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Visions in the Sea 2009

by Caroline Robertson-Brown

The Visions in the Sea 2009 underwater photography festival was held in Manchester over the weekend of the 7th and 8th November and was a huge success. With a packed out audience at every talk, wonderful entries and winners in the international  photography competition, fantastic presentations, Gala Dinner,  stands and an in-water tuition afternoon – Visions in the Sea had it all for every level of underwater photographer.

With all that – we also raised over £2000 for the Shark Trust – by auctioning off prints, books, lessons and dives at the Gala Dinner (Duxy and Ali worked their charm to get as much money for this important charity) generously donated by our guest presenters, holding a quiz, and selling limited edition 4th Element T-shirts that were designed by Jim in person especially for the event. These are still available!

Cathy Church, who had come over from the Cayman Islands to support the event, opened proceedings with a rare appearance for her in Europe with a brilliant talk on ”getting up  close”. She also assisted divers in the pool to get some great shots of our artificial reef that will stand them in good stead the next time they go diving. This was followed by the ever popular Duxy showing us that you do not need to break the bank to get great photos.

Martin Edge inspired us with shallow natural light techniques that could be used by free divers as well as scuba divers. Martin also got into the pool on Sunday to teach willing students these techniques using imitation Jellyfish floating at the surface.

After a well earned lunch we were back at it with a superb lesson on how to master our strobes by Alex Mustard. Alex also succeeded in donating the print that raised the most money at our auction – with competitive bidding for his wonderful shot of a weedy seadragon reaching £370.

Cathy Church and Alex Mustard
Cathy Church and Alex Mustard

Jukka Nurminen
showed us the treasures found beneath the Baltic Sea, Ali Hood from the Shark Trust informed us about the important work of this organisation and reminded us why we were all there. The day then the day reached it’s climax with a talk on Wreck Photography by Charlie Hood.

On Sunday we sprang back into action with wonderful shots of Pilot Whales in Gibraltar by Mark from Ocean Optics, followed by Maria Munn showing us how to get the money shots with a compact camera.

Peter Scoones
Peter Scoones

Peter Scoones
provided the grand finale by showing his award winning filming of wildlife around the world. He also allowed lucky participants at our in-water teaching session the chance to use his underwater video equipment that he used for iconic BBC series such as Blue Planet and Life.

The 3 hour long in-water tuition session saw Steve Warren, from Ocean Optics, using an underwater comms system, take a group of divers to try out different INON lenses and strobes with tuition using an artificial reef system sunk to the bottom of our 5m pool.

Martin Edge and Cathy Church also got in to assist our underwater photographers in macro and wide angle techniques.

Nick, from Frogfish Photography, assisted with those that wanted to photograph our professional model (Amy Finnimore) who also wore a monofin provided by the British Freediving Association. Another diver model from Orca Divers (Dawn Ticehurst) provided delegates the opportunity to practise various shots and poses. Orca Divers also provided scuba equipment for those that wanted to get in and have a go.

Paul 'Duxy' Duxfield, from Cameras Underwater, provided surface advice before each diver got into the water. The Cayman Island Department of Tourism also provided artificial coral from their Dive Show stand.

As well as the Visions in the Sea International Underwater Photography Competition, visitors could peruse the stands by the Shark Trust, Frogfish Photography, Ocean Optics, African Space, Cameras Underwater, Cayman Island Department of Tourism, Dive Quest, NUPG and BSoUP.  With lots of underwater photography and videography equipment on display for visitors to look at, places to go for wonderful underwater photographic opportunities and the companies to help then get here and underwater photography clubs from both the north and south of England as well as a display of the competition prizes to whet their appetite for the next event alongside Peter Scoones’ underwater video equipment that he designed himself. A photographic “Dive Safari” with Andrew Woodburn was a very popular holiday option being offered by African Space and Frogfish Photography for September 2010.

The winners of the competition are as follows:

Best in Show. judged by Martin Edge

Winner - Rene Kral with a great shot of a Whale Shark dappled in sunlight. Winning a trip with Worldwide Dive and Sail

Rene Kral

Mares Young Photographer of the Year

Winner - Christopher Moran with his wonderful shot of an Oceanic White Tip taken in Egypt. CJ is 12 years old and already has over 200 dives – so he is certainly one to look out for! Winning a Mares Regulator

Christopher Moran

Suunto British Open, judged by Charlie Hood

1st placeTom Ashton with a shot of a Hermit Crab on Brittle Stars taken in Scotland. Tom is a Phd student in St Andrews. Winning a D9.

