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DPG Masters 2023 Competition Winners Announced
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, December 22, 2023 @ 09:00 AM (EST)


DPG is proud to announce the winners of the DPG Masters Underwater Imaging Competition 2023. Our esteemed panel of judges—Stephen Frink, Renee Capozzola, Scott “Gutsy” Tuason, Allison Vitsky Sallmon, Matty Smith and Amanda Cotton—pored over hundreds of entries submitted by shooters from around the world. This year’s “Best of Show” prize went to Italian photographer Marco Gargiulo for his extraordinary split shot of a juvenile imperial blackfish riding a jellyfish under the gaze of the famous Mount Vesuvius volcano in Italy. The photo, entitled “The Passenger,” also took Gold in the Over-Under category.

“Most remarkable for me is the juxtaposition of a blackwater subject against a wide-angle topside subject with sunlight,” commented Renee Capozzola. “I initially thought this must be a composite, so to learn this photograph was one image clinched the decision in my view.” Stephen Frink added: “Possibly the highest compliment I can give an underwater shot is wondering, ‘How did they do that?’ I look at this over/under and marvel at how perfectly aligned the interface is between the topside and the underwater, despite the surface chop. The blend of strobe light for the underwater subject and the ambient light in the background is masterful. Combining artistic vision with significant technical mastery makes this the winner for me.”

We would also like to congratulate the 1st place winners in the other categories: Fabien Michenet (Traditional), Byron Conroy (Macro), Suliman Alatiqi (Wide Angle), Yinan Liu (Conservation), Martin Broen (Black and White), Magnus Lundgren (Blackwater), and Alfred Schaschl (Short Film). Well done to all the winners and runners-up, and thank you to everyone who participated. We would especially like to thank our talented judges for all their hard work and our amazing sponsors for their incredible generosity.

See below for the full set of winning images and videos or check out UnderwaterCompetition.com.
 


 

Winners of the 2023 DPG Masters
Underwater Imaging Competition

 

Over-Under

Best of Show – Over-Under – Gold – “The Passenger” by Marco Gargiulo (Italy)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Castellammare di Stabia, Naples, Campania, Italy

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D850, Nikon 16–35mm f/4 lens at 35mm, Nauticam housing, Nauticam 9-inch dome, dual ONEUW One 160X strobes, f/13, 1/200s, ISO 110

Photographer’s Comment: “It’s not often you see snow on the Vesuvius volcano here in the Gulf of Naples, where I live in Sorrento. It soon vanishes due to the mild temperatures. I’ve always wanted to take a photo, and I finally managed to get into the water to do it. During my walk along the Marina Grande in Sorrento, my usual place for winter night diving, the wind pushed a large quantity of jellyfish along the coast. I was lucky to find one that had a small passenger on board, a juvenile imperial blackfish (Schedophilus ovalis).”

 

Over-Under – Silver – “Smalltooth Sawfish Among the Mangroves at Dawn” by Grace Pempek (USA)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Key Largo, Florida, USA

Equipment and Settings: Olympus PEN E-PL10, Olympus 14–42mm f/3.5–5.6 lens at 14mm, AOI Octo housing, AOI UWL-09PRO wide-angle diopter, dual Sea&Sea YS-D3 Mark II strobes, f/13, 1/50s, ISO 250

Photographer’s Comment: “One never expects to encounter a critically endangered species while taking a sunrise stroll along the beach, but luckily I was ready. My camera was set for wide angle, as I planned to do some diving on the famous wrecks of Key Largo later that morning. I use a wet lens with only a five-inch dome port for my wide-angle shooting, and it is certainly not intended for splits. I had to very precisely angle my dome so there would not be a line of water across the image. As difficult as it was, an over-under shot was my only option, as the juvenile smalltooth sawfish did not venture into water deeper than around six inches. Compounded with the limited morning light, the easily silted-up bottom and the struggle of holding my camera in the exact position to capture the elongated subject, this is one of the most challenging, and most rewarding, shots I’ve ever taken. After this encounter, I was able to share my shot and notes on behavior with Florida Fish & Wildlife to increase knowledge of this rarely observed animal.”

