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Scuba Diving Magazine's 2018 Underwater Photo Contest Winners

By Scuba Diving Partner | Updated On April 8, 2019
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Scuba Diving Magazine's 2018 Underwater Photo Contest Winners

^^T^^he underwater photo contest continues to be one of our favorite issues to produce here at Scuba Diving magazine. With this year's reader photo contest, you've done it again — completely blown us away. For the 14th year, we've asked underwater photographers of all skill levels to submit their best work to the Through Your Lens photography competition, and we marvel at how many beautiful images you all have shared. Pick a photo —any photo — and it could have been a contender; imagine how we felt trying to narrow them down from more than 2,100 entries to the dozen or so winners you see here.

Our contest is divided into four categories — Wide-Angle, Macro, Conceptual and Compact Camera — with an additional grand-prize overall winner. We hope you enjoy this amazing compilation of the underwater worlds we hold so dearly, and we hope that you'll submit your best photos to the 2019 contest.

A very special thanks to our prize donors: Aggressor Liveaboards, Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo, Cressi, Mares, Scubapro, and Sherwood Scuba. Without your remarkable contributions, we could not continue our support of this contest and the photographers who inspire us.

Grand Prize Winner

Rodney Bursiel, Tonga

rodney bursiel

Grand prize winner

Rodney Bursiel

Behind the Shot: After spending an entire day searching for whales, our boat was gifted with a magical encounter with a curious and interactive mother and calf. As the mother hovered at 30 feet, her inquisitive calf would make its way to the surface to breathe, coming in close to inspect each of us. Some of my favorite photos of marine life are shot from behind; here I attempted to create a unique perspective by flipping the image upside down so the whale appears to be floating just above the surface in full breach. Storytelling isn’t always about the reality of what was seen — I hope the image shares with others my take on the mystical world I find myself in each time I dip below the surface.

Camera Gear: Nikon D800, 16mm f/2.8 lens, Ikelite housing
Settings: f/7.1, 1/200, ISO 400
Prize: $1,000 cash and a liveaboard trip aboard Oman Aggressor


When we added the Compact Camera category to Through Your Lens in 2015, it was all about inclusivity, acknowledging how many divers have taken up photography. Yet, partly because of rapid advances in camera technology, this category quickly became a powerhouse, consistently yielding wide-angle and macro images as compelling as those entered in our more-traditional categories.

First Place

Jamie Hall, Tiran Island, Red Sea

jamie hall

1st Place, Compact Camera

Jamie Hall

Behind the Shot: At a dive site called South Lagoon, I noticed a rock-and-coral formation in a sandy area. As I peered into a hole in the middle, I saw one of the largest and most ­curious giant moray eels (Gymnothorax javanicus) I had ever come across. I moved in cautiously; as I did, the moray stared straight into my lens, not breaking contact for a moment. I was anxious not to stress the animal, so I took time to slowly draw closer. I clicked a few shots as the eel continued to stare and was over the moon when I viewed the image.

Camera Gear: Canon PowerShot G16, Fantasea housing
Settings: f/2.8, 1/160, ISO 100
Prize: Liveaboard trip aboard Roatan Aggressor

Second Place

Yap Katumbal, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

yap katumbal

2nd Place, Compact Camera

Yap Katumbal

Behind the Shot: I was diving at a site called TK3 in Lembeh Strait when I spotted this beautiful ­juvenile coconut octopus at around 40 feet — the tiniest coconut octopus I had ever seen, about 2 inches long. It was hiding in a glass tube that was lying on the bottom, and it looked like it was just waiting to be photographed. I decided to use my dive light in combination with an 8+ macro lens. I put the light on the right side of the tube, and the effect was great, with only the baby octopus and the tube in focus.

Camera Gear: Olympus XZ-1, Sea&Sea close-up Lens 125, Olympus PT-050 housing, GOBE Light & Motion light
Settings: f/4, 1/500, ISO 100
Prize: Cressi AC10V Master Cromo regulator

Third Place

Ferenc Lőrincz, Marsa Shagra, Egypt

Ferenc Lőrincz

3rd Place, Compact Camera

Ferenc Lőrincz

Behind the Shot: This grouper was waiting with its mouth open for the cleaner fish at a ­cleaning station. I lit the fish from both sides with my flashes, allowing only a little bit of light in the back to create a black background.

