Three esteemed judges, Alex Mustard, Martin Edge and Peter Rowlands had the pleasure of going through 2500 entries from 40 countries to select the award winners. “It was highly enjoyable, but something we took very seriously. Every judge saw every picture multiple times, I think we probably know some of the images better than the photographers who took them,” said Alex Mustard, chair of the judging panel and the driving force behind UPY. “The quantity and particularly the quality of the images entered left us all astounded. It was a privilege to be part of something so special. Heart-warming to see the competitions so enthusiastically embraced by the community, heartbreaking at times when we just couldn’t squeeze some truly amazing images into the winners circle.”
UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR (2015): '50 Tons Of Me' - Nuno Sá
BRITISH UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR (2015): 'Gannets Feast' - Matt Doggett
MOST PROMISING BRITISH UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHER (2015): 'Glowing Goby' - Mario Vitalini
WINNER: 'From the Below' - Raffaele Livornese
I took this photo beneath the dive boat during a safari in the Maldives, last October. The only light source was from a spotlight on the liveaboard. Once in the water, I waited for about 40 minutes to get this shot. The manta made many pirouettes as it fed on the plankton attracted to the light. But it was always too far from the surface and I was only using a snorkel. But once I saw the photo on my camera I was very happy.
Judge’s Comment, Alex Mustard: Manta rays are one of the most beautiful creatures in the ocean, and this is a particularly stunning picture. Such graphically powerful images are a rare treat in wide angle photography. The single light source from above the surface has revealed the three dimensional form of the ray, I especially like how the light and dark define the gill slits. The shot is also precisely timed capturing perfect symmetry in the subject. It works so well in black and white.
RUNNER UP: 'Socotra Cormorant' - Hani Bader
I was diving to shoot a jellyfish as these creatures arrive in huge quantities in Bahrain between May and July. I find them inspiring subjects, especially seeing so many swimming rhythmically on all sides. This picture came to together when I saw some Socotra Cormorants diving to eat the small fish hiding underneath the jellyfish. It was difficult to shoot because the birds move so fast.
Judge’s comment, Martin Edge: Engaging behaviour with competent use of all the elements. Notice how the subject is surrounded by the jelly fish and within snells window but the entire form including feet and wings are visible. There's nothing blocking the eye of the viewer but in all four corners there is plenty going on! skilled technical control of the highlights through 'snell' combined with a balanced control of the jelly fish in all four corners. Once again, stella 'peak of the action'.
THIRD: 'Bottoms Up' - Morten Bjørn Larsen
I was the official underwater photographer at the 2009 Freediving World Championships in Denmark. On the final day, after the last competition, I invited all the 175 athletes outside in the deep pool to try to create some photos. My idea was to get all 175 freedivers to dive down directly towards me, but after a few attempts I looked up and saw this funny and unusual gathering at the surface.
Judge’s Comment, Peter Rowlands: In every photography competition there is usually one unique image which completely stands out from the crowd and this is it. There were no others like this! In truth though the initially positive effect of such an eye catching image can often fade when viewed a second and third time and see it slide down to third place.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Reef Reflections' - Julian Cohen
I am always attracted to reflections and as I floated around in the mangroves looking for a subject I glanced in the viewfinder and saw this reflection from the calm water. Then it was just a case of finding an area of colourful coral to put in the foreground.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Waratah Anemones at Sunrise' - Matt Smith
Beautiful crimson red waratah anemones, the roses of the sea bed, in a rock pool at Port Kembla, NSW. I had been shooting over/under images of these anemones for several weeks but couldn’t quite coincide the required low tide with a complimentary sunrise. However on this particular day it all came together and I got a few silver gulls in for an added bonus!!
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Man and Fish' - João Paulo Krajewski
In Cenderawasih Bay, whale sharks often visit floating fishing platforms, where the locals get baitfish to catch larger fish. When I saw this situation, I decided I should get an image that compared the size of shark and man, and I immediately thought about a split image. I was advised that the flash could disturb the shark and was not allowed, so I had to get good light on the shark to avoid the platform’s shade. Also, as it was a split image, I should have a very calm sea, to avoid drops on the lens – and I was lucky of having it!
