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BSoUP / DIVER Annual Print Competition 2016
Organised by the British Society of Underwater Photographers
in association with DIVER Magazine

at the

DIVE SHOW, NEC Birmingham

22-23 October 2016

The annual BSoUP / DIVER Print Competition was held at Dive 2016 at the NEC, Birmingham over the weekend of 22-23 October. Eighty of the best prints in four categories were mounted for display and judging by the visiting public. This year more nearly a thousand visitors completed voting slips and over 3,000 valid votes were counted.

The best of show and winner of the Grand Prize was selected by an independent panel of judges comprising Nigel Eaton, Chief Editor of DIVER Magazine, and Paul Colley and Trevor Rees, both authors and underwater photo-journalists. The judges also highly commended six prints.

Judges remarks

"We thought that there were a good number of very worthy entries this year and that it is remarkably difficult with such a diverse array of subjects and techniques to choose a clear winner.  This is one reason why we award a significant number of highly commended images.  Art always involves personal taste to some degree and therefore subjectivity inevitably comes into the final choices.  All of us, experienced judges included, have overt and sometimes sub-conscious preferences, no matter how much we try to be objective.

But we did strive hard for objectivity through independent initial choices and then rigorous discussion about technical and artistic merit; the process rightly took time commensurate with the effort invested by all of the photographers.  And the great strength of multiple judges is that one sometimes spots something that the others have not.  We thus eventually settled on a winner that we had all favoured somewhere in our initial choices and which through discussion we all strongly agreed had considerable artistic and technical merit.

The six highly commended images were all in the running at some stage of our discussions, so to the owners of those photographs we congratulate you too on the high standard of your work.  To the winner, please take a bow and enjoy the limelight that comes with making it to the top of this immensely popular competition."

Results - The Judges' Choice

Overall Winner - Nick More

Nick More

Overall Winner: Towering Jacks © Nick More

Nick More (Towering Jacks).  This winning image impressed all three judges.  Even though other images had greater initial “wow factor”, we judged this image to be a superb composition from a well-chosen viewpoint that created strong depth perspective by the receding size of the jacks and the roiling ocean surface.  It is in one image both dynamic, with a feeling of the ocean’s high energy, and yet also very serene and natural.  Looking at it, you are drawn in by its three dimensions and leading lines; you want to be with those fish in that ocean under that surging water.  A beautiful capture.

Nick was the winner of the Grand Prize of a voucher for £750 courtesy of Scuba Tours Worldwide towards a holiday in the Maldives or Red Sea.

Highly Commended

Martyn Guess

Great Hammerhead at night © Martyn Guess

Martyn Guess (Great Hammerhead at night).  All judges agreed that this was a striking image and technically very strong for both the moment and clarity of capture plus the quality of post processing.  It split judges’ opinions when it came to more subjective issues.  Whereas one judge favoured it strongly for its graphic simplicity, which powerfully portrayed a charismatic animal in a behavioural posture, the others thought it more one-dimensional than other images of large animals in the competition.  We had an interesting debate about the degree of image post processing, which all acknowledged was very polished; the question left hanging was whether such exquisite processing can reduce the realism of a photograph by taking it too far into the realm of fine art. 

Denis Vandermeersch

Saltwater Crocodile © Dennis Vandermeersch

Dennis Vandermeersch (Saltwater Crocodile).  A high impact “in your face” image that grabs your attention.  The teeth pull your eye straight to the subject and have a subtle leading line that brings you to the crocodile’s eye just under the water surface.  The eye was perhaps a little too close to the top edge   of the frame and the foreground had a large, bright mangrove root that tended to pull your eye away from the main subject; it could have been toned down very slightly to reduce a potential distraction from an otherwise well-executed and presented image.

Carol Poletti

Pike © Carol Poletti

Carole Poletti (Pike).  All of the judges were drawn to this excellent natural light rendition of a pike.  By achieving more stand-off than many similar images, we see the pike in its surrounding context and this gives a stronger sense of location and habitat.  There are many visual cues to create depth perspective from the foreground weed to background rocks and water surface.  You easily perceive  three dimensions and the timing of the shot creates dynamics that are often absent in images of these frequently static ambush predators.  Our only minor criticism was the dark weed shadow top right that could have been easily been removed by a minor crop to avoid a small distraction just where you don’t need it - at the edges and well away from the main subject.  But overall, an impressive image.

Mark Thomas

Corkwing Wrasse © Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas (Corkwing Wrasse).  The colour, superb timing and accurate framing create a very high impact image.  The internal framing created by some unusual mounds of sand or gravel at the left and right edges of frame leave the viewer no option but to stare right into the wrasse’s eyes; the engagement is exceptionally strong and the foreground has a strong symmetry from head-on viewpoint and flared pectoral fins that suits the central framing.  We debated for some time whether the image processing had created such a strong texture and colour that the image was drifting towards looking unnatural.  But it was a real attention grabber and we liked it.

Terry Steeley

Blue Shark head on © Terry Steeley

Terry Steeley (Blue Shark head on).  There’s so much to like about this image and so much to debate.  We loved the sharp, strong eye, the beautiful light, the fin cutting the surface, a strong reflection and the dynamics of the image (diagonal pectoral and sweeping tail).  We wondered whether the lens and proximity of the shark to it had distorted the image too much (the “tadpole effect” - big head, small body), strongly accentuated by the forced perspective that almost disconnects the small-looking tail.  This did not worry one judge, who considered the other aspects sufficiently strong to balance it.  But it did create pause for thought with the other two judges.  These are small points.  The image is one that all of us would have been pleased to capture.

Kirsty AndrewsYarell’s Blenny © Kirsty Andrews

Kirsty Andrews (Yarrell’s Blenny).  A high impact and striking portrait that the viewer is forced to engage with.  We all loved this image, but also thought that a combination of either quality of lighting and/or post processing had left parts of the image a smidgen low in contrast, particularly lower left.  However, the expression and eye contact was superb and this is an image that could do very well indeed with just a few minor tweaks. 

"This blenny was part of a colony of Yarrell's blennies in a crack at the furthest end of a cave near Eyemouth in Scotland.  In the pitch-black conditions it was relatively easy to set up my snoot for a characterful portrait." said Kirsty.

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