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Behind the Shot: Underwater Competition Winners
By DPG Editorial Staff, May 24, 2015 @ 06:00 AM (EST)


The 2015 Underwater Competition Series wrapped up this spring with the announcement of the winners of the DEEP Indonesia and Our World Underwater International Imaging Competitions. This year’s competitions were made all the more special by the fact that the UWC is celebrating its 10th year anniversary.

We honored this milestone achievement with a special gallery of images at the Our World Underwater show in Chicago back in February. But for those of you who could not make it to the “windy city” we have another way to celebrate this year’s outstanding winners: A special “behind the shot” gallery of some of the most popular images. 

 

  OWU – Best of Show
Macro Unrestricted (Gold)

Late at night, far offshore from Tahiti in French Polynesia, drift diving above 6,000 feet of total darkness gives the opportunity to admire and photograph strange creatures rarely seen alive in the wild. This flat looking alien, which is a juvenile form of some lobster species, is called a Phyllosoma. It is using a small jellyfish to minimize how much energy it needs to spend swimming. The chances of encounters like this are small, and last only for a few seconds. Despite hundreds of dives, I’ve only spotted this particular association twice.

Anthony Berberian

 

 DEEP – Best of Show
Animal Portrait (Gold)

I captured this image in the open ocean, southwest  of Tenerife Island. The Portuguese man o’ war is not a common jellyfish, and is actually a colony of specialized minute individuals called zooids. March and April in the Canary Islands are the best months to see these strange and beautiful pelagic animals. When the sea is calm and we have good sun, these are perfect conditions to capture a quality image. As an underwater photographer, my first step is to find a thick wetsuit, gloves, and hood because the venomous tentacles can deliver a painful sting. Man o’ wars live at the surface so we need a very flat sea to try and combine the clouds through Snell’s window, the Portuguese man o’ war and this poor little pelagic juvenile fish.

Eduardo Acevedo

 

 DEEP – Compact Cameras (Gold)

During a relaxed dive in Lembongan (Bali), I spotted a scorpionfish doing a great job blending in. The color change process was almost done: beautiful white and just two pink spots for the perfect sponge color. As my buddy decided to anchor himself there and just start shooting, I was left with the only option to go above them and find my perfect angle. Straight from the front, the scorpionfish was impersonating the missing barrel of the sponge. One shot, and that was all that I needed. I used only the in-camera flash of my G12 to illuminate the subject. Thank you Mother Nature for being so gifted, thank you for sharing all your fruits with us and thank you for forgiving us.

Dragos Dumitrescu

 

 OWU – Compact Cameras (Gold)

During the summertime, when the sea temperature increases, a big number of different jellyfish come to the Mediterranean coast, but the most common are Rhizostoma pulmo. Every year we see more in our beaches where they disturb beach goers; but sometimes we forget that we are actually the root cause by overfishing their natural predators. As a photographer, I wait every summer for their arrival with a myriad photographic possibilities.

Marc Casanovas Felix

 

 OWU – Wide Angle Traditional (Gold)

In the distance, we saw a big group of shearwaters and seagulls foaming on the rough surface of the ocean, marking a great feast underneath. Underwater, we suspected many spotted dolphins were following the trail. When we dived in, we saw a bait ball, with dolphins, shearwaters, and seagulls attacking it. When the scene was a bit more quiet, we started to move in closer, and suddenly the spotted dolphins started to play under the boat. I grabbed my housing and hanging from the boat in motion, with a friend taking my legs, I was able to capture this image.

Francis Pérez

 

 DEEP – Divers (Gold)

I took this image during a liveaboard trip to the Maldives in July, 2014. I was traveling on the “MV Princess Rani,” and was very lucky to have my daughter Elisabeth with me serving as my favorite underwater model. It must have been on the third or fourth day of the trip that we were diving on a small wreck, close to the beach of Rihiveli Island, in the South Male atoll. Here, I saw a beautiful school of batfish circling above the wreck. None of the other divers noticed it, as they were all too busy admiring the wreck. For more than 30 minutes, I shot away, always trying to achieve better composition, and better exposure. The sun was sometimes in the back, which made it easier, but also the dramatic counter lighting produced unexpected results such as this winning image.

Luc Eeckhaut

 

 DEEP – Reefscapes (Gold)

I captured this photo in the Red Sea, which is known for its coral growth and pristine reefs. The place where the photo was taken was especially drenched with a great amount of fish and colorful coral. I took several shots, but did not get what I had in mind since the fish were very disorganized. Then I exhaled loudly hoping the noise would make the schooling fish regroup out of fear. And it worked—the final image is an explosion of life and color.

Alfonso Exposito

 

 DEEP – Divers (Silver)

In the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico there is a very special cenote called “Angelita.” Usually, a cenote isn't deep and we dive in the cave with stalactites and stalagmites with spectacular sunshine. On the other hand, “Angelita” looks like a hole. It is necessary to walk a short distance with your equipment in the Mayan forest. When you dive in this cenote, the light is very special going from blue to green. When you are about 90 feet down, you find a sulfur layer (caused by decomposing plants). You can swim through this cloud and so we move from fresh water to salt water down to 180 feet. When I saw the diver between the branches of the tree, I realized that all the elements were there to shoot a surreal image. This atmosphere is similar to a lunar landscape.