 

Over-Under – Bronze – “American Alligator” by Mirko Zanni (Switzerland)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Everglades, Florida, USA

Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 8–15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, Seacam housing, Scubalamp SUPE strobe, f/16, 1/45s, ISO 400

Photographer’s Comment: “During my last trip to Florida, I went to visit the Everglades to photograph American alligators in the company of a friend of mine. It didn’t take us long to find some very large specimens, and they were not at all afraid of my camera housing. The alligator in the photo remained motionless for a few minutes.”

 

Over-Under – Honorable Mention – “Primal Plunge” by Suliman Alatiqi (Kuwait)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D850, Nikon AF-S 8–15mm f/3.5–4.5 fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, f/22, 1/250s, ISO 2000

Photographer’s Comment: “An over-under photo of a crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis). These macaques can be seen at various pockets around the Phi Phi Islands and are known for occasionally foraging in the water in search of food or to get around a rival clan. I committed extensive time in the field to understand the maritime behavior of these animals, and this photo is a result of that effort.”

 

Traditional

Traditional – Gold – “Sea Lions at Work” by Fabien Michenet (France)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Magdalena Bay, Baja California, Mexico

Equipment and Settings: Nikon Z8, Nikon AF-S 16–35mm f/4 at 16mm, Nauticam housing, f/7.1, 1/400s, ISO 640

Photographer’s Comment: “Every year, in the south of Magdalena Bay, on the Pacific coast of Mexico, a sardine run occurs between October and November. As millions of Pacific sardines (Sardinops sagax) gather over seamounts, fin whales, humpbacks, striped marlin, mahi-mahi, Pacific sea lions and other predators are attracted by the feast. After a few hours of searching, we found this baitball of densely packed sardines, and we observed marlin and mahi-mahi—particularly abundant this year due to the El Niño phenomenon—feeding on the fish. Suddenly, a group of sea lions took over the area, denying other predators access. Keeping the sun at my back, I positioned myself so that the scene was illuminated symmetrically, taking a few images as the ball of churning fish, surrounded by sea lions, moved away.”

 

Traditional – Silver – “My Home” by Helmut Theiss (Germany)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, Sea&Sea housing, dual Weefine 1200 FR torches (one with Weefine WFA61 snoot lens), single Bigblue RGB-II dive light with Bigblue Snoot 35, f/13, 1/320s, ISO 500

Photographer’s Comment: “As my wife and dive buddy really enjoys watching coconut octopuses, how they move and interact, we chose this particular dive site for our first dive of the day. We found two of them, one walking on its arms with shells covering its body and another hiding between two shells. I took a few photos and they looked good, but they were very similar to other pictures I had seen before. The idea came to me to enhance the image artistically using colored light. We placed two lights on the sandy bottom, one blue, one red, and combined the light by playing with the angles of the beams. I asked our dive guide, Hiros, to help me shine an additional white light, with a snoot attached, on the animal’s face. Hiros’ assistance and understanding of photography helped me make this more-creative photo.”

 

Traditional – Bronze – “Icarus Reaching the Sun” by Martin Broen (USA)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Cenote Car Wash, Tulum, Yucatán, Mexico

Equipment and Settings: Sony a7R Mark III, Canon 8–15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, Nauticam housing, f/11, 1/40s, ISO 3200

Photographer’s Comment: “I am fascinated by the strange environments in Mexico’s cave systems. Among those natural phenomena is the color modification of the otherwise translucent water created by the tannic acid that washes from the jungle into the cenotes. The water color changes depending on the density of the tannic acid, from a low-concentration green to a yellow, and if you are extremely lucky, a high-concentration red tone. To witness this, you need to be in the water after a long period of very heavy tropical rain. When two consecutive hurricanes hit Mexico over 10 days, I decided to go to the famous Cenote Car Wash to shoot a diver immersed in the high-tannic water, backlit by the sun and surrounded by water lilies.”

