‘Through Your Lens’ Underwater Photo Contest 2020

It’s estimated that over 80% of our ocean is unmapped and unexplored, so instead of looking up for the sky, why don’t we just start exploring a piece of this 80% mystery underneath our oceans?

Truly great underwater photography inspires, eliciting daydreams among divers and stretching the imagination of the uninitiated. This year’s Through Your Lens entries did not disappoint. Among the 2,636 photos submitted this time around—the highest number in our competition’s 16-year history—were images that pushed the boundaries of the four contest categories and sometimes left judges wondering how in the world someone was able to pull off the shot.

Evans Baudin, of Baja California, Mexico, grabbed the winning shot while on an expedition in June 2020 to document marine life and the effects of reduced marine traffic due to Covid-19.

There are four contest categories, with the top prize in the Behavior set going to Australian Jules Casey’s of a pipefish tussling with a shorthead seahorse in Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay.

See his photo and the runner-ups in the gallery below!

More info: Scuba Diving

#1 Honorable Mention – Martin Strmiska, Styria, Austria

Martin Strmiska – “In early spring, while the mountain peaks around the village of Tragoess are still covered in snow, the meadow lining Grüner See (Green Lake) blooms. Only in later months, when night temperatures don’t fall below freezing, does the snow melt and travel down the creeks to fill up the lake with crystal-clear water. The meadow, with freshly bloomed flowers and rich green grass, gets flooded and for the next two months creates an amazing underwater park.”

#2 Grand Prize Winner – Evans Baudin, Baja California, Mexico

Evans Baudin – “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!”

#3 Honorable Mention – Chris Gug, Bonaire

Chris Gug – “After what seemed like an eternity, the flamingos resumed feeding in the sandy mud where I had been lying motionless since sunrise. As they waded past, they kicked up quite a bit of silt, which landed on my camera’s dome port. This one, being either very inventive or very brave, saw that silt had fallen into my port’s flare petal and began slurping it up, giving me a very brief opportunity to capture those unique filter-feeding serrations in its beak, and that beautiful beady yellow eye.”

Through Your Lens is a photo contest organized by Scuba Diving Magazine. 2020 is its 16th year celebrating all things oceans and seas. With over 2,600 photo submissions this year, the competition also celebrates the highest submission number throughout its entire history.

Of the 2,636 photos submitted, the jury selected 13 winning images as well as 15 honorable mentions across four contest categories: BehaviorCompact CameraMacro, and Wide-Angle.

“Among the 2,636 photos submitted this time around […] were images that pushed the boundaries of our four contest categories and sometimes left judges wondering how in the world someone was able to pull off the shot,” elaborated the website.

#4 First Place In Compact Camera – Tobias Friedrich, Anilao, Philippines

Tobias Friedrich – “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.”

#5 Honorable Mention – Marc Henauer, Amorgos Island, Greece

Marc Henauer – “This image was taken in Greece, on Amorgos Island. There are many caves like this along the coast. The darkness contrasts with the typical blue of the Aegean Sea. Greece is also a paradise for freediving. The settings offer total freedom to the imagination and to the creation of poetic images.”

#6 Honorable Mention – Massimo Georgette, Jardines De La Reina, Cuba

Massimo Georgette – “In this Cuban archipelago, among the mangroves, lives a small colony of American crocodiles. To make a series of photos I had to go in the water with them for three days, studying the currents, the light and the clarity of the water. Then I waited until the crocodile was in the right position against the backlight. The idea was to have the best contrast between the reflection of the sun and the color of the water.”

This year’s grand prize winner was Evans Baudin, who took a stunning photo of a school of remoras chilling in the mouth of a 12-plus-meter female whale shark in Baja California, Mexico.

1st prize winners of the other four categories are as follows: Jules Casey with a photo of a shorthead seahorse feeding at Port Phillip Bay, Australia (Category: Behavior); Tobias Friedrich with a photo of a juvenile wonderpus on a palm leaf in Anilao, Philippines (Category: Compact Camera); Jeffrey Haines with a photo of a seahorse in a clump in West Palm Beach, Florida (Category: Macro); and Martin Strmiska with a photo of underwater sun rays in Puerto Morelos, Mexico (Category: Wide-Angle).

#7 Third Place In Compact Camera – Enrico Somogyi, Anilao, Philippines

Enrico Somogyi – “While diving in Anilao, the macro capital of the Philippines, my spotter showed me a seemingly empty beer bottle in the sand. But there was something living inside. I started shooting the lemon goby that was living there. After a while, I noticed a shadow in the background, and a few seconds later, I saw the juvenile lionfish coming out. I pushed the shutter right when the goby started to yawn and the lionfish looked in the camera.”

