The Weekend Starts Here

What a fun packed but stressful weekend I had, just gone.
A motto in my life,that I’ve found useful on many occasions is “just say yes”
And then worry about any consequences later.
This has generally served me well, with most instances rewarding me with benefits both material and spiritual.
All of the pictures below are from the final placed three competitors in the BSoUP competition I was very happy to be the judge for.

 

 

 

This shot, shows a perfect example of the shutter dragging technique. This technique relies on a proper balance between the foreground illuminated by the shooters strobes, and the beautifully rendered blue of the background. Combine this with a great subject at a powerful angle and you've got a winning shot.

This shot, shows a perfect example of the shutter dragging technique. This technique relies on a proper balance between the foreground illuminated by the shooters strobes, and the beautifully rendered blue of the background. Combine this with a great subject at a powerful angle and you’ve got a winning shot.

 

 

Relaxing in the Red Sea

 

This happened just under two months ago on my latest Red Sea Relaxed trip in August.
Paul Colley wrote a review about it here and during our lovely weeks diving, Paul was sat across from me and asked if I could judge a competition for BSoUP, so of course I immediately said yes, without giving it a second thought.

 

 

 

I loved how this Porcelain Crab is illuminated from below, through the skirt of the anemone, not only showing a great skill in quickly adjusting the settings to get correct exposure but also having the presence of mind to grab the shot when the crab is displaying a typical behaviour

I loved how this Porcelain Crab is illuminated from below, through the skirt of the anemone, not only showing a great skill in quickly adjusting the settings to get correct exposure but also having the presence of mind to grab the shot when the crab is displaying a typical behaviour

 

 

 

A photography super group

 

BSoUP is the British Society of Underwater Photographers whose members comprise some of the worlds leading underwater photographers, so I was very flattered to be asked and particularly so as it was their yearly competition showcasing the best that some of their members could deliver.
The competition theme was Underwater Excellence and the entrants had to submit a set of three pictures to be judged by yours truly.
How hard can that possibly be? I thought.
I’ve interspersed the winning shots with the text.
Nick More I placed first, Mark Drayton came second and in a very close third place was Phil Medcalf

 

 

 

The surface of the turbulent seas here at Socorro were what caught my eye with this particular shot, and the eye is led up there by a beautiful grouping of silvery gray Jacks offset against the greeny blue water.

The surface of the turbulent seas here at Socorro were what caught my eye with this particular shot, and the eye is led up there by a beautiful grouping of silvery gray Jacks offset against the greeny blue water.

 

 

 

Fairplay for all

 

There were nineteen entrants in total, all submitting three pictures each, a total of fifty seven very good examples of underwater photography.

The competition is blind which meant that I could see the numbered sets of three but not the authors of those pictures, to ensure fairness.
The world of underwater photography is quite small so the chances were very high that I knew some of these people.
For the sake of absolute clarity here,and as I have been involved in the world of underwater photography for many years now, it would be unreasonable to suggest that even with blind numbering like this I wasn’t able to be completely clueless about the authors of these shots.
However I can completely assure each and every entrant that I play with a straight bat, and even if I had suspicions as to the authors in a lot of cases, this in no way affected my fairness in judging.

 

 

 

A great angle and a selection of complimentary colours, placing us perfectly in the dynamic scene. Brave to focus on the whiskery snout and eschew the more usual seal shot with eyes in the frame. With photographs you have to take chances sometimes.

A great angle and a selection of complimentary colours, placing us perfectly in the dynamic scene. Brave to focus on the whiskery snout and eschew the more usual seal shot with eyes in the frame. With photographs you have to take chances sometimes.

 

Wise Words from Trevor

 

I had had a bit of guidance from Trevor Rees as he had judged this competition the previous year, and his sage words of wisdom were very useful.
He suggested that I look for a consistent spread of skills showing quality wide angle and macro abilities. With the emphasis on consistency.
I dabbled with the idea of awarding each picture a score from 1 to 10 but felt that this might allow two strong shots to carry a much weaker picture.
So I was looking for a good spread of skills.

 

 

 

This Crinoid shrimp picture is showing deft control of depth of field, utilising a technique to aesthetic ends is the key to a great photograph.