 

Traditional – Honorable Mention – “Electric Frogfish” by Nicolas Remy (Australia)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Chowder Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4 macro lens, Nauticam housing, Nauticam EMWL with 100° objective lens, Retra Flash Pro strobe with Retra LSD snoot, Backscatter MW-4300 video light with blue color filter, f/18, 1/10s, ISO 800

Photographer’s Comment: “During night dives in Chowder Bay, swarms of tiny shrimp sometimes gather around our underwater torches (we call them “swarmies”). They are a pain for the many underwater photographers who dive the bay, the trick being to work quickly when you find a subject, take a couple of shots and move away, before the swarmies show up. I was thinking that the swarmies could actually make for a nice background, with adequate lighting: I went diving with the idea to embrace them, rather than avoid them. The plan was to use a colored light so that they would stand out and emphasize the main subject. I thought a frogfish would be ideal, and easy to find as they gather in Chowder Bay during the warmer months. Together with my wife/lighting assistant, we went searching for them and found four different frogfish that night. With its yellow/orange color, this particular individual looked best, and I chose a blue backlight for the swarmies, so that the colors would complement each other.”

 

Macro

Macro – Gold – “Gone Fishin’” by Byron Conroy (UK)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Equipment and Settings: Sony a7R Mark V, Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 macro lens, Nauticam housing, Retra Pro strobe with Retra LSD snoot, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 80

Photographer’s Comment: “For a long time, I have been an admirer of frogfish. The way they hunt fascinates me, so the challenge was to capture this special behavior in all its glory. To get this shot, I had a snoot positioned on my camera locked in place and waited patiently for the moment when the lure came out. A shot like this can take patience, as the fish needs to be relaxed to exhibit its usual behavior. The snooted subject with the black background draws the eye into the action, and the black negative space was chosen to give the idea that any potential meal could be about to enter the scene.”

 

Macro – Silver – “Giving Birth” by Todd Aki (USA)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Tompotika Dive Lodge, Pulau Dua, Balantak Utara, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS R7, Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Nauticam housing, dual Inon Z-330 strobes, f/9, 1/250s, ISO 100

Photographer’s Comment: “My wife and I were at the end of a dive when I spotted something that did not make sense: Why was a seahorse free floating in the water column? I could not believe my eyes at what happened next. The seahorse convulsed and out came hundreds of babies! Shooting is always my top priority, but I wanted my wife to experience this moment with me, so I banged my tank with my muck stick to get her attention and missed the opportunity to fire off a couple of shots. I was able to get into position and got three shots of the male seahorse’s next release. My wife was now at my side and the current took the baby seahorses right next to her mask. After a final release of offspring, the seahorse dropped to the ocean floor, exhausted.”

 

Macro – Bronze – “Young Turtle” by Claudio Zori (Italy)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D300S, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Tamron 1.4x teleconverter, Sealux housing, Seacam Seaflash 150 Digital, f/32, 1/320s, ISO 200

Photographer’s Comment: “A surprise encounter with a juvenile turtle. Using a particular camera angle and a fast shutter speed, it was possible to create a pleasing mirror effect.”

 

Macro – Honorable Mention – “Speedy Boxfish” by Byron Conroy (UK)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, Nauticam housing, Retra Pro strobe with Retra LSD snoot, f/13, 1/4s, ISO 500

Photographer’s Comment: “Juvenile boxfish are quite common in Lembeh, but there are a few issues with shooting them. Firstly, they are constantly moving, making it a challenge to capture them. Then, the background is usually ugly, gray sand. So to get this shot, I decided to use a snoot to light the fish, then use a long exposure along with intentional camera movement to blur out the background and also to capture a sense of the fish’s movement. The shot was taken using manual focus with a locked snoot on an arm, so that when I could see the eyes were in focus, the snoot would land on the subject. After initial setup with an off-center snoot, it then took a lot of time and patience to wait for the perfect eye connection with the subject.”

