Extraordinary blackwater photo of an eel larva, which has been photographed only a handful of times before, wins the 2015 Ocean Art Underwater Photo contest. Organised by the Underwater Photography Guide, the competition saw over $70,000 of prizes awarded to 75 underwater photographers.
Photographers could enter any of fifteen categories, including wide-angle, macro, portrait, behavior, novice DSLR, nudibranchs, supermacro, cold water, pool and conceptual, plus 3 compact camera and 3 mirrorless camera categories.
Lill Haugen won the cold water category for the second year in a row with her shot of a backlit anemone taken in Norway.
Thousands of entries were viewed by photography experts before the final set of amazing images were selected. Ocean Art 2015 judges included prestigious underwater photographers Tony Wu, Martin Edge and Marty Snyderman, accompanied by Underwater Photography Guide publisher Scott Gietler.
Another repeat winner is Steven Kovacs, whose photos have won or been placed in every one of the 5 Ocean Art photo contests there have so far been. This year he achieved first position in the Marine Life Behavior category for his photo of Striated frogfish releasing and fertilising eggs.
Underwater Photography Guide publisher, Scott Gietler said, “The caliber of photos in Ocean Art this year was amazing, and the judges had to make some very difficult decisions when evaluating photos in the contest. The winning photos were submitted from oceans and freshwater around the world by many talented underwater photographers.”
Many of the winning photos had black or dark backgrounds.
The excellent photos, shot all over the world, show sealife and behaviour many divers haven’t experienced. But as the locations show -there is beauty and surprise wherever you dive.
Jeff Milisen took the winning photo off Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. He comments “I was on a blackwater dive with a member of the Roddenberry family (of Star Trek fame) watching a parade of underwater aliens drift past when this larval cusk eel swam by. The external stomach helps the developing fish grow as fast as possible by eeking every last bit of nutrition from its every meal. Out of the four divers underwater that day, we had over 1000 blackwater dives under our belt and none of us had ever seen anything like it, whether on earth or boldly going elsewhere!”
The photographer of the crocodile’s smile says “Jardines de la Reina rates as the best diving place in the Caribbean that I have seen. The decision to close the area to fishing decades ago is evident in every dive: there’s an astonishing amount of predators to be seen, but not only in the reef, also in the mangroves. One of the biggest attractions is to snorkel with the incredible American Crocodiles. I slowly approached this one as it reached towards the surface to breath, positioning one strobe to the side with a higher intensity in order to light the inside of its mouth, highlighting the beautiful sharp teeth in a witty smile.”
The judges helpfully give tips on how to take a winning photo, should you wish to enter next year. Marty Snyderman advises “Read the rules and guidelines carefully so that you are in compliance and so you enter your images in the appropriate category. Be very careful about “over-processing” images. Images that look great on Facebook or other social media often show processing flaws when enlarged.”
Martin Edge, judge and author of The Underwater Photographer, adds “There were too many cluttered backgrounds in the 1st round. You have to pay attention to what is behind your main subject and in particular, try to avoid elements which merge into each other.” He continues “Aspect ratio! You are allowed to crop your image before you enter the competition, but I felt that too many of you from the 1st round were leaving too much empty space around your subject.”
More of the winning photos can be seen on the Underwater Photography Guide.