Underwater photography is a hard skill to master, but when done right, the images can be jaw-dropping and transform viewers to destinations beneath the surface. 2020 saw Scuba Diving Magazine’s Underwater Photo contest celebrate is 16th year with a record number of submissions from around the globe with judges required to select winning images from thousands of entries.
2020’s Grand Prize title went to Evans Baudin of Baja California, Mexico for a spectacular image of a Whale shark holding more than 50 remoras in its jaws. Evans, which captured the image using a Sony Alpha 7R III paired with a 8-15mm f/4 lens inside a Nauticam housing commented; ‘In June 2020, with a special permit, I went on an expedition to document marine life and the effects of reduced marine traffic due to COVID-19. After two hours in the water with a school of silky sharks near the surface, our boat captain yelled, “Whale shark, right behind you!”—a 12-plus-meter female. The surprise was twofold when I discovered about 50 remoras peacefully enjoying a free ride in her mouth!’
First place in the Behaviour category went to Jules Casey from Port Phillip Bay, Australia for this shot of an underwater tussle that Jules shot using an Olmypus TG-4. Jules commented; ‘Captured during a daytime dive at Blairgowrie Pier in Port Phillip Bay, Australia, this shorthead seahorse was feeding near the surface and freely swimming from one floating piece of weed to the next. I’m not sure if the seahorse mistakenly grabbed hold of the pipefish with its tail, confusing it for a piece of weed, or if this was deliberate. The pipefish immediately struggled to break free from the seahorse’s grip. This interaction lasted only about 10 seconds, which was just enough time to set up the shot.’
Compact cameras can be big heroes in underwater photography, as this shot from Tobias Friedrich illustrates. Picked as the First Place winner of the Compact Camera category, Tobias shot the stunning frame using a SeaLife DC2000/ SeaLife macro lens. Tobias commented; ‘As a SeaLife camera brand ambassador I always have a DC2000 with me, in addition to my DSLR setup, to take a few side shots. I find it very interesting to see what I can shoot with a very small camera like the SeaLife and how close I can get to the quality of the images I shoot with my DSLR. This juvenile wonderpus was sitting on a palm leaf, a very nice subject to be tested. The dive was done near Anilao, Philippines, with Crystal Blue Resort and the support of photographer Mike Bartick.’
Taking First Place in the Wide Angle category was this sumptuous frame by Martin Strmiska, which was captured using a Nikon D850 paired with a Sigma 15mm FE f/2.8 lens inside a Subal housing. Martin commented; ‘On the surface at the cenote’s entrance, I had no idea what sort of space lay beneath the small pool. Only when I descended and positioned myself outside the area lit up by sun was the dark space revealed. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I perceived the huge dimensions of the space. My buddy, hanging above that cloud and lit by sun rays, appeared so small that I spent the whole dive shooting from distance, trying to capture the tiny diver in that huge space.’
Second place in the Wide Angle category was this epic split frame taken by Marc Henauer and captured using a Canon 5D Mark II paired with a Sigma EX 15mm fisheye f/2.8 lens, all in a Subal CD5 MII housing. Marc commented ‘The Olympia shipwreck can be seen in the 1988 Luc Besson movie The Big Blue. It ran aground near shore on Amorgos Island in Greece. The secret of this image lies in the synchronisation. To succeed, it took a ray of sunlight to illuminate the underwater landscape, then a wave arrived with the right angle on the dome to have a good view above and below, and finally, the freediver had to hold position facing the wreck. It took a lot of rehearsal.’
Placing Third in the Wide Angle category was this magical image by Raffaele Livornese, which was taken near Baja California, Mexico. Raffaele used a Nikon D850 paired with a Sigma 15mm f/2.8 lens inside a in Hugyfot housing to capture the sea lions and commented; ‘I took this picture last October in Baja California. It was my first time there, so it took a few days to get more confidence with the sea and the animals that live there. I was very lucky because at that time a lot of sardines were schooling there, so the sea lions were constantly playing and hunting them. To take this picture I was hovering at a shallow depth for a long time, looking for the right moment to push the button. When it arrived, I saw the two sea lions swimming first away, then toward each other. The sardines moved in the same way to escape the hunt, so they drew two lines like parallel waves, and I got it.’