#8 Honorable Mention – Martina Andres, Red Sea

Martina Andres – “As a diver, you will never forget your first big shark. I felt eternally grateful to encounter this beautiful oceanic whitetip shark in the Red Sea. As we neared the very last minutes of our dive, she and her “entourage” slowly circled our group, peacefully looking at every single one of us, before they took off into the blue again.”

#9 Second Place In Compact Camera – Marcelo Johan Ogata, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

Marcelo Johan Ogata – “Have you ever had the feeling that a fish could be laughing at you? The funniest thing about this dive was that it took me ages to realize there was a porcupinefish inside the barrel sponge! I had my eyes glued on the sponge, looking for hairy squat lobsters, and only after a while did I see this camouflaged guy moving away from my camera with a smile on his face!”

Evans Baudin, of Baja California, Mexico, grabbed the winning shot while on an expedition in June 2020 to document marine life and the effects of reduced marine traffic due to Covid-19.

There are four contest categories, with the top prize in the Behavior set going to Australian Jules Casey’s of a pipefish tussling with a shorthead seahorse in Victoria’s Port Phillip Bay.

“This interaction lasted only about 10 seconds, which was just enough time to set up the shot,” says Casey.

#10 Third Place In Macro – Robert Stansfield, Banco Chinchorro, Mexico

Robert Stansfield – “In November 2019 I signed up for 14 days diving on Banco Chinchorro with my good friend Heiko of Amigos del Mar, Mahahual. As a joke, Heiko set me a goal of seeing how many different species I could capture during my time there, so I opted for a 105mm to give me a bit more reach even though diving there lends itself much more to a wide-angle lens. On my second dive, I was setting myself up for a low-angle photo of a group of garden eels when I felt something nuzzle under my arm. Looking down, I saw this very confident 7-foot nurse shark looking back at me. I slowly moved up and back, repositioned the strobes and took a series of photos with the denticles slightly backlit. The nurse sharks around Banco Chinchorro are very bold and a joy to watch.”

#11 First Place In Wide-Angle – Martin Strmiska, Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Martin Strmiska – “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.”

#12 Third Place In Behavior – Thomas Van Puymbroeck, Marsa Alam, Egypt

Thomas Van Puymbroeck – “This shot was taken in very shallow water. While on honeymoon, we couldn’t resist the call of the water, so my wife and I went snorkeling every morning. One day, a lot of silt caught my attention. In the silt, this beautiful stingray appeared. I only had a very short window to shoot, because the silt was spreading everywhere. The stingray was feeding on tiny critters in the sand. After a few seconds, the ray disappeared and we continued to enjoy the beautiful Red Sea and our honeymoon.”

#13 Third Place In Wide-Angle – Raffaele Livornese, Baja California, Mexico

Raffaele Livornese – “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.”

#14 Honorable Mention – Enrico Somogyi, Anilao, Philippines

Enrico Somogyi – “I tried a slow shutter technique with a flash with snoot and colored flashlights.”

#15 Second Place In Macro – Yury Ivanov, Bali, Indonesia

Yury Ivanov – “These nudibranchs are one of my favorite models for underwater photo sessions. I call them “the vivid colors of the sea” or “snow queens.” Here, Phyllodesmium iriomotense can be seen feeding on one of its favorite dishes: spindly gorgonian coral. This photo was taken at a depth of 32 meters (105 feet). The time allotted for photography is very limited at that depth, so I did four dives in order to get this photo.”

#16 Second Place In Wide-Angle – Marc Henauer, Amorgos Island, Greece

Marc Henauer – “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 synchronization. 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.”

#17 Honorable Mention – Enrico Somogyi

Enrico Somogyi

#18 Honorable Mention – Andrey Shpatak, Sea Of Japan

Andrey Shpatak – “Sepiola birostrata is one of two species of cuttlefish resident in the northern Sea of Japan. During the day, it hides on the sandy bottom and can be found only by chance. But at night it goes hunting. Despite their small size [around an inch], these cuttlefish are predators, catching shrimps and crabs. There are usually a lot of them in July, above the sandy bottom, at depths from 15 to 40 feet. I managed to meet this beauty during a night dive. Its color was simply gorgeous.”

#19 Honorable Mention – Sean Steiniger, Ha‘Apai Island Chain, Tonga

Sean Steiniger – “A humpback whale calf sails through the emerald-blue waters of Tonga, closely accompanied by its colossal mother and escort. As the leviathans circle directly beneath me, the calf ascends toward the surface for fresh air. I tuck back my freediving fins and snap the shot. A split second later, momma surfaces to usher her baby away from the bubble-blowing stranger.”

