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Dive Photo Guide


Behind the Shot: The 2017 OWU Competition Winners
By DPG Editorial Staff, March 11, 2017 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

The 2017 Our World Underwater International Imaging Competition yielded some fantastic winning shots from photographers hailing from all over the world. And from the frigid climes of Alaska through the balmy beaches of Europe to the toasty waters of tropical Asia, these images encapsulate many of the most exciting dive destinations on the planet—and the underwater subjects that make them special.

But how exactly did these globe-trotting shooters capture these special moments? What tricks, techniques, gear and settings did they use? To find out, we asked the Gold and Silver awardees to reveal all about their prizewinning pictures. Read on to discover the secrets behind the shots…

 Macro Unrestricted (Gold)

Juvenile sweetlips can be found in shallow water in Anilao; this shot was taken at a depth of just 15 feet. It’s the perfect subject for slow shutter captures because of its unique movement during the juvenile stage—pretending to be a poisonous flatworm. The biggest challenge was getting a prominent slow shutter trail along with the black background. This can be done using a standard or narrow beam torch shining on the subject with weak ambient sunlight. By stopping down the aperture, I could remove the ambient light to achieve the black background while recording the movement of the body by illuminating with the strong torchlight. To make it easier, I took the photo at nearly five o’clock in the evening as the sun was nearly setting.

Yatwai So


Title: “Phantom”
When: May 2016
Where: Anilao, Philippines
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 100mm lens, 60mm extension tube, Sea & Sea housing, dual Inon Z-240 strobes
Settings: f/25, 0.5s, ISO 200


Title: “Blue Velvet”
When: June 2016
Where: Bali, Indonesia
Equipment: Canon EOS 7D, Canon 100mm macro lens, Subsee +10, Nauticam housing, single Sea & Sea YS-250
Settings: f/32, 1/250s, ISO 320

 Macro Traditional (Gold)

In Tulamben, there is a dive site called “The Drop Off,” a wall full of soft and hard corals. The year before, I had stayed there, and I remembered that there were many ladybug amphipods living on the reef. This isn’t an easy subject because it’s so small—around a quarter of an inch—and they’re always on the move. But with the patience of my buddy, Agni, and the guide, Eda, I was able to take a few shots. The image was taken at a depth of 70 feet, so the bottom time was very short, and I had to work quickly. I saw one of them “dancing” on a blue ascidian with a sea cucumber around it, and I started shooting until I got the composition I wanted.

Jorge Marco


Wide Angle Unrestricted (Gold)

I spent over an hour with this humpback whale playing in the water and interacting with us, putting on an incredible show. At times, the whale was only half a dozen feet from our boat, flapping its tail in the water. On this particular day, it was raining, hence the diffused light underwater. The ocean was quite rough, so we were treading water as wind-swell waves were breaking on our heads. It was very exhausting, but it was worth it—an incredible interaction in the wild that I will never forget. The shot was captured as the pectoral fin swiped through the surface of the water, leaving a trail of bubbles behind.

Beau Pilgrim


Title: “Whale Trail”
When: September 2016
Where: North Bay, Vava’u, Tonga
Equipment: Canon EOS 1DX Mark II, Canon 8–15mm fisheye lens, AquaTech housing
Settings: f/4.5, 1/400s, ISO 125


Title: “One in a Million”
When: July 2016
Where: Prince William Sound, Alaska
Equipment: Nikon D800, 16–35mm lens, Sea & Sea housing, dual Sea & Sea YS-250 strobes
Settings: f/10, 1/250s, ISO 400

Wide Angle Traditional (Gold)

We were cruising around looking for the dorsal fins of salmon sharks breaking the surface, when we came across an enormous moon jellyfish bloom stretching several 300 feet long. It was so surreal and denser than anything I had ever seen, including at Jellyfish Lake in Palau. I came across this single lion’s mane jellyfish rising from the bloom in the cold Alaska water, and I carefully positioned myself directly over it, shooting down and centering my subject in the frame. I broke the rules, but it worked.

Ron Watkins


Compact Cameras (Gold)

This is a split shot I have wanted to take for quite a while since I started practicing over-unders a few years ago. I was supposed to go diving with friends one morning back in December, but we got sidetracked with snowy egrets perched and hunting at the kelp canopy—we spent more time at the surface than below it. The next day, I decided to ditch the scuba gear and go freediving instead. I kept low in the water, moving slowly, and was able to get close to a couple of the birds. They didn’t seem to mind at all, as long as I didn’t make any sudden moves. I spent almost 45 minutes with this bird before I was able to capture a shot just after it nabbed a fish.

J.R. Sosky


Title: “Breakfast Time”
When: December 2016
Where: Monterey, California, USA
Equipment: Canon PowerShot G10, Fisheye FIX housing, wide-angle dome port, single Sea & Sea YS-110a strobe
Settings: f/6.3, 1/250s, ISO 100


Title: “Cassiopeia”
When: November 2015
Where: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Equipment: Nikon D800, Nikkor 16–35mm lens, Ikelite housing, 8-inch dome port
Settings: f/4, 1/13s, ISO 160

Commercial, Conceptual and Fashion

I’d been admiring the ethereal setting of a near-shore lava tube for a while, so I set out with model Hannah Fraser to see if we could capture something unique in this space. I prefer to use ambient light, so it was critical that both Hannah and I stayed still while my camera lethargically captured Hannah’s reflection in low light. The shoot ended abruptly 15 minutes later when my housing—which had just come back from service—began leaking profusely at one of the internal control buttons! Thankfully, my camera survived and this image was procured from our brief adventure.