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Under the Platform' - Allison Vitsky Sallmon
It’s hard to know what to expect when I book a charter to the oil platforms off of Long Beach, California. On a bad day, they can deliver punishing surge, unmanageable current, and terrible visibility. On a good day, however, they are among my favourite dive sites in the world, which is why I keep going back again and again! This dive day was among the best I’ve ever experienced in California: The platform pilings were thickly covered with marine life, the visibility was incredible, and a huge school of mackerel swirled overhead. I‘ve long wanted to create a temperate water shot similar to the beautful images taken under Raja Ampat’s Arborek Jetty, and this dive presented the perfect opportunity to do so. I searched diligently for a large starfish in the right position, and once I found it, I photographed it until it was time to ascend. This image was the best representation of the sense of motion I was after.
COMMENDED: 'Terry in the Baitball' - J. Gregory Sherman
COMMENDED: 'Osmosis' - Fabrice GUERIN
COMMENDED: 'Divers in the Light' - Elaine White
WINNER: '50 Tons Of Me' - Nuno Sá
The Natural reserve of Ria Formosa is home to the world’s largest population of the two species of seahorses found in the Mediterranean and Atlantic seas. However the local university together with Project Seahorse has registered a 85% decline in seahorse populations between 2001 and 2009.
I spent 10 days diving in this natural reserve for National Geographic Portugal, following a pioneering project between the University of Algarve with Project Seahorse that has been breeding seahorses in captivity. The goal is reducing the demand of wild seahorses and also re-populate areas where seahorses populations have been reduced or extinct by fishing. Over 50 tons of seahorses are captures every year for ornamental purposes and use in traditional oriental medicine.
To light this photo, I had the unusual accessories of two scientists, who were holding my strobes, 1 strobe behind and 1 over the seahorse
Judge’s Comment, Martin Edge: In the opinion of the judges, the best in show! The composition is simple but so effective. What attracts me to this particular image is the understated quality of light and shade made possible by the subtle use of flash. It's though it is lit from within. It's a fine example of what I refer to as delicate post processing.
RUNNER UP: 'Dancing shrimp in formation' - Theresa A. Guise
The image was taken on a dive site mooring, a large concrete block, which was covered in pink sponge. Closer inspection showed an abundance of dancing shrimp. They formed interesting patterns and formations, such as the one in this image. Their red bodies and turquois eyes were a striking contrast to the pink sponge, but complimented it as if arranged by an interior designer.
Judge’s comment, Martin Edge: Who says you need rare and exotic creatures to make great underwater images? One of the most common shrimps throughout the world. It's a typical subject which we practice on for our first macro dive of the day! Who would think that this everyday common subject could excel in such a big competition? Well everyone, It has! So incredibly simple but shot by a photographer with an eye for impact, balance and originality. I so wish I had taken this shot!
THIRD: 'The passenger' - Filippo Borghi
I was making a sunset dive with the intention of photographing mandarinfish mating, when I spotted this beautiful solar powered nudibranch. I was already busy photographing it when from between its horns this tiny emperor shrimp appeared. Perhaps it was more confident in the fading light?
Judge’s Comment, Peter Rowlands: This remarkable image gets better and better the larger you view it. With macro it is often tempting to go in close for maximum detail and scale but in this case the symmetry of the main host enhanced by the dominant oral tentacles and the extremely delicate lighting has produced an image which perfectly captures the relationship between these two beautiful creatures.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Miamira Alleni : The Anilao Star' - Marcello Di Francesco
The incredible nudibranch (Miamira alleni) can truly be considered a star. It is beautiful, charming, sinuous, and the most desirable nudibranch in the whole Anilao area. It was also one of the largest nudis I have ever photographed. Who would think a slug would make for such an unforgettable diving experience!
This is a highly mobile nudibranch and the challenge of this shot was to fit it all in the frame while lighting it properly. It was a great challenge, but worth it!
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Riding The Dragon' - François Parot
I have been chasing the classic underwater photography duet, the moray and shrimp, for many years. And fortunately on Les Deux Frères dive site, near Fabrégas (South of France, Mediterranean Sea), I found a reef filled with morays, with the appropriate company in their holes.