#20 Honorable Mention – Lureen Ferretti

Lureen Ferretti

#21 Honorable Mention – Dennis Whitestone, Palm Beach, Florida

Dennis Whitestone – “I captured this flying fish image, “Squadron,” on May 31, 2020, diving around a patch of sargassum just a few feet below the surface while on a black-water dive with Walker’s Dive Charters in Palm Beach, Florida. As I was entering the water, my good friend Lazaro Ruda informed me that there was a school of flying fish on the surface. Within a few minutes I was able to capture the photo.”

#22 First Place In Behavior – Jules Casey, Port Phillip Bay, Australia

Jules Casey – “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.”

#23 Honorable Mention – Franco Tulli

Franco Tulli – “Pseudanthias are mainly composed of females and non-territorial males, but at certain times of the year it is possible to see other males fight for territory and defense of their harems”

#24 First Place In Macro – Jeffrey Haines, West Palm Beach, Florida

Jeffrey Haines – “You never know what you are going to find when you go on a black-water dive. One night it may be tiny larval fish, another a mako or silky shark, but mostly you are searching through the plankton for tiny creatures as you float along with the current over deep water. Persistence and concentration are the keys to success in finding your subject as you drift along. About 45 minutes into my 90-minute dive, I started to spot small clumps of sargassum floating by, always an exciting sight on a black-water dive. I found this seahorse in the third clump I investigated.”

A seahorse also proved lucky for Jeffrey Haines, of West Palm Beach, Florida, who won the Macro category with his image of one of the tiny marine-dwellers in a clump of sargassum.

“Persistence and concentration are the keys to success in finding your subject as you drift along,” says Haines.

Tobias Friedrich of Anilao, Philippines, won the Compact Camera category thanks to a colorful shot of a juvenile wonderpus resting on a palm leaf.

“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,” he says.

A moody picture of a diver descending into the black depths of a sinkhole in Puerto Morelos, Mexico won the Wide Angle category.

“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,” says photographer Martin Strmiska.

Entries will be accepted for the 2021 Through Your Lens competition from November 1

#25 Second Place In Behavior – Jerry Arriaga, Ambon Bay, Indonesia

Jerry Arriaga – “We were diving in the brilliant muck of Ambon Bay. I was swimming under the fishing boats at Laha, one of my favorite dive sites in the area. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the lizardfish suddenly dart off its rock perch. It was really fast, like a torpedo! I quickly swam closer to find the lizardfish with a damselfish in its mouth. I managed to capture this image just before the lizardfish swam off with its tasty meal.”

#26 Honorable Mention – Renata Romeo, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

Renata Romeo – “In this Cuban archipelago, among the mangroves, lives a small colony of American crocodiles. To make a series of photos I had to go in the water with them for three days, studying the currents, the light and the clarity of the water. Then I waited until the crocodile was in the right position against the backlight. The idea was to have the best contrast between the reflection of the sun and the color of the water.”

Artist Visually Compares the Sizes of Extinct Species With Their Modern Relatives

Technology has evolved and shaped our workplaces in many ways. Photoshop, for instance, helps us take a glimpse at how we want things to appear. Although flawless photography is perhaps never possible without expensive shooting gear, digital photo can give us the solution to turn imperfect photographs into professional ones so easily. It helps us to explore creative thinking and thoughts. Even though they still remain digital, they’re pretty close to reality.

To illustrate, Roman Uchytel uses technology for this matter. He uses Photoshop to show us a glimpse of things that have passed and thus will never come back. More specifically, he recreates prehistoric extinct species of animals as best as he can using the information that he has now. And it can be said that he’s been doing indeed a good job at it. Furthermore, he even managed to publish a book which you can find here.

Luckily, Earthwonders managed to get in touch with Roman Uchytel and had an interview about one of his many series which will be presented below. Such series involve the comparison of the sizes of extinct species with their modern relatives and places them side by side. It’s truly interesting how some of the species were way bigger than we would’ve thought looking at their modern relatives. So, scroll down and check out the images!

More info: twitter.com | prehistoric-fauna.com | Facebook | Instagram

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“We came up with this idea together with Alexandra Antonova (Uchytel), my wife and business partner, for our children to know what the ancestors (or relatives) of the animals they see in the zoo looked like. Besides, I’ve been wondering myself how these animals would fit together. Everyone compares extinct animals to humans, but no one compared them to contemporaries (descendants).” said Uchytel for Earthwonders.

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When being asked if it’s challenging to come up with ideas and with the final results, he said “Of course, it’s a challenge because you do it for yourself and you never know if it will resonate with other people”.

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“It was really unexpected for my pictures to become quite viral, because in today’s world, it’s very difficult to surprise anyone. But I’m glad that a lot of people are interested in extinct animals, because one of the missions of the Prehistoric Fauna project is to starting point for an international dialogue that could help preserve the remains of the megafauna, because many animals can die out again because of humans.”

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