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Annual Beginners Portfolio Competition

Sponsored by Diver Magazine

First prize: the DIVER Trophy and a cheque for £100

Sponsored by DIVER Magazine

The Annual Beginners Portfolio Competition, organised by the British Scoiety of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP) is held in November and is open to BSoUP members & non-members alike, provided that they have not come first, second or third in a national or international competition, such as BSoUP's Open and Beginners Portfolio Competitions, Image, U/W Photographer of the Year, Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Marine Conservation Society, Antibes festival of underwater images, Dive Magazine’s British Underwater Image Festival etc.


This year’ winner was Mark Drayton.

Mark Drayton
Winner 2013 © Mark Drayton

Said Mark “A Yorkshire man by birth, I was until recently a consultant paediatrician (neonatologist) working at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, and was Clinical Lead for the Neonatal Network in Wales. I retired at the end of July this year aged 62+! Although I have been taking photographs on and off since I was a child and owe much to many happy hours with my father in the darkroom, I am a late comer to diving and underwater photography. I learnt to dive in mid 2006 in preparation for a holiday in Australia. Since certification, I have had a camera housing in my hands for most of my dives, but only really became serious about my underwater photography at the beginning of 2011 when I acquired the Nikon D7000 and my first aluminium housing and joined the Bristol Underwater Photography Group from whose members I have learnt a lot. Prior to this I used 2 compact cameras in Ikelite housings and then a D80 also in an Ikelite housing.

I have recently upgraded to a D7100, primarily for its improved autofocus compared with the D7000. Since 2006 I have dived in Australia, Egypt, South Africa, Mexico, Florida, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Bonaire, The Philippines and Sulawesi - and even very occasionally the UK! I joined BSoUP at the beginning of 2013 and was delighted when my daughter, who lives in London, also decided to take up underwater photography and joined BSoUP shortly after I did. My son also dives and frequently buddies me in the UK and on Egypt trips.”

Mark Drayton’s images:

Picasso Triggerfish, Marsa Shagra, Egypt - Southern Red Sea

Taken with Nikon D7100, 2 x Z240 strobes, 60mm Micro Nikkor Macro on the house reef at Marsa Shagra. Taken on a very recent trip with my son on 12/09/2013. 1/320 @ f8, ISO 200. One of several shots of Picasso Triggerfish, they move quite fast and are skittish so this is a substantial crop permitted by the D7100 sensor's many pixels. As shot, there was a nice deep navy blue background, but I deliberately clipped this in post-processing to approximate the black backgrounds of the balancing shots within the portfolio.

Juvenile Caribbean Reef Squid Shoal

Taken with Nikon D7000, Nauticam housing, 2 x Z240 strobes, 60mm Micro Nikkor Macro (probably not the ideal lens, but the squid were a bit skittish and I was planning to do some small macro stuff with a snoot when the squid turned up), 1/125@f16, ISO 400. Date: 21/03/2013 (my birthday!). Location: Champagne Reef, Dominica (so called after volcanic gas bubbles coming up from the sea bed). These squid seem to be a more or less resident feature over the sea grass and sand shallows on Champagne Reef. This is just a small number of a very large shoal - maybe 50 or 60. Their formation swimming fascinated me. A letterbox crop seemed to suit the subject against the water surface and provided some variety to the portfolio. The blue water surface also provides a nice top to the portfolio and contrasts with the red anemone below.

Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Dumaguete, Negros, Philippines

Taken with Nikon D7000, Nauticam housing, 2 x Z240 strobes, 60mm Micro Nikkor Macro. The oldest photo in this portfolio, taken on 29/04/2012 while receiving some tuition from my friend Alex Tyrrell who was the photo pro at the Atlantis resort at that time. 1/320 @ f16, ISO 200. These beautiful fish allow quite a close approach relying on their camouflage for protection, but it is sometimes difficult to get them clear of the weed/coral/crinoids in which they try to hide and also they seem to have a habit of not presenting their best profile for photography. There has been some cropping and the picture is presented as a mirror image to balance the composition in the portfolio.

Christmas Tree Worms, Dominica

Taken with Nikon D7000, Nauticam housing, 2 x Z240 strobes, 60mm Micro Nikkor Macro. 1/200@f16, ISO 200. Christmas tree worms are very prevalent in this part of the Caribbean. This particular shot was selected to match the colour palette of the balancing Lettuce Sea Slug within the portfolio and some post-processing adjustment was made to 
saturation to improve the colour matching.

Balled Red Anemone and Anemone Fish, Negros, Philippines

Taken with Nikon D7000, Nauticam housing, 2 x Z240 strobes, 60mm Micro Nikkor Macro. 1/320 @ f20, ISO 200, taken 3/05/2012. This is one of several shots taken in the afternoon of this particularly nice balled anemone with fish. It is probably not the best shot of the series , but lent itself to the square crop and symmetrical composition needed for this position in the portfolio. The red/orange colour is intended to provide a central focus for the portfolio, while the green in the tentacles picks up colour from the photos on either side, and mauve tips pick up similar tones in the squid above.

