2019 Underwater Photo Contest | Scuba Diving

Scuba Diving Magazine's 2019 Underwater Photo Contest Winners

The photographers who submitted to Scuba Diving's 2019 underwater photo contest blew our judges away, entering what we believe is among the best underwater photos of the year.

Even in the 15th year of our Through Your Lens Underwater Photo Contest, we are continually impressed by the talent and creativity of underwater photographers from around the globe. This year, we asked underwater photographers of all skill levels to submit their best work in the following categories: behavior, compact camera, macro and wide-angle. It was tough to narrow it down from the 2,560 images entered but you will see below that the winners are more than deserving. With so many beautiful images to choose from, we named an additional 11 honorable mention winners in 2019.

A very special thanks to our prize donors: Aggressor Liveaboards, SeaLife Underwater Cameras, Cressi, Mares, Scubapro, and Aqua Lung. Without your remarkable contributions, we could not continue our support of this contest and the photographers who inspire us.

Grand Prize Winner

Jack Israel, Baja California, Mexico

2019 Through Your Lens Grand Prize

Grand Prize Winner

Jack Israel

Behind the Shot: Nineteen divers from Russia and I descended in a shallow cove in the Sea of Cortez. We positioned a light to attract swarms of plankton and took our places around it. Suddenly, a school of voracious juvenile mobulas swooped in fast, like missiles. I drifted away from the plankton and sand-filled water and caught a glimpse of these playful bombers coming at me. I took the shot, and somehow they flared up in time to avoid a collision.

Camera Gear: Nikon D750 in an Ikelite housing; Sigma 15mm fisheye lens; two Inon Z-240 strobes
Settings: f/10, 1/160, ISO 400
Prize: $1,000 and a trip aboard Socorro Aggressor


BEHAVIOR

First Place

Florent Gooden, Guadalupe Island, Mexico

2019 Through Your Lens first place behavior

1st Place, Behavior

Florent Gooden

Behind the Shot: This was on the second day of cage diving along the coast of Guadalupe Island in Mexico. There had not been much action since the morning, but staying as long as possible in the cold water finally paid off when a huge 17-foot great white shark showed up.

It came to check the tuna bait, then disappeared in the deep. Using the proper hunting behavior of the great whites, it came up at full speed and breached to get the tuna. It went so fast that I almost didn’t see it coming, giving me just enough time to adjust my framing as it entered the water with jaws wide open in a massive splash, creating all these bubbles around it.

Camera Gear: Canon 1DX Mark II in an AquaTech housing; Canon 24mm f/1.4 lens
Settings: f/5.6, 1/640, ISO 400
Prize: Trip aboard Roatan Aggressor


Second Place

Franco Tulli, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

2019 Through Your Lens Second Place Behavior

2nd Place, Behavior

Franco Tulli

Behind the Shot: The animal inside the shell is a tiny coconut octopus less than 2 inches long. This shot was made on a sandy bottom at around 60 feet with the use of a macro lens and a snoot, a device inserted into the flash that creates an adjustable conical light. The main difficulty, besides the limited time for shooting, was the correct positioning of the snoot and the choice of the most suitable shape, size and amount of light needed. The shot was framed so that no cropping was necessary.

Camera Gear: Canon 7D Mark II in an Easydive Leo III housing; Canon 60mm Macro with Inon 5+ macro lens; Sea&Sea YS-D1 flash with Retra snoot
Settings: f/14, 1/160, ISO 100
Prize: Mares Prestige 15X regulator


Third Place

Galice Hoarau, Lembeh Strait, Indonesia

2019 Through Your Lens Third Place Behavior

3rd Place, Behavior

Galice Hoarau

Behind the Shot: During a black-water dive in Lembeh, I noticed this juvenile jackfish swimming around a box jellyfish at about 30 feet. Many juvenile fish species hide inside jellyfish for protection. To take this shot, I had to wait for the right moment when the fish was looking at me through the jellyfish.

