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Dive Photo Guide


Behind the Shot: The 2018 OWU Competition Winners
By DPG Editorial Staff, March 6, 2018 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

The winning images in the 2018 Our World Underwater International Imaging Competition once again demonstrated the incredible talents of underwater shooters from across the globe. Captured in locations around the world, from North America to Europe, Africa to Asia, these images encompass many of the planet’s most inspirational dive destinations—not to mention a diverse range of photographic subjects that belong on many a bucket list.

But how precisely were these eye-popping images created? What tricks, gear, gadgets and settings did the photographers use? To answer these questions, we approached the Gold and Silver awardees and asked them to reveal their imaging secrets. Here are the fascinating stories behind the winning shots…

 Macro Traditional (Gold)

A small pond in the Bahamas is home to the highest density of seahorses on Earth—a place that desperately needs protection. I’ve been trying to capture that essence for over five years, but the fish are pinky-sized and usually yards apart. Even seeing two together is not common, but it happens. When I saw three together, I knew this was my chance—and I got very nervous and my motor skills became laughable! I set my camera down in front of them and they turned away, of course, but slowly they got used to its presence while I swam away. I set my GorillaPod with both a focus light and strobe behind the algae they were clinging to. Then I waited for them to all turn in a pleasing way.

Shane Gross


Title: “Seahorse Density”
When: July 2017
Where: Bahamas
Equipment: Nikon D500, Nikkor 60mm macro lens, Aquatica housing, dive light, Joby GorillaPod tripod, Sea & Sea YS-110 strobe, Triggerfish slave sensor
Settings: f/25, 1/15s, ISO 100


Title: “Dominate”
When: January 2018
Where: Anilao, Batangas, Philippines
Equipment: Nikon D850, Nikkor 60mm macro lens, Seacam Silver housing, dual Seacam Seaflash 150D, four Scubalamp V6K Pro lights
Settings: f/32, 1/320s, ISO 500

 Macro Unrestricted (Gold)

As the waters in Anilao get cold by January, you are able to see more critters than at any other time of year. During my first dive this year, I spotted multiple variants of octopuses and amongst all the photos that I took, this one is easily one of my favorites. This shot was more creative than technical, and I really took my time to experiment with different angles and different settings to arrive at the perfect image. I had to be careful in my approach and also observe proper breathing techniques, so that I wouldn’t startle the subject and maintain my concentration long enough to achieve the desired composition.

Songda Cai


Wide Angle Traditional (Gold)

In 2015, while trying to photograph lemon shark pups in the mangroves, I noticed many large nurse sharks in the flats with their dorsal fins out of the water—just sitting there all day. I suspected it was breeding behavior, but never actually saw it. A couple of years later, I set up my tent on a beach overlooking the area and observed. One morning, I woke up to violent splashing, and sure enough, a dozen huge nurse sharks were aggressively mating. I had to calm myself down, get my settings right, and then slowly approach. A few males swam directly over to me before veering off, realizing I was not a female nurse shark. After about 20 minutes, things calmed down, and that was it.

Shane Gross


Title: “Mating Nurse Sharks”
When: June 2017
Where: The Bahamas
Equipment: Nikon D90, Tokina 10–17mm fisheye lens, Aquatica housing, Sea & Sea YS-250 strobes
Settings: f/14, 1/50s, ISO 400


Title: “Gannets Feeding”
When: May 2017
Where: Shetland Islands, UK
Equipment: Nikon D7200, Tokina 10–17mm fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, dual Ikelite DS161 strobes
Settings: f/11, 1/320s, ISO 200

Wide Angle Unrestricted (Gold)

Gannets hunt pelagic fish such as mackerel by diving into the sea from heights of around 100 feet, achieving speeds of 60 miles per hour as they strike the water and pursue their prey underwater. With the collapse of fish stocks, however, the birds have been fighting for their survival, learning to catch discarded fish from fishing vessels. While the northern gannets in this image were photographed feeding on discarded fish, a discard ban introduced two years ago across Europe will likely put additional stress on these plucky seabirds.

Greg Lecoeur


Compact Cameras (Gold)

It was a sunny day in Rab, so I thought it was a good time for a double exposure. I mounted the wide-angle wet lens to the port, dived about 10 feet below the water surface, and shot a picture of the beautiful sun rays. After that, I switched the wide-angle attachment for the macro conversion lens and started looking for a blenny for the foreground. After a while, I found him on a rock. I aimed my flash with the snoot and waited until the blenny was in the perfect position and making eye contact. The result was exactly the picture I had in my head.

Enrico Somogyi


Title: “Blenny Under the Sun”
When: September 2017
Where: Rab, Croatia
Equipment: Panasonic Lumix LX100, Meikon housing, Inon Z-240 strobe, Retra snoot, wide-angle wet lens, Inon +6 macro wet lens
Settings: f/13, 1/2000s, ISO 200


Title: “Rock and Light”
When: October 2017
Where: Ras Mohamed National Park, Red Sea, Egypt
Equipment: Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Tokina 10–17mm fisheye lens, Hugyfot housing, Hugyfot 7-inch dome port, no strobes
Settings: f/7.1, 1/125s, ISO 500


Black and White (Gold)

This image was shot from inside a small cave where we had a short stop during a safari boat trip. As the image was captured while freediving—as all of my images are—the biggest challenge was buoyancy. After reaching a certain point in the cave, I had to turn back, exhale air from my lungs, to adjust buoyancy in relatively shallow water, and wait, hovering with almost empty lungs, for my model to get into the right position. I then used the continuous shooting mode to capture as many photos as possible before my model had to surface. This way, I managed to shoot hundreds of photos combining one, two or three freedivers in different situations over a period of less than 30 minutes.

