have to be the surgeon fish, sting ray and the black and white. I didn’t want to choose another black and white shot as this month’s winner (I have already chosen a b/w shot in a previous competition) but I really like Sue Barnes ‘ follow my lead’ image. I think this shot just pips the stingray and the surgeon fish. Congratulations, Sue!

This month’s competition was really tough. There were so many good entries I had to really think hard about the winner. I hope you agree with my choice. Thanks again for your submissions. I look forward to seeing next month’s batch – hopefully there will be even more!’s October 2015 Photo Contest is now open – enter here.

Stuart Philpott

Stuart Philpott

Stuart has spent the past 26 years taking pictures and writing stories for diving magazines and other publications. In fact, this equates to more than a year of his life spent underwater. There have been plenty of exciting moments from close encounters with crocodiles and sharks to exploration of deep wrecks and more recently rebreathers. He lives in Poole, Dorset and is very much an advocate of UK diving.

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