Then all was required from me was the right preparation and a lot of patience as I dedicated my entire dive, 70 minutes long, to these two subjects. This is my favourite frame in the series.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Mr. & Mrs Yellow Hairy Goby' - Jeffrey Chua de Guzman
Yellow hairy gobies are one of the cutest fish in the sea, but they are tiny tiny tiny and often dart to and fro – left and right. Never staying still for more than a few seconds, They live in spiny corals to protect themselves from predators, like wrasses. This is a subject that demands exceptional patience, clicking the shutter at just the right moment. And sometimes that patience is rewarded with sheer luck. My goal was a simple portrait, when suddenly another goby popped its head into the frame.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Octocorallia (soft coral) close-up' - Pash Baker
This was the trip on which I first started to use close up diopters. I borrowed a +8 from a friend and quickly became fascinated with the extra level of detail this provided. These small soft coral polyps needed careful lighting, so I experimented using backlighting (another first for me) to separate them from the background. To achieve this, I detached the strobe from the arm and handheld it behind the subject.
COMMENDED: 'Barbie Nemo' - Tobias Friedrich
COMMENDED: 'Hitchhiker' - Lynn Wu
COMMENDED: 'Nembrotha in carnival' - Adriano Morettin
WINNER: 'EELASTIC' - Tobias Friedrich
Sometimes encounters just happen which couldn’t have been planned better and never could be repeated. One of these rare situations has been taken place inside of the wreck of the Chrisoula K, which has been sunken in the year 1981 in the northern Red Sea. I was waiting for the other photographer in a small doorframe, when suddenly this giant moray eel (Gymnothorax javanicus) swam from behind my back and winded itself through the small space between the door and me. When I was quite shocked about the close movement in the first seconds, which I obviously didn’t expected, but the moray eel wasn’t concerned at all and made it’s way further into the wreck. After a few seconds of confusion I recognized that this could be a fantastic situation to photograph because an interaction between bigger animals along with wrecks is quite rare.
Judge’s Comment, Peter Rowlands: I can really feel the excitement which must have been building in the photographer who took this shot. More often than not, marine life doesn't behave on cue but this moray must have delighted the shooter as it emerged from the inside of the wreck to pose perfectly for both photographers. The peak of that action has been captured to sublime effect.
RUNNER UP: 'Exploring the Kittiwake' - Charles Hood
I was asked to cover the sinking of the Kittiwake for Scuba Magazine with the editor stating he wanted some different shots than standard wreck images. Building on an idea used by cave diving photographers I took four strobes, all wired back to the camera housing, with a home-made cable and tried different angles. The mask reflection, that usually is not wanted, was a fluke but I think adds to the image.
Judge’s comment, Peter Rowlands: As someone who is keen on wreck photography I particularly like this very strong image with dramatic lighting and the 'icing on the cake' reflections in the mask. It has instant appeal with plenty of detail to keep the eye entertained. The delivery is graphically simple and leaves you in no doubt visually.
THIRD: 'The stairs' - Tobias Friedrich
Interesting structures, stairs and the large engine room are making the "Kawela" wreck particularly interesting. Sometimes even a big lobster is hiding between the large propellers of the ship. At the rear is an old wreck of a "Volkswagen Beetle", which jokers have sunk there later on.
Judge’s Comment, Alex Mustard: One of the great attraction of wreck dives is their atmosphere, which is something that this image has in buckets. I love how it takes a few moments to even spot it is an underwater photograph. A real grower.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Liferafts at the Salem Express' - Mario Vitalini
Although I have dived the Salem as a guide many times, this was my first chance to photograph it properly. The liferafts are one of the wreck’s most striking features, and a vivid visual reminder of the Salem’s tragedy. There is still an eerie feeling diving this wreck, which is why I chose the monotone processing in the finished photo.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'No parking! Tow away zone' - Terry Steeley
I’d visited the lower holds of the Thistlegorm numerous times and was keen to craft an image would breathe life into the truck once more. Consuming all of my bottom time, the construction of my photo started with the blue background, finding a shutter speed that provided the blue hue I liked for depth. The cab was lit with a remote strobe wedged in the glove box and the engine with my torch. Having spent almost 30 mins developing the shot, my last task was to swim around the hold corralling the fish I scared off to complete the underwater scene.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Wreck of the SS Carnatic' - Arthur Kingdon
This is one of the older wrecks in the area and has a lot of marine growth. I was keen to get a wreck shot that was not just rusty metal, so these beautiful soft corals provided the ideal subject. Some good modelling by my buddy, Bob, completed the picture.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Barbette' - Steve Jones
This is the barbette turret armour that once housed the forward battery of the super dreadnought battleship HMS Audacious. The thick steel of this huge structure survived both the catastrophic explosion in the forward magazine that actually sunk Audacious after she’d hit a mine in 1914, and years of sea action in this exposed area of the North Atlantic. Audacious lies at 65 metres, and given that we were only going to get 1 dive on it, I did quite a bit of research beforehand and lined up in my mind the shots I wanted of the key features, discussing these beforehand with my dive partner Steve Henshall. Somehow the barbette had not really featured on that list of subjects but as soon as we left the shot line this incredible sight came into view. It’s testament to how a good model can make a shot, because little communication was needed between us – we both knew it would make a great image so I immediately moved to the best angle to show its true scale, and Steve swam into the middle, as my camera hammered away and I adjusted the settings until I was happy with the histogram.
