Ocean Art Photo Competition 2014 Judges Comments

Ocean Art Judges Comment on the Competition
By UWPG News


Ocean Art Photo Competition 2014

Judges' comments


Marty Snyderman

The author of Dive Training magazine's Behind the Lens column, Marty Snyderman has made his living as an underwater photographer, photography instructor, author and speaker for close to 40 years.



I have been involved in judging this contest for several years, and it seems like every year all of us say something along the lines of “wow, these images are even better than last year’s”, and “I sure am glad I am a judge, not a contestant. I’d get blown away”. The truth is all of us are knocked out by many of the images we see and do our best to judge.

And with regard to judging, I think we make a good team. Clearly, we don’t score all of the images exactly the same, and that speaks to the fact that all of us see the world slightly differently. That also means that just because an image doesn’t win a prize doesn’t mean the image is inferior, or wrong. We are all entitled to our own taste.

The bottom line for me is that I find the collections of images to be inspiring, and I find the exchanges with my fellow judges to be educational and fun with all comments made to do the best we can for the contest and the contestants. I hope I get asked to be a judge again next year.



Martin Edge

Author of "The Underwater Photographer", a best selling book on learning underwater photography.



Congratulations to the Ocean Art Photo Team.  Another very high standard of underwater images and so many entries this year.  

As always, it's the second round of images, which are so close to each other, that make it very hard to call.  

During our late night (for myself on UK time) critique of images, it was a challenge to distinguish between a first place and a honourable mention.  As always, Marty, Tony, Scott and myself argued and negotiated into the night with our likes, dislikes and considered opinions.  My advice to entrants would be: 

1.  Don't enter an almost identical image you did last year. We remember!

2.  Look out for unwanted distractions along the edge of the image. There's nothing worse to hinder your primary subject!

3.  Some potential contenders lost out from both over processing and over sharpening.  Resist the temptation to "Give it a little bit more'.

4.  99.9 % of the time, eyes (if visible) have to be sharp.

With all said, we have different opinions of likes and dislikes and believe me, 'You'd all like to be 'fly on the wall' when judging this competition.

Last but not least.  The 'Best in Show' image, in my opinion was simply incredible from the very first moment I set eyes on it.  Simply loved this shot!



Tony Wu

Author of a coffee table book entitled Silent Symphony, which received the grand prize for best book of the year at Antibes in 2001. He also won the prestigious Veolia environment wildife photographer of the year award.



It was once again a pleasure to look through submitted images and to trade opinions and discuss views with my fellow judges. I enjoy the constructive dialogue that takes behind the scenes of this contest, as it gives me an opportunity to consider other points of view, and more importantly, to listen to and learn from the reasons why other judges may like or dislike a given image.

Along these lines, I’d like to offer the observation that although the judges may disagree on a range of topics and about the merits of a specific image, there are some things we pretty much all agree upon. These are things worth considering if you plan to enter any photo contest.

One, for instance, is that none of us likes copies. In other words, if we see that a submission is nearly identical to a previous winning image (whether in this contest or another), chances are high that it’ll be binned. This will probably be the case even if the image is a good one.

“Why?" You might ask. Well, originality is important. There is nothing wrong with learning and improving by emulating an image you like, but in the context of a photo contest, a carbon copy is just…a carbon copy. 

Second is manipulation of subjects. The advantage of having judges who have been around the block a few times is that it’s relatively easy for us to pick out images where the subjects have been handled. This is particularly true of small, relatively sedentary subjects like nudibranchs.

And finally, basic photo techniques matter. I’m a particular stickler about things like focus, lighting, composition, and such. There was one image in particular that I personally loved, and I know the other judges were very fond of as well. The sad thing was that it was not in focus. Though we agonized about it, there is no way I can endorse an out-of-focus image as a selection for a photo contest (unless of course being out of focus is intentional and part of the overall composition and style).

Congratulations to all the winners! You gave us lots to talk about during the selection process.


Scott Gietler

Owner of the Underwater Photography Guide, Bluewater Photo, Bluewater Travel, and founder of the Ocean Art photo competition.


I continue to be amazed and humbled by the quality of photos taken by the entrants. I also continue to learn about photography.Thanks to Tony, Marty, and Martin - I continue to look at photos in new and interesting ways. Tony forces me to examine composition, focus and originality, Martin prods me to think about originality and lighting, and Marty reminds me that a classic, common subject can result in a beautiful photo.

This year in particular, I think there was an emphasis on originiality, creativity, lighting and a natural environment. For example, the crab photo that won the portrait category, not the most beautiful subject but certainly a special image photographically compared to the other candidates. Thanks to one of the judges for really making a case to the rest of us how special that photo was.

I particularly liked the behavior category this year, with no shortage of amazing once in a lifetime shots, all well-executed. The compact macro category was also quite extra-ordinary this year.

All of the judges, including myself, were quite amazed by Arek's shot of the diver with the Napolean Wrasse - which was definitely a contender for best of show. The judges said that if the diver was looking at the fish, no one would have voted for the photo.

Many thanks to everyone who entered the competition, we appreciate your support. Congrats to all the winners, and good luck to everyone next year. - Scott



Back to the Ocean Art 2014 Winners page



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