Camera Gear: Nikon P7000, Fantasea FP7000 housing, two Intova IS 4000 strobes
Settings: f/6.3, 1/60, ISO 100
Prize: $250 Backscatter Underwater Video and Photo gift ­certificate


When you think of the images that made you want to be a diver, more than likely you recall colorful landscapes of vibrant reefs, or epic shots of big animals on the move. Wide-angle images show the ocean in all its glory, and have a special power to move us through the stories they can tell. We hope you’ll agree that this year’s Wide-Angle ­winners fit that bill.

First Place

Alex Dawson, Tala Bay, Jordan

Alex Dawson

1st Place, Wide-angle

Alex Dawson

Behind the Shot: In 1999, the Jordanian Royal Ecological Society sank an M42 Duster anti-aircraft tank close to shore just north of Tala Bay, a perfect snorkel and dive attraction. The wreck became home to many inhabitants of the reef shortly after its sinking — maximum depth at high tide is only 20 feet. I always work with off-camera lighting because I think it gives a better depth to images than using on-camera strobes.

Camera Gear: Nikon D850, Samyang 12/2.8 ED NCS fisheye lens for Nikon F, Sea&Sea MDX-D850 housing, four Big Blue dive lights on 33,000 lumens each
Settings: f/6.3, 1/5 sec, ISO 64
Prize: A liveaboard trip on Red Sea Aggressor II

Second Place

Karen Smith, Tulum, Mexico

karen Smith

2nd Place, Wide-Angle

Karen Smith

Behind the Shot: Near Tulum lie numerous underwater cave systems known as cenotes. The Pit is the deepest of these and is sought out by divers because of its beautiful rock formations and filtered light. Our dive started with the sun directly above. We descended into a hydrogen sulfide layer of decomposing trees at 100 feet, which can be seen below, and then up through a shallow halocline. As I ascended, I noticed freedivers practicing; within 15 seconds and three shots, the two lined up perfectly.

Camera Gear: Olympus OMD EM1, Lumix G Fisheye 8mm f/3.5 lens, Nauticam housing
Settings: f/4.5, 1/40, ISO 4000
Prize: Scubapro MK25EVO/S620Ti regulator

Third Place

Tom St. George, Tulum, Mexico

tom st. george

3rd Place, Wide-angle

Tom St. George

Behind the Shot: Occasionally, following heavy rainfall, tannic runoff stained by decaying leaf ­litter enters Cenote Carwash, turning it a vibrant reddish-orange. This tannic water blocks much of the daylight, and the cenote becomes darker than normal — it feels a bit like diving on Mars. Shot with ambient light only, this image required pushing the camera quite hard — shooting almost wide open, dragging the shutter, and pushing the ISO to 6400. The low-light settings also help accentuate the beam from the diver’s torch.

Camera Gear: Olympus OM-D E-M1 MKII, Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro lens, Olympus PT-EP14 housing, Olympus PPO-EP04 dome port and PER-E02 port extension
Settings: f/3.5, 1/15, ISO 6400
Prize: $250 Backscatter Underwater Video and Photo gift certificate


In 2014, we were captivated by several surreal photo submissions but lacked a home for them. So the ­following year, we added the Conceptual category. At its best, conceptual photography illustrates an idea, ­re-interpreting it while making use of creative ­techniques and software. Each composition is unique to its creator, and all ­succeed in conveying their artistic vision.

First Place

Conor Culver, Beangabang, Indonesia, and Naples, Florida

Conor Culver

1st Place, Conceptual

Conor Culver

Behind the Shot: I came across this coconut octopus while muck diving; the creature perfectly posed, turning deep red and wrapping its tentacles up symmetrically. Ultimately I would create a “home” for it with a small bottle I found diving the USS Baja California off Naples, Florida, to reference how these creatures are often seen: in our disregarded trash.