 

Wide Angle

Wide Angle – Gold – “Wishing Well” by Suliman Alatiqi (Kuwait)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Equipment and Settings:  Nikon D850, Nikon AF-S 8–15mm f/3.5–4.5 fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, dual Sea&Sea YS-D2J strobes, f/20, 1/250s, ISO 280

Photographer’s Comment: “An underwater photo of a crab-eating macaque gazing at the water from the edge of a rocky platform, as seen through Snell’s window. After touring the islands known for their macaques, I noticed that the animals tend to stay on cliffs close to the water during the day. This made me think about the possibility of capturing an underwater perspective of the animal with the scenery above. The biggest challenge was lighting a subject completely above the water, as I did not want a silhouette. After some experimenting, I waited patiently for the right opportunity and managed to get this moment on breath-hold. The macaque seemed inquisitive about my approach, which made the photo possible.”

 

Wide Angle – Silver – “Fish Buffet” by Yinan Liu (China)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Aka Island, Kerama Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

Equi​pment and Settings: Canon EOS 5DSR, Canon 8–15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, Nauticam housing, dual Ikelite DS161 strobes, f/8, 1/160s, ISO 50

Photographer’s Comment: “I found a reef about 10 meters underwater, surrounded by small fish. Suddenly, two coral groupers jumped out from under the reef to hunt for fish. I stayed near the reef and continued to wait for them to rush towards the fish again, and took this photo.”

 

Wide Angle – Bronze – “Trio” by Annie Guttridge (UK)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: North Bimini Island, The Bahamas

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D850, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, f/9, 1/640s, ISO 1100

Photographer’s Comment: “While returning home from an incredible day on the ocean, we noticed several dorsal fins breaking the water on the horizon. We’d encountered a pod made up of both Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins. I carefully and cautiously slipped into the water and observed the dolphins feeding, playing, and frolicking beneath the waves. The dolphins were tightly intertwined, but they seemed to divide as they surfaced to breathe. After observing this behavior for several minutes, I decided to pull back and stay at the surface. By doing so, I appeared to engage the curiosity of these hard-to-impress marine mammals, who are familiar with divers eager to get close. Spotted dolphins are known for their bold and playful personas, but bottlenose dolphins are typically more withdrawn and hard to excite. With this in mind, and to my surprise, three bottlenose dolphins chose to elevate together in unison, directly and purposely towards me. It was in this moment that I patiently waited for just the right moment to capture the shot.”

 

Wide Angle – Honorable Mention – “Reflections” by Cédric Péneau (France)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Réunion Island, Mascarene Islands, Indian Ocean

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D7200, Tokina 10–17mm f/3.5–4.5 fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, f/13, 1/125s, ISO 200

Photographer’s Comment: “Humpback whales migrate from their polar feeding grounds to tropical seas to breed and mate during the austral winter, and on good years, we are lucky to have many of them come very close to our little Island’s shores. Boats can approach within 100 meters, and we can carefully approach the whales on snorkel, hoping they will allow us to share amazing, intense moments of mutual curiosity. This particular mother, which stayed around for a few weeks, was easily recognizable due to its severed fluke, and it often let us come close to her and her calf. This picture shows the end of a long and calm interaction in a particularly flat sea—hence the reflections at the surface.”

 

Conservation

Conservation – Gold – “Massacre” by Yinan Liu (China)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 5DSR, Canon 8–15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, Nauticam housing, f/10, 1/250s, ISO 200

Photographer’s Comment: “When we went out to sea in the morning, we passed a small island and saw the fishermen on the island cutting up sharks and throwing the unused parts on the beach. When we returned in the afternoon, due to the high tide, the abandoned parts had been brought out into the sea, allowing me to go underwater and capture this heartbreaking scene. I hope that through this photo, more people can work together to protect sharks. If there is no trade, there will be no killing.”