Juvenile Lettuce Sea Slug, Champagne Reef, Dominica

Taken with Nikon D7000, Nauticam housing, 1 x Z240 strobe and snoot, 60mm Micro Nikkor Macro. 1/320 @ f8 ISO 400. It happened to be taken a little later on the same dive as the squid shot. This was a particularly small specimen (about 15mm long) with fewer convolutions than adults. The lighting by snoot was from the side to emphasise the texture. The photo is substantially cropped, and a 105mm lens would have been preferable, but then I wouldn't have got the squid shot. As the slug was on a distracting sand background, it was masked in post-processing in Lightroom and the background taken down to black. The colours and angle of crop were adjusted to match those in the balancing Christmas tree worm.

It just happens that all these images were taken with the same lens - I do use other lenses, but the 60mm has been my favourite at least until recently.

Mark won the DIVER Trophy and a cheque for £100.


The runner-up was Owen Clements, 41, from Milton Keynes where he works as a Sales Director

Owen Clements

Runner-up © Owen Clements

Said Owen “I've been diving for 12 years, dived all over the world, with my favourite places being the red sea, and now Lembeh. I've only dived abroad, but plan to dive the UK in 2014, after taking my Dry suit course. I've completed approx. 280 dives.

I've been taking shots underwater for a few years now, always with an DSLR, I try to get out a couple of times a year at least, usually at least one of them being with Martin Edge and his lovely wife Sylvia, where I always come away learning loads. I also tend to go away with Paul Duxfield each year.

All of my shots were taking on trips with Martin Edge, the first ones being Djibouti, where we went to shoot Whale Sharks. We spent the majority of the day bobbing around in the water with snorkels and cameras, waiting for the big beauties to come along, whilst getting nipped by the swimming crabs. Martin would set me a challenge each day, and I was determined to get a split. After tons of failures, I managed to get this shot, with the desert in the background on my Nikon D90, which I was delighted about, it was an amazing trip.

The remainder of the shots were taken this year, again with Martin and Sylvia on a trip to Komodo, Martin set me a challenge to work on Bokeh, and I was delighted with the Goby shot, in fact I think I've got a whole drive full of Goby's now :). There was also some beautiful curled whip coral on some of the dives, I knew the shot I wanted and the coral sat at around 20 meters. It took me a while to be able to get behind and below the coral that sat on a wall, to give me the shot I wanted with the sun ball in the background, and with the new D800, the sun burst wasn't a problem.

I always learn something new on every dive I do, whether it's something about the amazing undersea world we immerse ourselves in, my own diving ability and of course taking shots, we are all very lucky to be able to do what we do, and bring such wonder to people who don't dive.

When I’m not diving, I am either cooking, or working on the Victorian house that Sam and I have recently purchased, or spending time on Dux Soup on Facebook, talking nonsense”

Third place

Third place went to Jennifer Jo Stock “I'm a camera operator in television, I mainly shoot observational documentaries. I've been diving since I was sixteen but just really started the underwater photography this year. I wanted a fresh challenge at work and it was my new year's resolution to get going with it this year.

Jenny Stock

Third © Jenny Stock

In January I went on a compact camera course with Steve Warren, in February I bought a Subal housing for my Canon 5D Mark 2. In August I went to South Africa and did a week of Great White Sharks (which was one of the shots) and then in October I went on a macro course with Alex Mustard in Lembeh - the other 5 shots came from here. 

The photography side has opened a whole new world of fun for me - I love the instant hit of seeing a fab photo which is a completely different experience to watching footage back. 
The reason I was late was because I was on my first ever pro underwater video shoot at the LSD! I took my Rescue Diver this year but I've not done my level four (yet!) so I'm back to being a runner which is funny ;) but it was a great shoot and I'm so pleased to just get on shoots and hopefully be headed in the right direction.”

DIVER Trophy winners 1981-2012

Beginners Portfolio Competition Winners


2017 Nur Tucker

2016 Simon Yates

2015 John Parker

2014 Sue Guess

2013 Mark Drayton

2012 Paul Woodburn

2011 Sean Arrowsmith

2010 Will Clark

2009 Daniel Norwood

2008 David Henshaw

2007 Anna James

2006 Kam Arya


2004 Judy Winterman

2003 Samantha Bean

2002 Jane Morgan

2001 Cathy Lewis

2000 Tony White

1999 Mike Maloney

1998 Gary Clarke

1997 Sue Heaps

1996 Hilary Driscoll

1995 Malcom Hey

1994 Nigel Doe

1993 Gavin Anderson

1992 Paul Naylor

1991 Howard Bunyan

1990 Dave Meates

1989 John Lee

1988 Alfredo Rock

1987 Mark Taylor

1986 Michael Wong

1985 Martin Edge

1984 Viv Pearson

1983 Linda Pitkin

1982 Mike Valentine

1981 Brian Humphries

1980 Graham Pattie

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