Sometimes the best souvenir can't be bought: It has to be taken. A photograph can take a brief, fleeting experience and immortalize it. Whether you're diving in an exotic locale during a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, or in everyday territory in your own neck of the woods, every dive is an opportunity to see something amazing. And, if your lucky, when that amazing thing comes into view, you've go your camera at the ready.
Grand Prize Winner — Andy Lerner
Boo Windows, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
This may be the only shot from this trip to Raja Ampat with no fish in the frame.. These “windows” are only underwater during high tide.
Gear: Nikon D300 in a Sea & Sea housing, 10.5mm fisheye lens, two Sea & Sea YS110 strobes on manual setting. ISO 200, f/9 at 1/320.
Prize: $1,000 cash and live-aboard dive trip for two on the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II, www.aggressor.com
This year's winner were chosen because they stood out, grabbed our attention and captured a moment in time (or several, in the case of the Photo Essay category) to be shared with the world. We asked each photographer to give us a description of what captivated them and why they felt the image(s) would do the same for readers everywhere.
Winners Gallery Details
Macro - First Place
Bill Goodwin — Margate Bay, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
I had to hang vertically over the branching vase sponge to photograph this peppermint shrimp inside. I was actually trying to shoot a rare pink frogfish, which shared this particular sponge bouquet with the shrimp —a common creature in an uncommon situation.
Gear: Sony DSC WX-1, Underwater Kinetics Light Canon (10-watt HID). ISO 160, f/2.4 at 1/100.
Prize: Ball Engineer Master II Diver watch, www.ballwatchusa.com
Macro - Second Place
Jeffrey de Guzman — Anilao Batangas, Philippines
On a night dive, I found a humpback prawn standing on top of a black coral head. It had huge eyes that shined like emeralds under my dive light.
Gear: Nikon D300 in a Sea & Sea MDX-D300 housing, Nikkor 105mm VR lens with a+10 Reefnet Subsee diopter, two Inon Z240 strobes. ISO 200, f/45 at 1/200.
Prize: Fisheye FIX housing for the Canon G11, www.backscatter.com
Macro - Third Place
John Muhilly — Wakatobi, Indonesia
I photographed this free-swimming flatworm as it danced under my lights during a night dive.
Gear: Canon 5D Mark II in Sea & Sea housing, Canon 100mm macro lens, two Inon Z-240 strobes. ISO 125, f/22 at 1/160.
Prize: Spare Air package, www.spareair.com
Behavior - First Place
John Muhilly — Crystal River, Florida
It was a very cold and early morning when I kayaked into the Three Sisters Springs. It was worthwhile, though, because I wanted to capture this image of a mother and her nursing calf.
Gear: Canon 5D Mark II in a Sea & Sea housing, Canon 15mm fisheye lens, two Inon Z-240 strobes. ISO 125, f/7.1 at 1/60.
Prize: Live-aboard dive trip for one on the Aqua Cat, www.aquacatcruises.com
Behavior - Second Place
Douglas Good — Magic Pier, Buton Bay, Indonesia
As dusk settles on the reef at Magic Pier in Buton Bay, the amazing mandarinfish emerge. A brief courtship dance is followed by pairs — in this case a threesome —slowly ascending in the water column. Then, in a flash of mandarinfish-love it’s all over!
Gear: Nikon D80 in an Aquatica housing, Nikkor 60mm macro lens, two l Nikon SB-105 strobes. ISO 100, f/13 at 1/125.
Prize: Dive trip for one to Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort and Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas, www.starwoodhotels.com and www.stuartcove.com
Behavior - Third Place
Randall Benton — Bachelor Beach, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
A trumpetfish swims vertically among a gorgonian to blend with its surroundings and ambush prey.
Gear: Nikon D700 in a Sea & Sea housing, Nikkor 60mm lens, two Inon Z-240 strobes. ISO 400, f19 at 1/250.
Prize: Spare Air package, www.spareair.com
Wide-Angle - First Place
Randall Benton — Garden Eel Cove, Kona, Hawaii
Each night, dive operators place bright lights in40 feet of water to attract krill. Mantas come to feed on the krill, and divers need only sit around the lights like an underwater campfire to watch these graceful creatures glide by just inches away.
Gear: Nikon D100 in a Light & Motion Titan housing, Nikkor 12–24mm lens set at 17mm,two Inon Z-240 strobes. ISO 400, f/5.6 at 1/30.
Prize: Live-aboard trip for one on the Palau Big Blue Explorer, www.expeditionfleet.com
Wide-Angle - Second Place
George Vincent — Dampier Strait, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
I was trying to capture the interesting movement of the waves as they crashed against the rocks, with the soft coral as a foreground, when a sudden a parade of fish came by for one quick frame.
Gear: Canon 7D in an Aquatica housing, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Ikelite DS125 strobe. ISO 200, f11 at 1/125.
Prize: SCUBAPRO MK 25/S600, www.scubapro.com
Wide-Angle - Third Place
George Vincent — Misool, Raja Ampat, Indonesia
We skipped a manta dive to dive the jetty, because I’ve never had a bad jetty dive. Waves of scad moving among the soft coral-clad pilings like clouds in the sky reminded me of how seldom we see large aggregates of fish.
Gear: Canon 7D in an Aquatica housing, Tokina 10-17mm lens, Ikelite DS125 strobe. ISO 200, f/7.1 at 1/125.
Prize: Atomic Aquatics mask/snorkel/fins package, www.atomicaquatics.com
Photo Essay - First Place
George Vincent — Raja Ampat, Indonesia
The mangroves serve as an incubator for a multitude of species. You can catch the uncommon archerfish — which spits water to knock insects off low-lying branches — or the more common anemonefish by just backing up a bit, allowing the mangrove to fill the background.
Prize: Dive trip for two at Compass Point Dive Resort and Ocean Frontiers, www.compasspointresort.com and www.oceanfrontiers.com
Photo Essay - Second Place
Matt Grace — Riviera Maya, Tulum, Mexico
Diving in the cenotes is an experience you’ll never forget. There aren’t any currents or fish, but the clear freshwater provides an awe-inspiring light show throughout the caverns.
Prize: SeaLife DC1000 Elite Set, www.sealife-cameras.com
Photo Essay - Third Place
Karen Doody — Beaufort, North Carolina
I took these shots 32 nautical miles off the Atlantic coast. The invasion of the Pacific lionfish along the east coast of the United States is reaching epidemic numbers. With no natural predators in these areas, extraction by trained divers may be the only solution to control the population explosion.
Prize: Mares Prestige 12S, www.mares.com
Honorable Mentions Gallery