 

Conservation – Silver – “The Anisakis Parasite Leaves the Host” by Guido Villani (Italy)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Cilento National Park, Pisciotta, Salerno, Italy

Equipment and Settings:  Nikon D800E, Nikon AF-S 8–15mm f/3.5–4.5 fisheye lens at 15mm, Seacam housing, dual Retra Flash strobes, f/29, 1/160s, ISO 200

Photographer’s Comment: “On Italy’s southern coast, within Cilento National Park, in the communities of Pisciotta, Palinuro and Camerota, there survives a traditional anchovy fishery called menaica. Handed down from generation to generation, it is now carried out by just six small boats under the control of the coastal authority. Taking place in May and June, this particular fishery utilizes a drift net with a 12mm mesh size, up to 400 meters in length and 20 meters deep, which is left drifting with coastal currents in the calm waters. The activity takes place at sunset and is limited to one hour, necessitating an in-depth knowledge of local currents. The catch is restricted to adult anchovies and does not result in by-catch. Menaica anchovies are a highly appreciated resource all along the Campania coast and represent a distintive component of the Mediterranean diet.”

 

Conservation – Bronze – “Problem Props” by Simon Hilbourne (UK)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll, Maldives

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D7100, Tokina 10–17mm f/3.5–4.5 fisheye lens, Isotta housing, f/13, 160s, ISO 200

Photographer’s Comment: “Whilst working for Manta Trust in the Maldives, I had come to know this manta called Babaganoush quite well. However, just before this encounter with him, he had been hit by a speedboat, the skeg of the outboard motor cutting deep into his body and each rotation of the propellers leaving perpendicular gashes. The severity of his injuries was unprecedented, and we were unsure if he would survive. Sadly, this story is repeated throughout the Maldives, with more and more whale sharks and manta rays bearing the scars of boat strikes. As tourism in the country develops, operators are switching from traditional dhonis to faster speedboats, which give vulnerable wildlife little chance to get out of the way.”

 

Conservation – Honorable Mention – “Is This a Hobby?” by Gaetano Gargiulo (Italy)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Mosman, New South Wales, Australia

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D850, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Isotta housing, dual Retra Pro strobes, Weefine WS07 light with adapted Backscatter snoot

Photographer’s Comment: “This very friendly eel was never shy with the many photographers diving Chowder Bay. Sadly, one day it got hooked and was released with the hook piercing one eye. Since that day, it stayed sheltered in the hole at the base of the pylon where it used to live. It could not hunt, and it disappeared after about two months, likely succumbing to its injuries.”

 

Black and White

Black and White – Gold – “Parallel Universes” by Martin Broen (USA)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Cenote Xa’ay Ha, Tulum, Yucatán, Mexico

Equipment and Settings: Sony a7R Mark III, Canon 8–15mm f/4 fisheye lens at 15mm, Nauticam housing, dual Bigblue 15,000-lumen lights, f/6.3, 1/50s, ISO 6400

Photographer’s Comment: “Over the year, I have had the pleasure of capturing the beauty of over 250 different Mexican cenotes. One of the most fascinating aspects of these cave systems is their stunning formation enclosure and decorations, and the ability to move freely to explore them in every direction and in a perfectly translucent environment. Nothing exemplifies this freedom of movement more than breaking from your bidimensional constraints and jumping into vertical opening tunnels—as if entering a parallel universe.”

 

Black and White – Silver – “Silfra Sunrise” by Byron Conroy (UK)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Silfra, Iceland

Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Sigma 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 800

Photographer’s Comment: “The ice cold water of the Silfra fissure has long been famous for very specific shots, but it’s the only dive site in the world where you can use landscape photo techniques underwater due to the incredible clarity, with visibility of over 100 meters. I wanted to find a new angle at this iconic site, one that allows me to convey the experience of diving here. Silfra is often called ‘liquid air’; by using black and white, I was able to express the clarity of the water and also show the feeling of diving between two diverging tectonic plates by having a strong contrast between the water, the model and the plates. To make this shot possible, I chose the time of day and the time of year to ensure the sun was in the right place.”