COMMENDED: 'Louilla' - Csaba Tökölyi
COMMENDED: 'Sunbathing' - Nadya Kulagina
COMMENDED: 'P29 Patrol boat wreck' - Trevor Rees
WINNER: 'Survival' - Montse Grillo
It was a seemingly calm day, with nothing special happening, like many other times I have been out on the boat with friends. Then, suddenly in the distance, we spotted many birds diving into the water. And we went to see the show, five miles off the coast of Tenerife. The sardines were trying to escape the birds and dolphins, but without success. In a few minutes this fish ball had vanished. But for me memories of those moments are indelible.
Judge’s Comment, Peter Rowlands: This was a particularly visual favourite of mine which also captures the category's purpose to perfection – behaviour. It freezes the very essence of life underwater with great lighting and perfect composition right down to the bit part players in the background preparing to circle again to have another lunge into the unfortunate shoal.
RUNNER UP: 'Good luck my babies' - Tammy Gibbs
After watching the ever-expanding pouches of the brooding males, I was determined to see one give birth. Something which happens under the cover of darkness. I dived again and again until on this particular night, I found three males who looked very ready to give birth. This one was the first to have his babies and I watched in awe as hundreds of tiny seahorses were thrust from his pouch. I then watched the second one release his babies into the blackness but by the time I got to the third one, his pouch was deflated and he was resting after the exhausting experience.
Judge’s comment, Martin Edge: One of my own favourites from the entire competition! The birthing behaviour in itself is technically first class but what impresses me the most is the sense of emotion between father and babies. Just look at the eye contact! A fine example of exceptional peak of the action! Imagine the eye contact being directed anywhere else within the frame. That parental connection would have been lost.
THIRD: 'Valet service' - Cathy Lewis
We spent a lot of time shore diving a busy cleaning station at around 23m, where this emperor angelfish was a frequent visitor. I wanted to use it as a colourful, graphic canvas on which to capture the cleaning behaviour of the Lysmata shrimp.
Judge’s Comment, Martin Edge: This image was a strong favourite with all the judges. It has a wonderful sense, not only abstract and art but of behaviour also. Excellent 'peak of the action' with the subject occupying the dark tones of the fish. The balance of the composition and general weight of the shot, I find outstanding.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Hunting' - Olivier Delorieux
I was shooting the famous sardine fish school in the Philippines, when I noticed this gang of jacks preparing to attack. I only had a few second to take some pictures.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Bait Ball Man' - Lawrence Alex Wu
Cocooned by a swirling ball of frenzied glassfish, nature decided in a matter of seconds this diver's fate...as well as his outfit for a several minutes!
However, it was the instinctive nature of the predating school of larger fish that corralled the glassfish from the reef below into mid water where all the fish descended on this diver in waves of movement.
"The blanket of glassfish grazed against my whole body and face as they swarmed around me to avoid the incessant torpedoing attacks of the hunters."
Amazingly, the diver was never mistaken for predator nor prey but nonetheless, the hunters prevailed in this balance of survival. Within a quarter of an hour they meandered off into the blue in search of what was next after a fuelled feeding frenzy.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Common Toad Orgy' - Pekka Tuuri
I volunteered to be in a nature TV program for the Finnish Broadcasting Company. A fixed date for filming was set well in advance. Luckily the date was perfect in terms of common toad spawning. I found a fallen willow in the water and no less than five pairs of common toad were on the branches of the willow. The TV schedule let me shoot only for a few minutes but in that little time I was able to get a few decent images of the toads. The TV program was a success as well as these same toads were also documented with GoPros!