Camera Gear: Nikon D800E, Ikelite housing, two DS160 Sunstrobes; Nikkor 60mm macro lens (octopus); Nikkor 70-100mm zoom lens (background)
Settings: f/18, 1/200, ISO 200 (octopus); f/20, 1/80, ISO 100 (background)
Prize: A liveaboard trip on Maldives Aggressor III

Second Place

Lucie Drlikova, Prague, Czech Republic

Lucie Drlikova

2nd Place, Conceptual

Lucie Drlikova

Behind the Shot: This was photographed in Prague in a 26-foot-deep swimming pool covered by a very big piece of gray fabric. The image is titled “What Matters Most Is How You See Yourself.” It does not matter what other people think; most important is what you think, how you see yourself. I used the water’s surface as a mirror for the reflection, and turned the image by 90 degrees to create the effect of a woman in front of a mirror.

Camera Gear: Nikon D810, Nikon 17-35mm lens, Sealux housing, two Subtronic strobes
Settings: f/5.6, 1/125, ISO 400
Prize: Mares Fusion 52X regulator

Third Place

Christian Vizl, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Christian Vizl

3rd Place, Conceptual

Christian Vizl

Behind the Shot: The model is a champion freediver from Chile; the way she moves underwater is mesmerizing. This image was taken at midday, when the sun rays at the Pit cenote are best. There were many challenges — the first was to get the angle of the rays to create the illusion of entering a magical world. Then the model had to approach the surface very slowly (and I had to hold my breath) so we did not disturb the mirror effect. I used a relatively high shutter speed to capture the fine details of the rays.

Camera Gear: Canon 5D Mark II, 15mm fisheye lens, Aquatica housing
Settings: f/5, 1/200, ISO 800
Prize: $250 Backscatter Underwater Video and Photo gift certificate


It’s the little things that can be overlooked amid the bustle of the underwater world. Magnified, these tiny creatures gain new standing through photography, where their exquisite colors, patterns and features never cease to amaze. Great macro photography takes a tiny subject — often smaller than a quarter — and brings it to life in a way that provides a connection for viewers.

First Place

Cai Songda, Janao Bay, Anilao, Philippines

Cai Songda

1st Place, Macro

Cai Songda

Behind the Shot: This shot reminds me how a ­seemingly boring night dive became one of my most memorable ones. Ascending from nearly 100 feet with nothing to show, I was doing my safety stop when I spotted this ­blanket octopus. At the time, it amazed me that all the necessary elements for a wonderful shot seemed to come together: Colors were vibrant, the reflections alluring, and the octopus very cooperative, as if striking a pose.

Camera Gear: Nikon D850, Nikon AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8g ED lens, Seacam housing, two Seacam Sea Flash 150D lights, four Scubalamp V6K pro LED video lights
Settings: f/25, 1/320, ISO 500
Prize: A liveaboard trip in Cuba on Jardines Aggressor I

Second Place

Christian Bachmann, Bunaken, Indonesia

Christian Bachmann

2nd Place, Macro

Christian Bachmann

Behind the Shot: The area around Bunaken Island, off North Sulawesi, Indonesia, is famous for its spectacular wall dives. It was at the end of one of these dives, on a deco stop, that I discovered this maroon clownfish. With its fins fluttering at a rapid pace, ­initially it was difficult for me to get my camera to focus, especially on the fine details. With patience and a little luck, I was able to get this shot, showing its distinctive gleaming white bar, and giving the impression that the fish is actually flying.

Camera Gear: Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, Nimar housing, Inon Z-240 strobe
Settings: f/11, 1/125, ISO 160
Prize: Sherwood Scuba Oasis Pro regulator

Third Place

Rafael Fernandez Caballero, La Herradura, Spain

Rafael Fernandez Caballero

3rd Place, Macro

Rafael Fernandez Caballero

Behind the Shot: Due to its tiny size and shy nature, photographing a clingfish is complicated. After finding a clingfish with eggs, I waited for weeks until I could see the eyes inside — being careful not to wait too long. When the time was right, I took my best macro lens and ­greatest-­magnification wet lens, and tried to capture the essence of a mother taking care of her descendants.

Camera Gear: Nikon D7100, Nikon 105mm lens, Saga Magnifier +15 wet lens, Aquatica housing, two Sea&Sea D2 strobes
Settings: f/32, 1/200, ISO 400
Prize: $250 Backscatter Underwater Video and Photo gift certificate