Camera Gear: Olympus OM-D E-M1 II in a Nauticam housing; Olympus 30mm macro lens; two Inon Z-330 strobes; two Sola lights
Settings: f/18, 1/320, ISO 400
Prize: SeaLife Sea Dragon 2000F photo-video light


COMPACT CAMERA

First Place

Kyungshin Kim, South Korea

2019 Through Your Lens First Place Compact

1st Place, Compact Camera

Kyungshin Kim

Behind the Shot: Initially, we intended to take photos of frilled anemones at 70 feet but because of the cold water, we had to cut the shoot short and were on the way up to the surface when we met a smack of jellyfish. Amazed by the display of colors, I thought the shoot might be salvaged after all. I searched for ones near me that were upright so that it would come out like a stained-glass lampshade. The jellyfish movements were unpredictable, and it required an extra dive after a surface rest to capture this photo.

Camera Gear: Olympus Tough TG-4 in an Olympus PT-056 housing
Settings: f/2.8, 1/500, ISO 100
Prize: Trip aboard Jardines Aggressor II


Second Place

Nikki Hazouri, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

2019 Through Your Lens Second Place Compact

2nd Place, Compact Camera

Nikki Hazouri

Behind the Shot: I was diving at Devil’s Grotto off Grand Cayman, which is known for its tarpon population. There was a dark, overhanging ledge and a rather large tarpon hiding out underneath it. We were pretty shallow, so I decided to stick my hand under the ledge to try to see if I could get a photo with just the ambient lighting available. It worked out beautifully! The eye is perfectly in focus and you can see the texture on the scales around it.

Camera Gear: Olympus Tough TG-5 in an Olympus PT-058 housing
Settings: f/6.3, 1/200, ISO 200
Prize: Aqua Lung Legend LX regulator


Third Place

Juho Karu, Taveuni, Fiji

2019 Through Your Lens Third Place Compact

3rd Place, Compact Camera

Juho Karhu

Behind the Shot: During one of my regular house reef dives in front of Garden Island Resort on Taveuni, Fiji, I spotted this curious little peacock mantis shrimp out and about looking for materials to build its burrow. After noticing me, the shrimp scurried into a small crevice to hide. The reef ended up being in the way of my camera’s internal flash, so I added some extra light with my dive torch. After some waiting, the shrimp became comfortable with my presence and came out to pose for this shot.

Camera Gear: Olympus Tough TG-5 in an Olympus PT-058 housing; X-Adventurer M1000-WRA Smart Focus Video Light
Settings: f/14, 1/100, ISO 250 (Microscope Mode)
Prize: SeaLife Sea Dragon 2000F photo-video light


MACRO

First Place

Nicholas Samaras, Stratoni, Greece

2019 Through Your Lens First Place Macro

1st Place, Macro

Nicholas Samaras

Behind the Shot: Stratoni, a small gulf in the northern Aegean Sea, used to be a place rich with marine life—including seahorses. About three decades ago, fishing boats destroyed the sea bottom; a tremendous flood swept soil into the sea in 2010. Recently a team of marine biologists rediscovered the place, so I planned three days of diving to photograph my favorite animal. This portrait put me deep in thought. It was like this seahorse was expressing all of its complaints and disappointments about human actions.

Camera Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II in a Sea&Sea MDX housing; Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens; two Retra strobes
Settings: f/18, 1/125, ISO 125
Prize: Trip aboard Oman Aggressor


Second Place

Tobias Friedrich, Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia

2019 Through Your Lens Second Place Macro

2nd Place, Macro

Tobias Friedrich

Behind the Shot: During a black-water dive near Tulamben, a reef squid swam in close, seemingly interested in our lights. After photographing it a couple of times with regular camera settings for blackwater dives, I noticed the squid planned to stick around. So I tried using some different camera settings and experimented with slow shutter speed to get a nice soft shadow of the squid itself. It took a few attempts to get a good result—and it helped to set the strobes to fire on second curtain.

Camera Gear: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in a Seacam Silver housing; Canon 100mm macro lens; two Seacam Seaflash 150D strobes; Keldan focus light
Settings: f/25, 0.6 seconds; ISO 640
Prize: Scubapro MK25 EVO/ S620Ti regulator


Third Place

Marco Gargiulo, Sorrento, Italy

2019 Through Your Lens Third Place Macro

3rd Place, Macro

Marco Gargiulo

Behind the Shot: The image of this John Dory (Zeus faber) was taken during a winter night dive at Marina Grande in the Gulf of Naples. This is my favorite place to dive because it is five minutes from my home and I can walk to the water from the beach. It’s very calm in the winter, and it is the ideal place to dive in search of photo subjects that take advantage of the darkness of the cold water to return to more easily accessible depths, where it is possible to photograph them closely.