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Fur Seal's Revenge' - Andy Murch
Halfway through a dive with playful pinnipeds, a fur seal showed up with the carcass of a dark shyshark that it had probably just killed. The rest of the seals spent the next 20 minutes playing catch or tug of war with the dead shark while I followed them around with my camera. Now and then they would let go of the shark and allow me to catch it. I would swim a few yards and then let it go at which point another seal would dash in to grab it back. The connection that I felt to the seals that day is something I will never forget.
COMMENDED: 'Piggyback ' - Jeffrey Chua de Guzman
COMMENDED: 'Cleaning' - Mark Fuller
COMMENDED: 'Silversides Buffet' - Andy Deitsch
WINNER: 'Angelita' - Fabrice GUERIN
In the middle of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, there is a very special natural cave called cenote Angelita. It is a unique diving experience, with the light going from blue to green. Then at a depth of 30 metres, a metre-thick layer of hydrogen sulphide appears. The atmosphere is similar to a lunar landscape. When I spotted this diver between the branches of a tree, I had all the elements for a surreal underwater image.
Judge’s Comment, Martin Edge: Such a unique image! So different than anything else in the competition. It's particularly atmospheric and the understated use of post processing has provided a soft, surreal dream-like photo. Composition is subtle and effective with the 'peak of the action' capturing the diver between the dominant foreground. My eye is glued within the frame. The extra touch of air bubbles connecting to the surface is also a strong. I love this shot and it's fair to say that it was one of my favourites of the competition.
RUNNER UP: 'Fast Oceanic' - Tommi Kokkola
I was on a liveaboard full of photographers and one of our targets was to shoot oceanic whitetip sharks. The sharks were around and we have many opportunities to shoot them. By our final dive at the Brothers I was happy with my shots so decided to experiment with slow shutterspeeds. I only got once chance, but it worked out just fine.
Judge’s comment, Alex Mustard: Sharks are dramatic subjects, made more so when combined with techniques such as long exposure and panning. Not that it is easy to think about using a creative technique when faced by such an exciting subject. Being able to think underwater and under pressure is the mark of an excellent photographer.
THIRD: 'Glowing Goby' - Mario Vitalini
Judge’s Comment, Peter Rowlands: Here is a perfect example of how to light a subject to great effect but backlighting can introduce problems of its own and enhance any backscatter. The lovely contrast between the rich black background and the translucent body of the fish combined with a powerful diagonal composition make this a very effective image.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Queen Indeed' - Ken Kiefer 2
Of all the Angelfish in the Caribbean, the Queen has proven to be the most camera-shy and every trip I go home wishing for one image to show off the beauty of this regal fish. Luckily on one dive in Cozumel’s Tormentos Reef I came across this lovely lady when she was in a friendly mood. For a few seconds she allowed me to remain motionless and made two passes directly in front of my dome! I was ecstatic to have made the most of the moment.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'The Ghostly Giannis D' - John Parker
The Ghostly Giannis D was taken on a Northern Red Sea Photographic workshop on board Whirlwind. This was my first workshop and on day one disaster struck as my shutter release button broke off whilst attempting sunset splits at Ras Katy! I spent the next day or so experimenting with various ways to “bodge” my shutter lever to get it to work. I eventually fixed it and was able to shoot reliably. This shot was taken on the 3rd dive on day three. The previous two I dived with a camera that didn’t work properly so it’s a miracle this shot was taken at all!
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Anthia turners' - Duncan Robins
Frustrated with the thousands of swirling snappers, batfish, unicorn fish and barracuda out in the blue, which would just not line up for me, I swam back to the reef to try my luck with the colourful anthias. I found some red soft coral on the reef wall, which was surrounded by some shy anthias. I positioned myself so I could take a striking image against the blue. After some time the anthias got their confidence and they all turned and swam out in unison together allowing me to capture the image.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Whaleshark buffet' - Gary Peart
We had travelled almost the entire length of Indonesia to reach Papua in the far east of the country. The whale shark stories from Cenderawasih bay were still only rumours and no dive operations existed with which to find this new phenomena. We finally arrived at a floating fishing platform on a Papuan police patrol boat. The local fisherman living on the platform began shouting “besar ikan”, big fish, and pointing in the water.