Tom Ashton

2nd placeMark Thomas with a shot of a Tompot Blenny. Winning a D6.

Mark Thomas

3rd placeDerek Haslam with a shot of a Cuckoo Wrasse. Winning a D4.

O’Neill Open, judged by Dr Alex Mustard and Cathy Church

Wide Angle: Thomas Vignaud for his shot of a turtle reflecting in the surface. Winning an O’Neill Wetsuit

Thomas Vignaud

Macro: Thomas Vignaud for another superb shot – this time of a small group of fish taking shelter in a jellyfish taken in the south of France. Winning an O’Neill wetsuit

Thomas Vignaud

Elasmobranch: Eduord Kerinec with a shot of Mantas. Winning an O’Neill wetsuit

Eduord Kerinec

Amateur DSLR, judged by Mark Keokemoer and Jukka Nurminen

Wide Angle: William Bradley with a shot of his daughter swimming through a group of jacks in Malaysia,. Winning a Sea and Sea £250 voucher

William Bradley

Macro: Kay Newman with her squirellfish with black background. Winning an  Apeks Flight Regulato

Kay Newman

Elasmobranch: Steve Williams with his Caribbean Reef Shark with fishing hook trailing out of his mouth taken in the Bahamas. Winning a Bonica Video camera and housing

Amateur Compact, judged by Paul “Duxy” Duxfield and Maria Munn

Wide Angle: James Lea with his shot of 3 turtles taken in The Seychelles. James is a research scientist working for the Save Our Seas Foundation. Winning a Typhoon Prosport Drysuit

James Lea

Macro: Paul Smith with his anemonefish taken in Egypt. Winning an INON accessory

Paul Smith

Elasmobranch: Sarah Lewis with her wonderful split shot of a Manta and dive boat taken in the Maldives.Winning a Beaver Dive Bag, Tektite spotting light and a year’s subscription to Sport Diver

Sarah Lewis


We would like to thank our sponsors Africa Space and also Cameras Underwater, Cayman Island Department of Tourism, Dive Quest and Emperor Divers.  Ocean Optics for their support throughout whole event. Our staff at Frogfish Photography who made it all possible, the generous companies who provided prizes for the competition, Our guest speakers and the delegates who came along over the weekend. We would also like to thank the Shark Trust, especially Ali Hood, who supported this event from the very beginning, for all the work they do to protect these vulnerable creatures.

Behind the scenes

Alex Mustard has posted a report about Visions 2009 at

Quotes about the event

Martin Edge – Guest Speaker at Visions in the Sea:“ May I say that whatever you did at the weekend. It has the entire underwater photo world foaming at the mouth.  The praise for you and all those who helped get Visions off the ground has been unprecedented. Something about you two (Nick and Caroline of Frogfish Photography and Orca Divers) as organisers, the venue at the City Inn hotel, scooping Cathy Church, the party on Saturday evening and also the pool session Sunday afternoon - culminated in a very enjoyable weekend for every single person I have spoken to.”

Dr. Alex Mustard – Guest Presenter at Visions in the Sea :“highly enjoyable and inspiration weekend”
“V. happy my print made £370 for the Shark Trust, due to the generosity of the Orca/Visions crowd and Duxy as auctioneer. I really enjoyed the whole event. I thought that your organisation and the venue(s) were the best of any of the previous Visions……Anyway, it was a wonderful event and I have only been hearing very positive words from those that attended.”

Michael Aw:  “Great job! I look forward to be there next year”

Dave Morgan – delegate:  “an inspirational very good weekend, can't wait for the next one!! Thanks to all who made it possible”

Tim Moran – Wetpixel and delegate:  “What a terrific weekend! Thanks very much for organising the pinnacle event in British Underwater Photography. Well done to you both"

Alan Larsen – BSoUP and delegate : .” I just wanted to let you know that I had a great weekend in Manchester at Visions.  Well done both of you and the rest of your team – you put on a great event..!”

Atle - delegate who came all the way from Norway: “Now we are back in Norway and I want to thank you for a wonderful event in Manchester over the weekend.  The lectures was really interesting.”

Kay – delegate: “I just wanted to say thank you again from Kevin and myself, we thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and Kevin learned a lot about his new hobby – not least what he wants for Christmas! “

Mick and Kath – delegates: “Just a note to say thank you for the hard work you must have put in to make a fantastic weekend with the photo competition and diner the presentation by the speakers made the whole thing FAB looking to next year “