This Crinoid shrimp picture is showing deft control of depth of field, utilising a technique to aesthetic ends is the key to a great photograph.

 

A good sort out

 

The first sort to reduce the entrants down to a final six, was hard enough, as there were some cracking pictures, more often two cracking pictures in a group only slightly let down by a weaker third.
And I can say that in most cases all of the rejected 13 were very closely snapping at the heels of the last six, with honestly very little to separate them.
So a very well done to all.

 

Oceanic White Tips accompanied by pilot fish is an oft photographed scene in the Southern areas of the Red Sea, what makes this shot so different is not so much the black and white treatment, concentrating our eyes on the subject, but more the wherewithal of the photographer keeping a cool head, and waiting for the perfect moment as the shark occludes the potentially ugly sun ball, and leaves us with the radiant beams to frame the creature and its cohorts.

Oceanic White Tips accompanied by pilot fish is an oft photographed scene in the Southern areas of the Red Sea, what makes this shot so different is not so much the black and white treatment, concentrating our eyes on the subject, but more the wherewithal of the photographer keeping a cool head, and waiting for the perfect moment as the shark occludes the potentially ugly sun ball, and leaves us with the radiant beams to frame the creature and its cohorts.

 

 

Time and Motion

 

I gave this a lot of time and thought, and in the end the ordering of the final six were based upon a combination of gut feeling, and initial reaction.
Another very handy way I would suggest to others asked to judge competitions of this type is to reduce the pictures to small thumbnails, this has the effect of making you concentrate on simplicity and design, which at the end of the day is a key factor in separating between images, but I also took into consideration the subject matter, and how difficult technically those shots were obtained,in the end though it was the pictures and their composition which mattered most to me. It’s alright displaying mastery of  photographic techniques, and the vast majority of the entrants displayed that in spadefuls, but at the end of the day the viewer isn’t aware necessarily how difficult a shot was to take, they just care about the shot.

 

 

 

These creatures are very difficult to capture as they are quite skittish, this is different because it is isolated on it's own, rather than the usual background of a fan coral, making it a little different.

These creatures are very difficult to capture as they are quite skittish, this is different because it is isolated on it’s own, rather than the usual background of a fan coral, making it a little different.

 

Great Stuff in the Pipeline

 

And to this end as part of the judging pipeline workflow, I ran the selections by a couple of non diving and non photographically minded friends, not to make a decision per se, but to see if their choices matched mine, and in the main they did, but the final outcome was down to me.

 

 

 

The propellor of the Kingston has a photogenically placed fan, but it's in quite an awkward position to get it, the prop and a diver in shot occupying the negative space here.

The propellor of the Kingston has a photogenically placed fan, but it’s in quite an awkward position to get it, the prop and a diver in shot occupying the negative space here.

 

A close run thing

 

Nick More, Mark Drayton and Phil Medcalf were very close runners for the final three, with Nick just edging it in the end as I thought his grouping displayed the best combination of technical skill, good design, and aesthetic simplicity.

I have developed a few extra grey hairs as a result of this judging process, but it was also great fun and showed me what a healthy state the world of underwater photography is in at the present time.

 

 

 

This tiny crab hidden deep in a coral crevice, is an awkward subject and our shooter has utilised the depth of field to great effect here, classically composed on the thirds, with a lovely out of focus foreground in muted colours.

This tiny crab hidden deep in a coral crevice, is an awkward subject and our shooter has utilised the depth of field to great effect here, classically composed on the thirds, with a lovely out of focus foreground in muted colours.

 

 

Join me

 

 

If you’d like to join me on one of my escorted trips for Scubatravel please check out my trips page here.
My excursions provide a great environment for underwater photography and the itineraries are focussed upon easy going non rushed diving with repeat dives at productive dive spots, but they are equally good for folk that just want quality relaxed and easy diving, regardless of wether or not they wield a camera.

 

If you’d like to learn about some of the techniques used here please check out these earlier blogs.

 

Motion Blur and Shutter Dragging

 

 

Shallow Depth of Field Macro

 

 

There are lots of technique blogs that I have posted over the years please check them out and let me know if you’ve found them useful.

www.scubatravel.com/blog

duxy@scubatravel.com

Thank you
Duxy