Camera Gear: Nikon D850 with Nauticam NA-D850 housing; Micro Nikkor 60mm lens in macro port; two Ikelite DS161 strobes
Settings: f/13, 1/125, ISO 320
Prize: SeaLife Sea Dragon 2000F photo-video light


WIDE-ANGLE

First Place

Gabriel Barathieu, Mayotte

2019 Through Your Lens First Place Wide-Angle

1st Place, Wide-Angle

Gabriel Barathieu

Behind the Shot: I took this picture in the lagoon of Mayotte—an Indian Ocean archipelago between Madagascar and Mozambique—early in the morning. I left at dawn to meet the humpback whales in the hope of catching them at a peaceful time; we arrived to find a mother and calf. The most important thing for photographing humpbacks is to make a calm, steady approach. If you let the whale accept you, you will make beautiful shots. It's as simple as that. For this photo, I was less than a yard from the whale.

Camera Gear: Canon EOS 5DS R in a Subal housing; Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L II lens; natural light
Settings: f/10; 1/80; ISO 200
Prize: Trip aboard Thailand Aggressor


Second Place

Hannes Klostermann, Homestead, Florida

2019 Through Your Lens Second Place Wide-Angle

2nd Place, Wide-Angle

Hannes Klostermann

Behind the Shot: I had the opportunity to take this image during an in-water session at Everglades Outpost, which is a wildlife-rescue facility registered as a nonprofit educational organization. It takes in, among many other animals, so-called “nuisance” alligators that would otherwise be killed because they are deemed potential threats. Dropping down in front of these prehistoric creatures was by far my favorite thing to do, because the trees that hang over the pond provide an appealing backdrop seen through Snell’s window.

Camera Gear: Nikon D500 in a Nauticam housing; Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens; Zen 230mm dome port; two Inon Z-240 strobes
Settings: f/11, 1/200, ISO 100
Prize: Cressi AC/10V Master Cromo regulator


Third Place

Pier Mane, Trou-Aux-Biches, Mauritius

2019 Through Your Lens Third Place Wide-Angle

3rd Place, Wide-Angle

Pier Mane

Behind the Shot: Grand Baie and Trou-aux-Biches on the island of Mauritius are hotspots for recently sunk artificial reefs. I was shooting the KT Mawar, a Chinese fishing vessel. While trying to light the beautiful aft deck using remote strobes, I was caught in an invasion of silversides seeking refuge from the attacks of a group of trevally, setting the shot up beautifully.

Camera Gear: Olympus E-M1 Mark II; Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens; two remote Subtronic 270 strobes; two remote Inon Z-240 strobes; triggering Sea&Sea YS-D2J strobe
Settings: f/6.3, 1/160, ISO 200
Prize: SeaLife Sea Dragon 2000F photo-video light

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Plamena Mileva, Halkidiki, Greece

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Plamena Mileva

Behind the Shot: While I was trying to focus on a miniature anemone tube worm (Serpula Vermicularis), the focus of my lens stopped at the grass just in front of it. So random luck gave me a different point of view. The detail revealed on this grass was amazing— just like a whole new universe.

Camera Gear: Canon 5D Mark III in an Ikelite housing; two Ikelite DS161 strobes; Canon EF100 f/2.8 Macro USM lens
Settings: f/20, 1/160, ISO 100


Pete Measley, Galapagos Islands

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Pete Measley

Behind the Shot: This is the scene divers hope for when they visit Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos Islands. We watched in amazement from the sandy bottom as hundreds upon hundreds of these majestic scalloped hammerhead sharks sliced through the ripping currents with great ease. Our position on the bottom of the site’s shallow portion allowed me to set up this upward shot as the fish schooled overhead, lining up perfectly to let the light shine through an unforgettable sight.