 

Black and White – Bronze – “Crossing Under the Light” by Miguel Ramirez (France)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Réunion Island, Mascarene Islands, Indian Ocean

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D500, Tokina 10–17mm f/3.5–4.5 fisheye lens, Hugyfot housing, f/10, 1/160s, ISO 640

Photographer’s Comment: “In July 2023, we had the opportunity to snorkel with humpbacks off Réunion Island. This pair of whales, one of which was lighter colored than the other, was very calm and allowed us to approach. The clarity of the water and the sunlight made it possible to have magnificent sunrays underwater. It was a magical, touching encounter.”

 

Black and White – Honorable Mention – “Amongst Clouds of Sediment” by Francis Glassup (UK)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Abu Dabbab, Egypt

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 16–35mm f/4 lens, Hugyfot housing, dual Ikelite DS161 strobes, f/13, 1/250s, ISO 100

Photographer’s Comment: “Once a common sight around Africa, dugong populations have tragically plummeted in recent decades. This is thought to be due to seagrass habitat loss and human pressure. Fortunately, the lagoons of Abu Dabbab in Egypt still provide refuge for a few of these magical creatures. After days of studying the behavior patterns of this large male, I was able to position myself in an area I thought he might come to. Luck was on my side and after a long wait, he slowly approached, unperturbed by my presence. I wanted to capture an image that portrayed the dugong’s raw power and beauty as it vacuumed up seagrass amongst the billowing clouds of sediment.”

 

Blackwater

Blackwater – Gold – “Flamenco Pose” by Magnus Lundgren (Sweden)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Anilao, Balayan Bay, Batangas, Philippines

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D850, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Nauticam housing, Inon Z-330 strobes, f/16, 1/250s, ISO 320

Photographer’s Comment: “It was a night filled with drama when I encountered one of my dream subjects in Balayan Bay. The Taal volcano was erupting, sending fireworks into the dark sky like a huge dragon, and the deep, thundering sound of earthquakes rolled through the ocean. At the same time, this female blanket octopus appeared from nowhere, out of the dark, in front of my camera. She started rolling out her long blanket, ending up in this Batman-like pose. False eyes decorating her flamenco-style webbing between her arms stared back at me. It is believed that the blanket is probably used to spook or confuse predators.”

 

Blackwater – Silver – “Juvenile Moray Eel” by Liang Fu (China)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Romblon, Philippines

Equipment and Settings: Canon EOS R5, Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 macro lens, Nauticam housing, dual Retra Flash Pro strobes, f/13, 1/200s, ISO 400

Photographer’s Comment: “Moray eels are generally found living in coral reefs, but juveniles often live pelagically in open waters until they mature into adults. During a blackwater dive, I found a transparent creature swimming at a depth of over 20 meters. It had curled its body into a heart shape in the water. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a juvenile moray eel! Unlike the adults that live in reef crevices, juveniles drift in the open ocean, their transparent bodies providing camouflage against predators in the vast blue. I was very lucky to spot this elusive juvenile moray eel in the dark waters.”

 

Blackwater – Bronze – “Sparkling Wunderpus” by Magnus Lundgren (Sweden)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Anilao, Balayan Bay, Batangas, Philippines

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D850, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Nauticam housing, Inon Z-330 strobes, f/18, 1/6s, ISO 320

Photographer’s Comment: “As a photographer, I can only smile when I encounter this spectacular octopus, whose scientific name is Wunderpus photogenicus. For me, this alien-like creature is a reminder that 80 percent of the ocean remains unexplored. I found this particular juvenile wunderpus at night in the pelagic zone, around 200 meters from the seafloor. The wunderpus spends its life in the open ocean before settling on the seafloor and changing into its adult form. It gains banded white markings as an adult and has the ability to mimic other animals, just like the mimic octopus.”

