It’s one of the landmark annual photographic competitions – here are the striking winners of the Underwater Photography Guide’s high-value-prize event
The Best of Show image in the prestigious 2018 Ocean Art underwater photo competition was judged to be Devil Ray Ballet (above) by British photographer Duncan Murrell who is based in the Philippines.
Murrell used soft ambient light to accentuate the movements of the giant devil rays and triumph in the seventh annual event, which is organised by the California-based Underwater Photography Guide (UPG).
Murrell came first in Marine Life Behaviour, one of 16 categories designed for all levels of photographer, disciplines and types of camera in the international contest.
The three spinetail devil rays (Mobula japanica) were engaged in what was described as rarely observed or photographed courtship behaviour in Honda Bay, Palawan in the Philippines, with two males pursuing one female.
Murrell won an Oceanic liveaboard cruise to Indonesia’s southern islands, with a 50% discount for a companion.
The judges, underwater photographers Martin Edge, Tony Wu, Marty Snyderman and UPG publisher Scott Gietler, evaluated thousands of entries from 70 countries before selecting the winning sets.
“Other exceptional images include some astonishing fish and marine-life shots, rarely seen animal behaviour, innovative shooting techniques, stunning portraits, seals, ocean adventure, whales and some dramatic moments between humans and marine life,” says UPG. It reckons that the US $80,000-worth of prizes awarded, mainly travel packages and equipment, puts the event among the most valuable in the world.
“This year’s outstanding underwater images … continue to raise the bar for underwater photographers,” said Gietler, adding that the judges “were honoured to be viewing such amazing results of the dedication and drive of the human spirit”.
Appeared in DIVER April 2019
Cannibal Crab by PT Hirschfield, Australia – Compact Behaviour
Each year in Victoria, Hirschfield awaits the return of the spider crabs en masse as they gather to shed their old shells, and happened across the harrowing sight of a ravenous unmoulted spider crab fiercely feasting on a vulnerable, freshly moulted crab.
Canon G12, Recsea housing, Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe, f5.6, 1/125sec, ISO 100.
Hairy Shrimp by Sejung Jang, Republic of Korea – compact macro
The dive-guide in Anilao in the Philippines found what was Jang’s first red hairy shrimp and its jumping about made it hard to photograph – after this shot, the camera packed up.
Olympus TG5, Olympus housing, PT-058, Weefine Snoot light, f6.3, 1/160sec, ISO 100.
Dancing Jellyfish by Melody Chuang, Taiwan – Compact Wide-Angle
A night-dive last summer was the first time Chuang had seen a jellyfish on a north-east Taiwan shore dive. Her husband used his torch to backlight it as they followed it for more than a mile against current, until sunrise at 5.30am!
Olympus TG5, Inon UFL-M150 ZM80, dual Inon Z-240 strobes, f6.3, 1/200sec, ISO 200
Devil Ray Ballet by Duncan Murrell, UK – Marine Life Behaviour
This was an amazing and unique encounter with these beautiful rays. I have seen them quite a few times in Honda Bay, Palawan, often in the vicinity of the whale sharks that I have been photographing for more than ten years, but I only managed to get close to them on one occasion when there was a large shoal of them .
Canon EOS 6D, Inon X2 housing with no strobes, just ambient lighting, 15mm F2.8 fisheye lens, f7, 1/200th, ISO 500.
My Babies by Fabrice Dudenhofer, France – Mirrorless Behaviour
A guide showed Dudenhofer a pair of clownfish with their eggs off Amami Oshima island in Japan. Because of their endless movements it proved difficult to capture the perfect moment.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mk II in an Isotta housing, Olympus 60mm macro, dual Retra strobes, f22, 1/250sec, ISO 100.
3 Baby Seahorses by Steven Walsh, Australia – Mirrorless Macro
Each spring at Blairgowrie Pier in Victoria, Australia, big-belly seahorse fry appear in large numbers. The photo is the outcome of four hours’ diving between night-shifts as a firefighter.
Sony A7III in an Ikelite housing, Sony 90mm macro lens, dual Sea & Sea YS-D2 strobes, f22, 1/160sec, ISO 100.
Special Encounter by Alvin Cheung, Hong Kong – Novice DSLR
On a dive in Socorro, Mexico, a giant oceanic manta ray appeared. Cheung remembered the motto “background first” and shot it and another diver against the El Boiler pinnacle.
Nikon D810, Nauticam housing, Tokina 10-17mm, dual Inon Z-240 strobes, f11, 1/125sec, ISO 250.
Chimaera by Claudio Zori – Portrait
The spotted ratfish usually lives between 50 and 400m and prefers temperatures no higher than 9° but comes into shallower water in spring and autumn. The photo was taken on a night dive in front of the God’s Pocket dive-resort at Hurst Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Nikon D300S, Sealux housing, Tokina 10-17mm, dual Seaflash 150 strobes, f16, 1/320sec, ISO 200.
Mangrove by Yen-Yi Lee, Taiwan – Reefscapes
A soft coral anchors and grows on mangrove roots in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Two remote strobes were used to highlight the details of mangrove roots in the background, which also provided a water-surface reflection.
Canon 5D Mk IV, Nauticam housing, Seacam 150D strobe, f16, 1/160sec, ISO 400.
Hairy Flames by Edison So, Malaysia – Supermacro
This hairy shrimp was shot in Anilao, Philippines – “a challenging task due to its tiny size and nature. They like to hop from one place to another…”
Canon 5D Mk III, Sea & Sea housing, Canon 100mm, dual Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes, Nauticam SMC, extension tubes, torch, f18, 1/200sec, ISO 100.
Disco Nudi by Bruno Van Saen – Underwater Art
Van Saen was trying to create an image out of the camera using self-made backgrounds, but in the end it was the Photoshop “swirl” filter that worked for this nudibranch in Bali, Indonesia.
Nikon D810, Hugyfot housing, Nikkor 105mm VR, dual Inon Z-240 strobes, f18, 1/250sec, ISO 100.
Gentle Giants by François Baelen, Reunion, France – Wide-Angle
In September humpback whales come to Reunion island to breed and give birth. The mother was resting 15m down, while her calf was enjoying his new human friends.
Sony A7III in Nauticam NA-A7III housing, Sony 16-35mm, natural light, f9, 1/80sec, ISO 400.
More than 100 placed photographs can be seen at uwphotographyguide.com/2018-ocean-art-contest-winners. And for all underwater photographers interested in entering the 2019 competition details can also be found on the Underwater Photography Guide website.