UNDERWATERPHOTOGRAPHY.COM can lay claim to being the world’s longest-running online underwater photography competition.
It was set up in 1998 by UK underwater photographer Benny Sutton on a website he had previously used to display his own images, and in 2013 was taken over by North American camera and video store Mozaik Underwater Cameras.
The competition is unusual in that it is a constantly rolling one. More than 5000 photographs from thousands of photographers worldwide are uploaded to the website every year, and winners in 18 categories are chosen weekly, monthly and annually.
At the end of every year, three medal-winners are chosen in each category, as well as between one and three runners-up. In addition, two “Grand Masters” and the World Champion are chosen by collecting votes from more than 300 trusted members of the site.
The Grand Masters must have “excelled in a particular field or shown consistent talent and high-quality entries throughout the year,” Ran Mor of UnderwaterPhotography.com told DIVER, while the title of World Champion is “reserved for exceptional contestants who have submitted remarkable entries across all or most categories, and deserve recognition. We pride ourselves in promoting young talent, and many of our medal-winners are first-time participants in the contest,” said Mor.
The awards for 2016 have now been announced, based on the 973 “hotshots” chosen from the 5355 entries to go into the first round of the competition.
To provide a flavour of the competition, we reproduce on this spread some of the winning images from World Champion Tony Cherbas and on the following spread two representative entries from Grand Masters Steven Miller and Tanya Houppermans.
TONY CHERBAS from Guam, a long-time participant in the contest, has won 18 medals based on 611 entries and 13,187 votes for his photos. The organisers said he was “a clear choice” for 2016 World Champion.
“I started diving in 2008 and have been taking photographs under water since 2010,” says Cherbas, who lives in Hawaii but travels extensively in South-east Asia. “I mainly shoot with a Canon 7D Mk2 in a Nauticam housing with two Inon Z240 strobes.
“My style has evolved over the years, and my favourite kind of image to create lately has been close-focus wide-angle with the Canon 8-15mm lens.”
STEVEN MILLER, based in the USA, has entered 374 photographs since 2012, and the judges drew attention to his “unique style” and experimental approach to subjects and lenses.
“I’ve been shooting since 1976, and currently use a Canon SL-1, Eos 50D and a Canon 5D Mk2 camera, with Ikelite housings and strobes,” he says, describing Wakatobi in Sulawesi, Indonesia as his favourite place to dive, “but I enjoy shooting in my natural swimming pool in Ohio too”.
TANYA HOUPPERMANS, also from the USA, abandoned the corporate world to devote herself to underwater photography and conservation – “one of the best decisions I ever made”.
She joined the contest in 2014, and shark and wreck images define her style and “rising star” status. “My favourite subject is sharks, but I enjoy photographing most anything under water,” she says. “I hope to capture images that inspire people to care about the ocean and creatures that live in it.” She uses an Olympus OM-D E-M1, Nauticam housing and Sea & Sea YS-D2s.