 

Blackwater – Honorable Mention – “Dinner Time” by Dennis Corpuz (Philippines)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Anilao, Batangas, Philippines

Equipment and Settings: Nikon D7000, AF-S Nikon 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Sea&Sea housing, dual Backscatter Mini Flash 2

Photographer’s Comment: “It was almost at the very end of our blackwater dive when I spotted this crab swimming near the lights at around 5 meters (15 feet). I noticed the crab was swimming frantically, and when I followed it to investigate closer, I was surprised to see that it was chasing a small fish. Eventually, the crab caught up with its meal, and I was able to take a few pictures before running out of air and returning to the surface.”

 

Short Film

Short Film – Gold – “The Magic Triangle” by Alfred Schaschl (Austria)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Weissensee, Carinthia, Austria and Dauin, Philippines

Equipment: Panasonic Lumix GH5s, Isotta housing, Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens, Olympus 12mm f/2 wide-angle lens, Nauticam SMC-1 diopter, Atomos Ninja V recorder/monitor, Backscatter MW-4300, Weefine Solar Flare 5000, and X-Adventurer M15000 video lights

Videographer’s Comment: “The film tells an illusory story of an ocean lover who dives through a hole in the ice and experiences the bizarre beauty of the tropical ocean.”

 

Short Film – Silver – “Blackwater: Cozumel Style” by Walter Marti (USA)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Cozumel, Yucatán, Mexico

Equipment: Sony a7S Mark III, Sony FE 28–60mm f/4–5.6 lens, Nauticam housing, AOI UWL-09PRO wide-angle conversion lens, Kraken Solar Flare Mini 15000 video lights

Videographer’s Comment: “Blackwater diving has become my favorite type of diving. Blackwater diving enables me to document rarely seen creatures and their behavior. You can experiance both vertical and horizonatal migration of larval and pelagic creatures. It is not uncommon to surface from a blackwater dive and say, ‘What was that?’ Cozumel is an excellent place for blackwater, due to the great visibility and currents, which bring in the subjects. One night we drifted almost eight kilometers! The AOI UWL-09PRO lets me film the subject when it is right on the lens, thereby reducing camera shake and backscatter. I made some ‘blinders’ for my video lights. This enables me to focus the lighting on the subject, and not the entire ocean.”

 

Short Film – Bronze – “Beneath the Horizon” by Michael Fafalios (UK)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Anilao and Puerto Galera, Philippines

Equipment and Settings: Sony a7S Mark III, Sony FE 28–60mm f/4–5.6 lens, Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 macro lens, Nauticam housing, Backscatter MW-4300 video lights

Videographer’s Comment: “I chose the macro underwater world of the Philippines as the setting for my short movie because it was absolutely mesmerizing. I wanted to showcase the intricate details and vibrant colors of the smaller marine creatures that often go unnoticed. By focusing on the macro perspective, I aimed to create a visually stunning and immersive experience for the audience. Moreover, this choice allowed me to raise awareness of the importance of marine conservation and the need to protect these fragile ecosystems. The underwater world of the Philippines offered a unique opportunity to captivate viewers and inspire them to appreciate and preserve the wonders of our oceans.”

 

Short Film – Honorable Mention – “Silent Fleet: Chuuk Lagoon” by Peter Nicholas (Australia)
 

PRIZE SPONSOR

Shooting Location: Chuuk Lagoon, Federated States of Micronesia

Equipment and Settings: GoPro HERO10, Kraken Hydra 4000 video lights, AOI UWL-03 wide-angle diopter, homemade 8-inch dome, DJI Air 2S drone

Photographer’s Comment: “I have always wanted to visit Chuuk Lagoon and dive the wrecks there, as far back as the 1980s, but life sometimes gets in the way. My wife Margy and I decided it was finally time, so we booked to go in 2020. Then COVID hit and we postponed the trip for a few years. Normally, I would have had a DSLR camera system with me, but with bulk and weight restrictions, I decided to go light and just take a GoPro and a drone. Once in the water, I was absolutely blown away by the life on the wrecks—they truly are living reefs. Add to that the background history and this is one of the must-do dive destinations in the world.”

 

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