Alicia Franco


 Macro Unrestricted (Silver)

The ripping current at the time was causing an anemone to fold back on itself revealing this red spotted porcelain crab sitting on the underneath of the skirt. I placed my strobe behind the anemone to backlight the crab through the skirt. I then timed my shutter release with the anemone waving back and forth to capture the crab feeding. A fast shutter speed was used to create the black background.

Nicholas More


Title: “Crab Catcher”
When: November 2015
Where: Manado Bay, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Equipment: Nikon D7100, Nikkor 105mm macro lens, Nauticam housing, single Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe
Settings: f/25, 1/320s, ISO 200


Title: “Moral Eel”
When: January 2017
Where: Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia
Equipment: Canon EOS 5Ds, Canon 100mm macro lens, Nauticam housing, Inon Z-240, Retra LSD
Settings: f/9, 1/80s, ISO 1600

 Macro Traditional (Silver)

Moray eels are easy subjects to spot underwater, but they are normally shy and will hide when a diver comes close. This particular eel wasn’t shy though. It’s interest in the camera gave me the opportunity to use my ultraviolet focus light as backlighting to create a blue silhouette. At the same time, I used a snoot to highlight the animal’s eye.

Liang Fu


Wide Angle Unrestricted (Silver)

In French Polynesia, shark fishing and trade in sharks is banned, so it is one of the few places in the world where numerous sharks can be seen together at the same time in their natural surroundings. One evening, after having spent lots of time with these blacktip reef sharks during the day, I decided to go back out at sunset to see if I could get an over-under shot—my absolute favorite type of image. I was very fortunate, as when we arrived at the lagoon, the sharks appeared with the noise of the boat. After dialing in my camera settings, I quickly hopped into the water as the sun was setting to capture this shot of the sharks with the birds also swooping by at the moment I pressed the shutter. It is my hope that images like this, which portray these magnificent creatures in a beautiful setting, will help increase awareness of the added protection sharks need in other parts of the world.

Renee Capozzola


Title: “Polynesian Rendezvous”
When: September 2016
Where: French Polynesia
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 16–35mm lens, Nauticam housing, dual Sea & Sea strobes
Settings: f/18, 1/200s, ISO 500


Title: “Humpback Portrait”
When: September 2016
Where: Vava’u, Tonga
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 8–15mm fisheye lens, Nauticam housing
Settings: f/10, 1/500s, ISO 1000

Wide Angle Traditional (Silver)

We had the pleasure of witnessing two young adult humpback whales intensely interacting with each other on this dive. The local guide warned us that they were “crazy whales,” a term they use to describe hyperactive whales that aren’t shy around humans. True enough, the whales took turns to surface and each time they took a keen interest in the snorkelers by swimming incredibly close to us. In this image, the whale swam just 15 feet in front of me and stared straight into my lens.

Wai Hoe Mok


Compact Cameras (Silver)

We came across some jellyfish while snorkeling off the famous Torrent de Pareis beach. The jellyfish were around four to six inches in size, so I put my compact into macro mode and used the internal flash. I tried diving under the jellyfish to get a shot with the subject and the sun together. The first attempts didn’t really work, but I noticed the beautiful sunrays in the image. I was determined to get the jellyfish directly in front of the sun for the classic shot. I must have tried about 40 times—going down to around 10 feet, taking a picture and coming back up—before finally getting the composition I was after.

Enrico Somogyi


Title: “Jellyfish Under the Sun”
When: August 2015
Where: Mallorca, Spain
Equipment: Olympus Tough TG-4
Settings: f/9, 1/2000s, ISO 100


Title: “Poison Tree”
When: March 2016
Where: Ambon, Indonesia
Equipment: Nikon D800E, Ikelite housing, dual Ikelite DS-160 strobes
Settings: f/20, 1/200s, ISO 150 (catfish); f/32, 1/40s, ISO 100 (background)

Commercial, Conceptual and Fashion

The idea for this image came to me right after photographing a ball of striped eel catfish in Ambon. Looking at the shot, I noticed how closely they resembled the foliage at the top of a tree. I wanted the background to appear cold, with snow and a dead tree for these venomous fish to swim through. I searched around Colorado and found these two trees—but I would have to wait for snow. After several weeks, it finally fell. It took several months of work to complete this photo, etching out the catfish, masking them into the tree and its branches, creating the shadows, and finally overlaying the texture.

Conor Culver


Maxime Cazes
Mar 14, 2017 2:02 AM
Maxime Cazes wrote:
Olivia Dugue
Mar 17, 2017 2:29 AM
Olivia Dugue wrote:
Lucas Pele
Mar 25, 2017 2:09 AM
Lucas Pele wrote:
The photo of the medusa is incredible
Pintluk Pintluk
Apr 12, 2017 3:12 AM
Pintluk Pintluk wrote:
Some photos look like photoshop. It is beautiful
Mike Kaliven
Jul 3, 2017 3:48 AM
Mike Kaliven wrote:
Contrasts are really great
Photos are really magical
Surider Surider
Sep 18, 2017 6:21 AM
Surider Surider wrote:
So great
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