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Beginners Portfolio Competition 2015
for the DIVER Trophy

The Annual Beginners Portfolio Competition is held in November and is open to 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.

The objective of the Beginners’ Portfolio competition is to identify photographers who can demonstrate a range of skills in underwater photography. The overall impression of the portfolio should communicate variety, not necessarily of subject, but certainly of approach and technique. 

The portfolio must comprise six images, set out in two rows of three, which do not overlap.  Each image may, or may not, have a border

All images were projected at the November BSoUP meeting, having been judged in advance by underwater photojournalist Charles Hood.

The Winner - John Parker
John Parker

John said "I have been diving for over 20 years and for much of that time I have had a camera of some sort with me. However I got the real underwater photography bug around 4 or 5 years ago when I bought a Canon Compact and Ikelite Housing. Having been a Nikon SLR user for a number of years  I took the opportunity  3 years ago to buy a 2nd hand Aquatica D90. This gave me the tools and motivation to move my photography to a higher level.  This is the third time I have entered the annual beginners portfolio competition and  I am delighted to have won this year and add my name to the list of illustrious former winners.

All of the images in my 2015 portfolio were taken on a single trip made to Raja Ampat in May this year. I used my Nikon D90 in the Aquatica AD90 housing with Inon Z240 Strobes. Lenses used were the Tokina 10-17 FE Zoom and the Nikon 60mm Macro with a Kenko 1.4 tele-converter.

Image 1 was taken at Boo Windows Raja Ampat. Tokina Fish Eye Zoom at 10mm 1/60th , F8 ISO 200 Inon Strobes. I cropped the image slightly to just off square as I thought this format suited the composition.

Image 2 taken in Raja Ampat. A simple  image of a colourful cowrie on a coral branch against a complimentary black background. Nikon 60mm + Kenko 1.4X  tele-converter 1/200th F29, ISO 160 Inon Strobes

Image 3 this Lionfish with reflections and “Snells Window” was taken during my safety stop on another Raja Ampat Reef. Tokina 10-17 at 17mm, 1/200th, F11, ISO200, Inon strobes.

Image 4 was taken in Raja Ampat and was captured using only the available light and took some patience as the water was not exactly flat calm. Tokina 10-17 at 17mm 1/250th , F16 ISO 200

Image 5 and 6 were both taken at Arborek Village Pier in Raja Ampat which must rank as one of the best dives for underwater photographers in the world. I took many pleasing photographs during my 2 and a half hours under the pier.

Image 5 is of Batfish swimming “in formation”. I took many photographs of the fish but particularly liked this composition  with the Arch of the Fish mirroring the Arch of blue from under the Pier. Tokina 10-17 Zoom at 17mm 1/160th , F8, ISO 200 Inon strobes

Image 6 Soft Coral on the Pier with Sun Burst was probably the most challenging shot balancing the strobes on the coral and trying to control the sun ball in the fading late afternoon light. Tokina 10-17 FE Zoom at 10mm 1/200th, F14 ISO 200 Inon Strobes."

Runner-up - Spencer Burrows
Spencer Burrows

Spencer  lives in Nottingham and works in sales as an Account Manager in the IT industry.  Spencer has been using a camera underwater for around 5 years. Having used a compact camera for a couple of years, he first took an SLR camera under water in 2012. Spencer is qualified as a diver to instructor level, however much prefers now to  focus his diving  around photography. Spencer is also a  keen land based photographer and enjoys urban, travel and landscape photography. 

Spencer said "Before I started to put my portfolio together I wrote a list of all of the key attributes that I felt were needed to  represent a good portfolio. I wanted to not only pick out 6 images that I felt were individually strong, but needed them to work as a complete portfolio. I wanted to ensure that the images worked as a collective and the viewer would view the portfolio as one complete image. I considered the colour schemes, the orientation of each image ensuring that they worked the viewers eye around the portfolio. I also placed the corner images considering symmetry across the diagonals from corner to corner and ensured the image with the Sun in it was placed at the highest point. Lastly I made sure that the images aligned properly and that they had a small border to separate from the black background and make them  stand out a little more.

Pipefish -  Taken in the Red Sea ( Egypt ) I took a close up shot initially and was taken with its  colours and detail. I then waited for it to move away from the reef and against open water,  using a fast shutter speed (1/200) to provide the black background  and a more striking image.

Diver in the light - Taken at the TajMahal Cenote in Mexico. The time of the offered stunning sun beams through the ceiling. I asked my dive guide to model for me to improve the overall composition. Image taken with natural light

Anthias -  Taken in Red Sea ( Egypt )  I wanted to capture the wonderful detail on the pectoral fins, I spent an entire 80 minute dive trying to capture both fins to ensure symmetry in the image. Also used a fast shutter speed ( 1/320 ) for a black background which I felt made the image pop.