We descended to find 10 adult whale sharks beneath the platform. I soon realized that capturing one of these huge sharks feeding, literally sucking fish matter out of the suspended fishing nets, would make a great image. The real challenge was getting the shot without being ‘gently’ nudged out of the way by more giant sharks eager to share the buffet.
COMMENDED: 'On Patrol' - Juha Paunisaari
COMMENDED: 'Beautiful Butterfly' - Ken Kiefer 2
COMMENDED: 'Forest Diving' - Michael Weberberger
WINNER: 'Gannets Feast' - Matt Doggett
With my good friend Richard Shucksmith, I hatched the plan of trying to photograph gannets diving underwater. It was early in the season and their main food source, mackerel, was close inshore. To attract them close enough to my lens, we threw in some dead mackerel from a local supplier, which is commonly done on birding trips to get diving photos above the surface.
The gannets went crazy and we were surrounded within minutes. They hit the water at 50-60mph and I had to be fast to get the shots. I was shooting from the hip and rarely looked through the viewfinder. Sometimes the gannets were right on the front of the lens! It was utterly amazing. You could hear them hitting the surface one after another.
This shot shows three birds just as the race to reach the fish was over. The lucky bird with the fish would have swallowed it whilst still underwater to avoid being harassed by hungry skuas waiting at the surface.
Judge’s Comment, Peter Rowlands: There are some images which are, quite literally, breathtaking and this is up there with the best. Timed to perfection and precisely focused, it captures the peak of the action, which must have been extremely frantic. I think I'd have worn a crash helmet with such fast moving and sharp beaks plunging down so fast! Stunning
RUNNER UP: 'Pike, the lurking predator' - Trevor Rees
I tend to dive a fair bit in UK quarries in the winter and never tire of trying to get a better shot of pike. They are impressively large fish and I think of them as a mean and moody fresh water barracuda. Pike are not difficult to find but the patience to only approach them very slowly is real a challenge. A fisheye lens coupled with a teleconverter (to avoid excessive barrel distortion with bent light rays) has given me the natural perspective I wanted.
Judge’s comment, Martin Edge: You see many fresh water fish images but this pike study is a cut above the rest. Subtle use of flash technique on the pike with strong eye contact not to mention the clever balance of the composition and in particular the reeds in the background. All we need now is exceptional light and it's as though someone has just pulled a switch! There it is! Outstanding shallow water light which dapples the top of the pike.
THIRD: 'Tunnel Vision' - Steve Jones
This image was taken during pre-launch trials of the Orcalight, the most powerful battery powered LED dive lamp in the world, and the diver pictured is BBC NHU cameraman Doug Anderson. We positioned 1 lamp to the right to light Doug and the forward area of the inside hull, whilst Doug held the second light, pointing behind him to light the rear of the hull. The use of rebreathers helped greatly as it avoided any annoying bubbles disturbing the silt on the ceiling.
Judge’s Comment, Alex Mustard: It is great to see such a variety of underwater photography styles, subjects and techniques in the competition. This photo uses off-camera lighting to create depth in the image, a feature enhanced by the composition, with the lines of the fuselage drawing your eye through the image to the diver.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'A Cornish Blue' - Charles Hood
After many years of trying I finally discovered how to locate and film blue sharks in Cornish waters and when I am not taking out guests to capture them I have a dip myself.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Feeding Gannets' - Richard Shucksmith
Having photographed diving gannets underwater before with Matt Doggett this year I went out to try to make some images of the diving gannets half in half out. I wanted to put the gannets in context with surroundings above the water and the swirl flock of gannets that surrounds the boat when working on these images. The biggest problem is getting the gannets to dive close enough, some days they will and other days they will not come within three metres. However being out surrounded by gannets is a very exciting experience even though sometimes it can be frustrating.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Big Eyes' - Adam Hanlon
Interactions with marine mammals are always special, especially when they chose to play with you. The rookery of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) at the Farne Islands never fails to provide amazing interactions and wonderful photographic opportunities.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Dahlia against the green' - Trevor Rees
This dahlia anemone (Urticina felina) was found in the middle of a bed of brittlestars. I’ve taken the shot using a fisheye lens with the anemone almost touching the dome port. I wanted a green water background so I used a slow shutter speed and high ISO. The combination of fisheye lens with a 7 inch dome allowed this close focussing technique to work. A small aperture was needed to get enough in focus. The hardest part of the image to get right was soft even lighting of the foreground as strobe positioning is quite restricted when focussing so close.