Camera Gear: Nikon D810; Sigma 15mm fisheye lens
Settings: f/8, 1/400, ISO 400


Bruno Van Saen, Romblon, Philippines

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Bruno Van Saen

Behind the Shot: The sandy bottom of Romblon is home to one of the main attractions on this small island—sea slugs. Specifically, the tiger butterfly sea slug or Cyerce nigra. Just like the four wings of a butterfly, this sea slug seems to be in possession of a dozen 3 brightly colored wings. Their colorful wings quickly flutter back and forth and can regularly cover their eyes. My mission was to be patient, bring the two eyes of this 1 centimeter-long sea slug into focus, and shoot!

Camera Gear: Nikon D810 in a Hugyfot housing; SMC-1 + Multiplier convertor; two Inon Z-240 strobes
Settings: f/20, 1/250, ISO 400


Reiko Takahashi, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, Japan

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Reiko Takahashi

Behind the Shot: During the summer in August 2017, the seawater temperature reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit and colorful sea anemones were fading to white. This photo was taken during winter in February 2018, after the ravaged sea anemones recovered and returned to their original color.

Camera Gear: Nikon D800 in an Anthis Nexus D800 housing; Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 lens; Sea&Sea YS-D2J strobes
Settings: f/13, 1/125, ISO 125


Atsushi Hori, Chuuk, Federated States of Micronesia

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Atsushi Hori

Behind the Shot: Nakajima C6N Saiun is an Imperial Japanese Navy reconnaissance aircraft used during World War II. It lies in 60 feet of water in Truk Lagoon. I tried to create dynamic compositions by placing six underwater video lights in the airplane for illumination. It is still flying in my heart.

Camera Gear: Canon 5D Mark IV in a Sea&Sea housing; Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L III lens; WeeFine Solar Flare MAX 10,000 light; two FIX Neo 3000 lights; two Bigblue VTL8000P underwater video lights
Settings: f/14, 1/100, ISO 1600


Katherine Lu, Rapid Bay, Australia

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Katherine Lu

Behind the Shot: The leafy sea dragon had been on my photography bucket list for quite some time. In 2018, I traveled to South Australia with the sole objective of photographing it. Normally I do not use a focus light since seahorses are notoriously shy and will turn or move away. Even if you get the subject dead centered, their eyes move around and are not always looking toward you. So with a bit of luck, I was able to capture that split-second moment.

Camera Gear: Olympus EM10 in a Nauticam housing; 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens; two Sea&Sea YS-D1 strobes
Settings: f/13, 1/250, ISO 200


Plamena Mileva, Tenerife, Canary Islands

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Plamena Mileva

Behind the Shot:This prehistoric beast called a fangtooth moray eel (Enchelycore anatina) is distinctive for its bright-yellow coloring and elongated jaw, which is filled with an abundance of long, glasslike teeth in three rows. The moray was opening its mouth wide, and I took time to slowly draw closer to take several shots to get this portrait.

Camera Gear: Canon 5D Mark III in an Ikelite housing; two Ikelite DS161 strobes; Canon EF100 f/2.8 Macro USM lens
Settings: f/13, 1/200, ISO 250


Stefano Scortegagna, Anilao, Philippines

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Stefano Scortegagna

Behind the Shot: This Lybia tessellata—also known as a boxer crab—was photographed during a spectacular dive in one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines: Anilao. I think it is an ideal destination for macro photography because of its exceptional biodiversity.

Camera Gear: Nikon D800e in a Subal housing; Nikon 105mm Micro f/2.8 lens; Inon Z-240 lens; super macro lens with Iardino's snoot
Settings: f/29; 1/200; ISO 200


Martin Strmiska, Presov, Slovakia

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Martin Strmiska

Behind the Shot: When this now-flooded mine was active, the most abundant deposits of opal were found in the lowest level. Excavated ore was transported using a small system of railways to Fedö, a vertical shaft connecting several horizontal tunnels. I wanted to capture a perfect reflection of the railway, so using a closed-circuit rebreather was critical to achieve a calm surface on the air pocket trapped under the ceiling. My dive buddies swam around the area to leave the space free of any sediment. Using off-board strobes helped me create several layers in the image and manifest the structured space.

