September 2016 Photo Contest Winner and Review



WINNER: Red Sea Hammerhead by Nick Godfrey


When judging any underwater photography competition, the first thing we do is ask of each image: Is it in focus? The main subject has to be pin sharp. Is it exposed correctly?

We 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 we 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 us both go wow – I wish I had taken that!

September 2016

This month saw us back up to a better number of entries, with 46 being entered. There were some lovely images, including plenty of sharks and rays that are so good it is really tough to chose. One of the toughest judging decisions is selecting the winner from both worthy macro and wide angle images.

Our favourites


In my top selection of images this month are:

Nick Godfrey’s black and white hammerhead shark. Just getting close enough for a shot like this is a challenge! I also love his shot of a sand tiger shark swimming above the red corals in North Carolina. Moody and atmospheric.

Nigel Steel’s Sea Lion portrait is gorgeous with lovely eye contact and a real connection with the photographer.

Dean Martin has another lovely Red Sea Hammerhead image, but I absolutely love his Oceanic Whitetip shot! Head on, but with all the fins showing – Fab.

Heather Sutton has some lovely entries and it is hard to choose between her anemone shot and her Thresher Shark. The first needing attention to artificial lighting and the later without any. Both tough shots executed very well.

Jack McKee’s Nudibranch portrait is lovely. Whilst you cannot get eye contact with these critters, this shot does almost look like the slug is engaging with the photographer.

Dawn Clerkson’s turtle peering out from the coral is lovely. A shot I would have liked to have taken. She has also entered a cracking macro crab shot. Well done.

Cristian Umili has also entered a striking turtle shot, along with accompanying ramoras.

A.J. O’Rouke’s shot of a bull ray is great. A real feel of motion in the shape of the ray.

Sean Chinn’s Manta ray “flying” in front of a bright sun is another great ray shot in the mix. Tough to get well exposed – well done.


The Red Sea Hammerhead by Nick Godfrey is an excellently composed image. Scalloped hammerheads in the red Sea are notoriously difficult to get close enough to capture a good image. Black and white really works and seems to emphasise the detail along the shark’s body.

The Sand Tiger shark on the U-boat is another lovely image by Nick Godfrey. The contrast between brilliant red corals, the shark and the dark water is good. In fact, the bright red corals are so well lit. They distract you right from the subject which is, of course, the sand tiger shark.

The Cenotes shot is yet another by Nick Godfrey and is really nicely done. These images are all about the light and the shards are crisp. There is a hint at the surface where the bubbles had been, and with the diver not breathing out, the whole effect is clean and very appealing.

Up close by Nigel Steels is a great example of what can be done with a decent compact. I do find the bubbles a bit distracting, but the startled expression makes a lovely image.

The lunar bigeye by Julian be Bidet is a lovely use of a macro lens and a wide-angle environment. It is unusual and interesting shot.

I’m not stopping by Dean Martin is a super, head-on shot of an oceanic whitetip shark in the red Sea. I love the way all the fins are visible and they really give a sense of motion to the shark. From an identification point of view, this image really demonstrates just how large pectoral fins are on this particular species.

This image of Roboastra gracilis taken in the Cook Islands by Jack McKee really captures the detail at the front end of the nudibranch. Virtually the whole of the head is in focus, whilst everything else is in Bokeh. I love the colours and the overall effect.

Yellow submarine, an image of a yellow shrimp on a yellow whip coral with a black background. This image by Laura Giovardi is really well done. The contrast of yellow and black really helps the subject pop out despite being brilliantly camouflaged. It is perfectly focused and the overall effect is excellent.

Neck crab by Dawn Clerkson. This is an unusual image and one of the first things that drew me to it was the lighting. I love using my buddy’s lights to illuminate a subject and I feel this has worked really well with this super shot.

Bouquet of catfish by John Dunlop is a super image. These creatures are amazing the way they leapfrog each other as they move across the sand. I love the way John has captured the shape of these deadly little creatures.

The in-flight image of the Bull Ray by AJ O’Rourke is a super head-on shot, just looking up slightly. Its overall shape as it moves through the water really gives a sense of motion and I love the fact that its remora is trying to get back on board.

Wrapped around the sun by Sean Chinn is another great shot by Sean. Shooting into the sun can be difficult, even though most modern cameras can cope with the dynamic range required for such contrast. Nice one Sean.

There were lots of really good images this month and this was one of the most difficult judging sessions we have had.

After much deliberations between our two judges….

Winner:  Nick Godfey’s striking black & white Red Sea Hammerhead Shark

Runner-Up: Dean Martin’s Oceanic Whitetip Shark shot I’m Not Stopping

3rd Place: Dawn Clerkson’s Neck Crab

Keep your best shots coming as there are still a few chances of being in with a chance of winning the grand prize.’s October 2016 Photo Contest is now open! Enter 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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