COMMENDED: 'Barrel jellyfish by the Mount' - Charles Hood
COMMENDED: 'Rock Pool Wonders' - Paul Colley CB OBE
COMMENDED: 'The Two Wrasse' - Richard Shucksmith
WINNER: 'The amphipod has landed' - Trevor Rees
This amphipod (Iphimedia obesa) was a subject I had not photographed before or really been aware of. Conditions were such that the water at the time was alive with them - like little fleas darting about all over the reef. I settled down with a macro lens fitted with a dry diopter and just kept searching until I found a cooperative individual I aimed for a low angle, side on composition at the maximum magnification that minimum focus would allow. As with many tiny creatures most divers are probably unaware of the beauty and amazing colours of these creatures, so a photo is particularly valued.
Judge’s Comment, Peter Rowlands: In some categories there is sometimes a shot which is head and shoulders of the others and this is it. Graphically simple, perfectly composed with pin sharp focus and beautifully lit, it has a delicacy which is both beautiful and strange in equal measures.
RUNNER UP: 'Peekaboo puffin' - Matt Doggett
In 2013 I was lucky to be invited on an exciting trip aboard the MV Halton to head offshore and dive the outlying islands of North Rona and Sula Sgeir, some 40-50 miles offshore in the north Atlantic Ocean. The diving did not disappoint with crystal clear waters, huge gullies, caves and archways to explore and a profusion of marine life.
But one afternoon, myself and good friend Richard Shucksmith spent 2-3 hours snorkelling in a shallow bay frequented by rafting puffins. Using Richard’s beautifully-fashioned, homemade puffins to disguise ourselves we could approach close enough to photograph the birds from an underwater perspective. Although guillemots buzzed right up to us almost immediately, the puffins remained shy taking a long time before swimming close to us underwater. This one looked particularly cheeky as it checked me out for what I really was!
Judge’s comment, Alex Mustard: Photographing puffins underwater is very challenging and doing so in British conditions is even tougher, yet this is a powerful portrait that tells us about the conflicting emotions of curiosity and nervousness in this engaging subject.
THIRD: 'Northern Prawn' - Arthur Kingdon
This northern prawn was in a crack in the rocks a couple of feet above the sea bed. This allowed me to shoot from below the subject. I have always been fascinated by the eyes of these creatures so I opened up the aperture and concentrated on focussing just on the eyes. This gave a different image to the usual macro shot where maximum depth of field is aimed for.
Judge’s Comment, Alex Mustard: I am always impressed by images where the photographer transforms an everyday subject into an image of eye-catching beauty. The pinpoint focus, depth of field and particularly the control on lighting, make this a very impressive portrait.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Rafting flabellina nobilis' - Ally McDowell
It was cold, raining heavily, and my partner and I wondered what possessed us to go in the murky loch water for 45 minutes. I was experimenting with different lenses at the time and had a 35mm behind a flat port, not a great macro lens but I added a +5 diopter to give a bit more magnification and luckily the images turned out sharp.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'The St Kilda Jewels' - Jane Morgan
The Sawcut is a legendary dive in St Kilda. The dive site is basically a crack in the rock that is around 3m wide and runs around 60m deep into the Dun. The walls just outside the fissure are festooned with vibrantly coloured jewel anemones of every colour imaginable. There was just one major difficulty in photographing this artist’s palate, and that was managing to focus in a hefty surge that was sweeping me backwards and forwards by about 2m every few seconds, but it was well worth the effort.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Blenny Rage' - Alex Tattersall
I was pottering around under Swanage pier (South Coast, UK) on a fine late summer's day when I saw out of the corner of my eye some commotion. I looked over and saw two large tompot blennies in the middle of an epic fishy battle. The battle lasted for a good 20-25 minutes and I was treated to several glimpses of their needle-like teeth as they bit down on each other's faces.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Hermit crab on red' - Matt Doggett
In need of some guaranteed great diving at the end of 2014 Polly and I headed north to the Scottish sea lochs and the wild west coast. With Loch Carron as our base we were never going to be disappointed with terrific photographic subjects every which way we looked. Hermit crabs (Pagurus bernhardus) can make great subjects and Loch Carron offers so many habitats and backgrounds that you’re often spoilt for choice. When I saw this tiny one making its way across the surface of a huge sunstar (Crossaster papposus) I knew the bright red colour would make for a striking back drop.