Camera Gear: Nikon D850 in a Subal housing; two Subtronic Pro 160 strobes; two Subtronic Mega off-board strobes; Sigma 15mm lens
Settings: f/8, 1/40, ISO 800


Martin Strmiska, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Martin Strmiska

Behind the Shot: It takes lots of exercise to stabilize a baitball of sardines. The bigger the baitball, the faster it moves in order to escape hunting sailfish. On this day, I was the only one who could keep up with the sardines. When the sailfish realized that I was not a potential threat, they surrounded the baitball from the other side, forcing the fish to stop. This perfect scene only lasted for a few moments before other snorkelers got in the water, but it ranks among my most memorable underwater experiences. There was so much going on that I was shooting from the hip. There was no opportunity to compose or correct any shots—just hope that some of them would capture this phenomenal moment.

Camera Gear: Nikon D800; two Subtronic Pro 160 strobes; Sigma 15mm lens
Settings: f/9, 1/200, ISO 800


Galice Hoarau, Beitstadfjorden, Norway

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Galice Hoarau

Behind the Shot: I took this photo of a ghost shark (Chimaera monstrosa) during a night dive at around 70 feet in Beitstadfjorden, Norway. In some of Norway's fjords, especially in the winter, ghost sharks come up to relatively shallow waters at night. This individual came to check out my lights after I shot a few portraits; I took this photo as it was returning to the deep.

Camera Gear: Olympus OM-D E-M1 II; Olympus 8mm fisheye lens; Nauticam housing; two Inon Z-330 strobes; and two Sola lights
Settings: f/13, 1/200, ISO 400


Enrico Somogyi, Ambon

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Enrico Somogyi

Behind the Shot: I woke up early in the morning to get a half-and-half shot with a fishing boat and the sunrise. This was the first picture. The second picture with the Hairy Frogfish I took on Laha 1 in Ambon. Here I was using an Inon S2000 with a snoot. For the blue backlighting I used a colored Fiberoptic Snoot on an Inon Z240. To get the two pictures together I was using the double exposure setting in the camera.

Camera Gear: Panasonic LX100 in a Nauticam LX100 housing; Sony Fisheye Converter; Inon UCL 165 lens; Inon S2000 with Snoot; Inon Z240 with coloured FO lights
Settings: f/9; 1/2000; ISO200


Michael Gallagher, Palau

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Michael Gallagher

Behind the Shot: I was diving along one of Palau's magnificent walls when I came across this vibrant red anemone curled up into a ball with only the tips of a few tentacles showing. Upon closer inspection I noticed this pink skunk anemonefish sheltering inside, occasionally sticking its head out to check for danger before ducking back inside the anemone. With a little patience and some luck I was able to snap this photograph at just the right moment.

Camera Gear: Canon 5D3 camera in a Hugyfot housing; Canon 8-15mm Fisheye lens at 15mm; 1.4x tele-converter; dual Inon Z240 strobes
Settings: f/16; 1/100; ISO400


Pier Mane, Sudan

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Pier Mane

Behind the Shot: My first trip in Sudan, I came across this giant school of barracuda. They are a common photogenic subject, but to see a tornado-shaped school extending from 100 feet all the way to the surface was an extraordinary sight. The challenge was to find a way to keep the entire column in frame, but at the same time I wanted a close up/portrait of the barracuda to take the viewer inside this tornado with me. It became possible by framing straight-up shot from the very bottom of the vortex as it moved toward me and at the same time hiding the sun behind the column.

Camera Gear: Olympus E-M1 Mark I; two Subtronic 270 strobes; Panasonic 8mm Fisheye lens
Settings: f/7.1; 1/80; ISO100


Lee Jellyman, Malta

2019 Through Your Lens Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

Lee Jellyman

Behind the Shot: On my very first dive on the reef at Ras il-Ħobż in Malta, the dive guide spotted this octopus hiding between some rocks. I moved in slowly as to not scare it and cause it to withdraw further into its home, positioned myself to capture the best natural light and took a few shots. I was really happy when looking at the image on the camera LCD, but the real delight came when I started to edit it and the colors and shadows came alive.

Camera Gear: Sony RX100M3 in a Fantasea FRX100V housing; Fantasea UWL-09F Wide-Angle lens; natural light
Settings: f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO200


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