Fabrice Guerin

 

 OWU – Macro Traditional (Gold)

I first came across this tiny little shrimp living in the bottom of a tunicate in Ambon Bay, Indonesia. I was immediately struck by the rich color of the tunicate and intrigued by the realization that this little shrimp’s whole world exists inside this one tunicate. Now I was just left with the (not so) simple task of conveying this in my image. I achieved this by focusing through one of the openings in the tunicate, filling the frame with color. I used a wide aperture to give an extreme bokeh effect, keeping just the shrimps eyes in focus. Framing and focusing were real challenges with this image, which eventually gave the desired effect of the shrimp living in a different world.

—Joe Daniels

 

 DEEP – Reefscapes (Silver)

In the Gulf of Naples, near Sorrento, there are some mooring buoys that are anchored to the bottom with large chains about 300 feet long. Many tubeworms have developed on some of these chains, catching with their tufts the plankton in the current. When there are favorable conditions, these tubeworms open simultaneously and all look like fireworks.

Adriano Morettin

 

 DEEP – Animal Behavior (Gold)

I have found that a male kingfisher regularly visited a local fishpond, and after I had taken many great photos of him in recent months I decided to try and make an underwater image of him catching the fish in action. So, I got a waterproof casing form my camera and tried some burst-style photography. I failed many times—actually thousands of times—and it was extremely hard to get the shot until I got this one perfectly in focus and composed well. Only on a bright and sunny day, and with right timing, remote trigger, and 12 fps burst did I finally succeed.

Petar Sabol

 

 DEEP – Reefscapes (Bronze)

When summer starts in Grand Cayman, the heat rises, waters become flat and the rainy season begins. Everybody awaits the return of the silversides: divers, snorkelers, predators like tarpon, jacks and groupers. Last summer was a poor year though, and it wasn’t until October that a small school was spotted at Cheeseburger Reef. I spent an afternoon at the reef, which is named after a Burger King situated on shore at that location. After a 25-minute snorkel we arrived at the end of some coral boulders and descended. There was no sign of the school of little fish until we entered a little narrow grotto. There, the magic of silverside season unfolded before our eyes: Thousands of silver arrows moved in unison to avoid getting caught by hunting tarpons and jacks. The moment the school opens up and forms their strength and the predator enters the empty space is the moment I chose for this image, called “Vortex.”

Ellen Cuylaerts

 

 DEEP – Surf (Gold)

After a 20-year hiatus from photography, I got back in shooting the music scene in Austin, TX. When I first heard Donavon Frankenreiter on the radio I fell in love with his music and the more I researched him the more I wanted to meet this guy and photograph him. I had my chance last year on a surf trip to Indonesia. I had never done surf photography so I bought a housing and figured I would teach myself. The waves of Hawaii were kind of small that day until this rogue set rolled in. I was away from the crowd standing out in the water so I could shoot down the pipe. When I saw this guy take off I knew I was set for a spectacular shot but never dreamed it would be this. Without even looking at the screen I knew I had something special. And I was lucky to still have my camera after this wave. This was shot with my Nikon D3X with an aperture of f/8 and shutter speed of 1/2000s.

Rodney Bursiel

 

 DEEP – Compact Cameras (Silver)

In January of 2015, a couple of friends and I made the trip from Vancouver to Hornby Island for a weekend of diving with the stellar sea lions that live a short boat ride from Hornby Island Dive Lodge. The four dives we did that weekend were by far the most exhilarating, interactive, and frankly chaotic, dives I have ever done. At times we had well over 50 inquisitive sea lions, which are playful and have absolutely no sense of personal space. While regaining my bearings after a large group of sea lions had just moved over to check out my buddy, I saw a smaller sea lion approaching slowly along the bottom. I waited until he stopped right in front of me to investigate, and as he locked eyes on me I took a single shot and, luckily, managed to capture this wonderfully inquisitive “little” guy. Due to interactions like this, I'll be making this trip again, and again.

Stephen Holinski

 

 DEEP – Animal Behavior (Honorable Mention)

This image was taken in Alor archipelago, Indonesia. I found the frogfish sitting in a very narrow crevice in shallow water, so there was no place for both my housing and myself. I set all the settings on my camera in advance and pushed my housing into the crevice to take some shots. Then I analyzed the results and repeated the procedure a couple of times with various settings until I got the picture I wanted. When I had just finished and wanted to swim away, I noticed that the frogfish started to yawn. In a second, I pushed my housing back into the crevice (this time with the optimal settings) and managed to shoot two images of the yawning creature, before she closed her mouth.

Borut Furlan

 

 DEEP – Surf (Honorable Mention)

I believe that the true beauty of the ocean lies beneath the surface. As violent and dangerous as big waves may seem on the outside, as a surf and ocean photographer I usually find myself just on the edge of the raw power and chaos. It’s a surprisingly calm and peaceful spot to be in and feeling the motion of the water, diving through a big wave and watching it explode from below the surface is the sensation that makes me come for more every time.

Chris Eyre-Walker

 

 DEEP – Divers (Honorable Mention)

It was a sunny day and the view is breathtaking when sunlight is shining on the snow-covered mountains of Switzerland. The iced Lake Lioson is located in the midst of these mountains, so I thought I should combine this landscape and ice diving in a single image. I stayed in the ice-cold water alone about an hour, with my camera housing becoming frozen so that I could not change my shutter speed. Finally a diver came up from the dark and I captured this moment. Special thanks to Wang who arranged the fantastic trip, and Owen, the man in the picture.

Gang Song

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