Vaclav Krpelik


 Macro Traditional (Silver)

Whip coral gobies are easy subjects to spot underwater, and the most common way to photograph these little fellows is with a black or blue background. Wanting to create something different, I thought about getting a soap bubble bokeh effect. Of course, one way to achieve this is to buy the Trioplan lens but the expense meant that was not an option. So I started trying some inexpensive techniques—ending up using different reflective backgrounds. This image was achieved using a blue plastic slate with blue glitter and shot with an open aperture to create the bokeh effect.

Anders Nyberg


Title: “In the Glans”
When: February 2017
Where: Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia
Equipment: Nikon D500, Nikkor 105mm lens, Nauticam housing, dual Inon Z-240 strobes, blue plastic slate with blue glitter
Settings: f/9, 1/200s, ISO 100


Title: “Amazing”
When: January 2018
Where: Anilao, Batangas, Philippines
Equipment: Nikon D850, Nikkor 60mm macro lens, Seacam Silver housing, dual Seacam Seaflash 150D, four Scubalamp V6K Pro lights
Settings: f/25, 1/320s, ISO 500

 Macro Unrestricted (Silver)

I was at about 10 feet during my safety stop when my guide saw this amazing creature, and I got ready to shoot without wasting a single second. Just as I got into position, the blanket octopus—as if making a show of pride—suddenly fluttered its web, and as fleeting as it was sudden, I managed to take a few shots. Always being ready really paid off, as I was able to capture something uniquely beautiful in that brief moment.

Songda Cai


Wide Angle Traditional (Silver)

One of the most difficult animals to photograph underwater is the leatherback sea turtle—I have been on the lookout for this species for the last 15 years. In 2013, I encountered my first leatherback, but I couldn’t get close to her as she was very shy. Two years later, I saw a second, and I was able to dive with her, but she was so completely surrounded by pilot fish that you couldn’t appreciate her in the single picture I managed to capture. Finally, in 2016, returning to port after eight long hours out in the blue, I came across a third individual. It wasn’t particularly big—perhaps seven feet long—but it was really calm and relaxed; this was the opportunity that I had waited a very long time for. She gave me a pass of about 30 seconds, enough time to immortalize her image and fulfill a dream as an underwater photographer. Without question, it was one of the most rewarding images that I have had the privilege to shoot.

Eduardo Acevedo


Title: “Leatherback Turtle”
When: July 2016
Where: Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Equipment: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, Seacam housing, dual Inon Z-240 strobes
Settings: f/9, 1/160s, ISO 100


Title: “Fast & Furious”
When: March 2017
Where: Aliwal Shoal, Umkomaas, South Africa
Equipment: Nikon D800E, Tokina 10–17mm fisheye lens, Seacam housing and strobes
Settings: f/18, 1/10s, ISO 125

Wide Angle Unrestricted (Silver)

Aliwal Shoal is famous for baited and cage shark diving, and depending on the season, divers can get in very close contact with many shark species, including bull, tiger, and ragged-tooth sharks. This image, taken during a baited shark dive, depicts some magnificent oceanic blacktips. While baited shark diving is a controversial practice, it gives us an opportunity to appreciate the true nature of animals that have been judged as man-eaters for decades, partly justifying their slaughter. The technique used in this shot is using a slow shutter speed with rear-curtain sync, with no specific challenge required more than good buoyancy control in open water and lots of patience—and, of course, many failed attempts trying to capture the perfect composition.

David Salvatori


Compact Cameras (Silver)

Diving at the Liberty Wreck in Tulamben, I spotted this big school of jackfish at the water surface. I thought this huge “swarm” would be perfect for a split shot, so I grabbed my snorkel gear and my rig with two strobes, and got to work. The biggest challenge with split shots is the movement of the water surface and the drops of water on the dome port. The bigger the dome, the easier the photo, but mine was not very big—only about five inches. Still, after about half an hour, I had taken a few photos I was satisfied with.

Enrico Somogyi


Title: “Swarm and Palms”
When: January 2013
Where: Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia
Equipment: Panasonic Lumix LX3, 10Bar housing, dual Inon Z-240 strobes, Sony fisheye conversion lens with a DIY adapter behind the dome port
Settings: f/2.2, 1/2000s, ISO 100


Title: “Longimanus”
When: October 2017
Where: Brothers Islands, Egyptian Red Sea
Equipment: Nikon D7200, Tokina 10–17mm fisheye lens, Nauticam housing, dual Ikelite DS161 strobes
Settings: f/9, 1/200s, ISO 100

Black and White (Silver)

In recent years, oceanic whitetips have become rarer in the Red Sea, but they are back around the offshore reefs of Egypt. Diving with these magnificent predators is a privilege and offers incredible photographic opportunities to witness the symbiosis with pilot fish. Curious and confident, these sharks don’t hesitate to approach divers, and I was able to capture this image on a decompression stop.

Greg Lecoeur


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