COMMENDED: 'Shrimp hiding in anemone' - Trevor Rees
COMMENDED: 'The Voice' - Cathy Lewis
COMMENDED: 'Blue jelly fish' - Steve Jones
WINNER: 'Cuttlefish in a blur' - Trevor Rees
This common cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) was photographed off Babbacombe beach in Devon. The location is a well known spot where cuttlefish come in to the shallows in late spring to early summer to breed and lay their eggs. This one was found in 5 metres depth and is a large male about 1 foot long. They are popular subjects that have been frequently photographed by many divers in recent years. To add a different look and feel I have used a zoom blur filter in photoshop to give the effect of movement, which I felt complimented their tendency to often shoot off backward at great speed if alarmed. It was a pleasing capture from a simple 4 MP compact camera.
Judge’s Comment, Alex Mustard: A fantastic portrait of one of the wonders of British Seas. And image that succeeds not because of a rare species, most divers in the south of England will regularly see cuttlefish, but because of excellent technique, both in the water and in processing the image to produce a stunning result.
RUNNER UP: 'Hermit crabs hanging out' - Polly Whyte
It’s fair to say I am a little bit obsessed with hermit crabs. I think they’re funny little critters, often walking around with bits of seaweed and other marine life stuck to them. This pair caught my eye during a week spent doing shore dives on the west coast of Scotland in November last year.
Judge’s comment, Martin Edge: Yet another common subject but the double-up and size ratio to each other, balance the frame particularly well. The black background is effective to eliminate visual clutter and the precise positioning of the centre of interest - 'the two pair of eyes' is compositionally very strong.
THIRD: 'Sharp Shrimp' - Paul Colley CB OBE
This image was taken during an on-the-day splash in competition when the weather conditions were bad and so I sought out a sheltered bay to the East of Chesil Beach for a better chance of success. In only 2 metres of water, a group of blennies and shrimps were fighting over tiny scraps of flesh in the remains of a cockle shell. Getting an in-focus and well composed image with a compact camera as the skittish animals moved around was quite a challenge.
Judge’s Comment, Alex Mustard: This image is a fantastic demonstration of what can be done with a compact, and that it is the photographer and not the camera that makes the image. The eye of the prawn is so sharply in focus that you could cut yourself on it. And the photographer had handled the background with aplomb, which can be a real challenge with compact cameras in British seas.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Within an Autumnal Weir Drop off' - Warren Williams
I used a pole-cam configuration of my own design and construction to grab this image from within a weir.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Tompot Portrait' - Polly Whyte
However many photos of tompot blennies you have taken, it’s hard to swim past these charismatic fish without getting a few more snaps. They are in my opinion the friendliest fish in UK seas and so photogenic, as long as you can get both their eyes looking at the camera! This photo was taken under Swanage Pier, where tompot blennies are a common sight in the summer.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Hare raising' - Polly Whyte
The Helford River is a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area, which is home to lots of wonderful marine life. Diving here was where I chose to spend my 29th birthday when this photo was taken. It is a beautiful drift dive and sea hares are quite common in this area, as are rays, big flatfish, gurnards and seahorses. Sea hares are thought to acquire their body colour based on the colour of the seaweed on which they’re feeding.
HIGHLY COMMENDED: 'Can't move for moon jellyfish' - Polly Whyte
I wasn’t expecting to find jellyfish on this dive in Loch Duich, so it was thrilling to run into thousands of them in the shallow water of the sea loch. It was also reassuring to know that they don’t have a sting strong enough to harm humans! It was certainly one of the most memorable dives I have done in the UK. We went back the next day to dive it again.
COMMENDED: 'Hemmick Lobster' - Tim Caddy
COMMENDED: 'Long-snouted seahorse in Studland Bay' - Andrew Pearson
COMMENDED: 'Jewel anemones' - Polly Whyte