Seal - Taken in the Farne Islands, I wanted to add a little character to my portfolio and felt this image displayed that. The two open arms gave symmetry and I placed this purposely on the opposite diagonal to the Anthias.

Diver with Torch - This image was taken at the mystical 'Angelita' Cenote in Mexico. I felt  the image added a little mood to the portfolio and colour scheme worked well with the three images across the bottom of the portfolio. 

Sturgeon - Taken at inland site, Capernwray . I wanted to show a range of different images and locations, I had images in the portfolio from overseas both wide & and marco and also coastal UK, so felt an inland fresh water shot provided variety. I also placed this facing in and on the opposite corner of the pipefish."

Third - Sean Chinn
Sean Chinn

Sean live in Birmingham and said "I am relatively new to the diving world and especially the underwater photography world. I became a PADI Open Water diver in January 2011 in Stoney Cove. It’s safe to say it wasn’t very pleasant diving as it was snowing and the water temperature was only around 4c. This didn’t really fill me with the desire to get out and dive and I was a little reluctant and nervous while on holiday in 2011 and never took the plunge until 2012 while travelling around Australia. My 1st tropical water diving was in the Great Barrier Reef and then I suddenly realised why I learnt to dive in a freezing cold Stoney Cove a year or so before. I still wasn’t completely hooked until some diving in Bali and Gili Islands in 2013 and that’s when I decided underwater photography is something I wanted to learn and gain experience in. I’ve never had any training in any form of photography up until that point and was starting from scratch (time to get my camera out of auto). I enlisted the help of Nick and Caroline from Frogfish photography who showed me the ropes and taught me all the basics I needed and how to use my camera in Manual. Since November 2013 I have been completely obsessed with diving and capturing the underwater world on camera. I really don’t think I’d enjoy a dive as much if I didn’t have my camera in tow. Over the last couple of years I’ve added around 70-80 dives to my log but am still under 100 dives, which will change soon. Over the last year I have added macro to my photography as well and am really looking on creating a wide range of shots in my portfolio.
The School of Jackfish and diver was shot at the world famous Barracuda Point dive site in Sipadan. The resident school of Jackfish (Bigeye trevally) usually frequent this dive site and we saw them on 2 occasions. On this particular dive we came across the school towards the middle part of the dive and were underneath the school as they swam close to the surface. This gave me the opportunity to take the shot looking up with a fisheye lens. The set up I used was Olympus EM10, Nauticam housing and Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens.

The Green Sea Turtle underneath the sun was again taken in Sipadan as we drifted along the reef wall regularly encountering turtles as they rested or fed. By shooting up I was able to show the clear water with the sunburst and clouds visible. The colours of the reef were amazing. Again taken with Olympus EM10, Nauticam and 8mm Fisheye, 2 Inon Z-240’s. 

The Blue Ringed Octopus was taken on a night dive on the house reef of Borneo Divers Sabah. This was a particularly rewarding encounter as the Blue Ring was number one on my critter list and I happened to find this all by myself without the help of a guide. With the recent trouble with pirates around the east coast of Sabah it means that boat dives at night are prohibited and only dives on the house reef are possible at night. I really wanted to do a night dive and luckily met a Scottish guy who was diving with the same company willing to join me after a long great day diving in Sipadan. I’m so glad we did as this encounter with the Blue ring was one of my top diving moments. Taken using Olympus EM10, Nauticam and 60mm macro, 2 Inon z-240’s.

The nudibranch (Phyllodesmium crypticum) was taken at the secret bay dive site in Anilao, Batangas, Philippines. A great muck dive and famous in the macro photography world. I only added a macro lens to my set up in October 2014 so needed a lot of practice and work to start getting good macro shots. Where better to start than a few days in one of the critter capitals of the world Anilao in June 2015. This nudibranch was in the perfect position to try out black backgrounds and the beautiful colours really stand out with the black. Olympus EM10, Nauticam, 60mm macro and 2 Inon Z-240’s.

The stingray split shot was taken at Ship Channel Cay, Bahamas in April 2014. The species of stingray is the southern stingray and it truly was paradise where the image was taken. The shot was taken with my old camera set up Canon G1X in Canon WP-DC44 housing (natural light). I had no wet lens extension and was just the basic housing but the stingrays were so shallow an over under shot was possible. 

The whale shark was taken in Cebu, Philippines. The area does come under some controversy as the local fishermen  feed the whale sharks which allows for such a close encounter. It was my 1st time in the water with whale sharks and they really are majestic gentle giants. Taken with 8mm fisheye lens on Olympus EM10 in Nauticam housing with natural light."

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