Ocean Art Wide-Angle Winner

By Phil Sokol

Wide-Angle Underwater Beauty

An underwater photographer shares how he got the winning wide-angle shot in the 2010 Ocean Art Photo Competition.

By Phil Sokol & Vijay Raman



Sometimes circumstances can come together to put you in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment, to get an award winning shot when you least expect it. Such was the case with Phil Sokol’s winning image, “Under the Jetty”, in the Ocean Art Competition.


Jetty at Air Borei, Raja Ampat

Winning Shot, Under The Jetty

Canon 40D, Subal housing, Inon Z240 Strobes, ISO 200, f/7.1 at 1/250th sec.


Phil was on a liveaboard trip, exploring the northern region of Raja Ampat, aboard the SMY Ondina. On that day, they had planned to dive with mantas at the famous dive site, Air Borei AKA Manta Point, off the island of Gam. Conditions were great, as could be expected for the region, in May. However, the mantas were not as expected.


Over/Under photo of Jetty at Air Borei

Over/Under of the Jetty near Air Borei

ISO 200, f/16 at 1/250 sec.


Phil explains, “It was the second dive of the day. We had initially tried for Mantas at a dive site called Manta Point, but got ‘skunked’ on the first dive, so our trip leader decided to move the boat to the nearby village.” At the village there were 2 jettys. The second dive was conducted at the old jetty, where the villagers also had a small clam farm. “We were told there was great macro under the jetty, but I still had my wide angle set up on from the failed manta dive. Instead of shooting macro, I was really more interested in trying some wide angle with the pilings of the jetty. I was hoping for a good subject on the pilings for close focus wide angle with an interesting background. I got my wish! It was a sunny day, calm, with little to no current, which allowed me to set up right near a piling and spend time getting the shot."


Black and White of school of baitfish

ISO 200, f/9 at 1/250 sec.


"There was a huge school of baitfish under and around the jetty, at least 15 ft. deep, so thick they blocked out the sun if you were underneath. The pilings of the older jetty were actually fairly bare, but I spotted the one big soft coral, in about 10 feet of water and set up beneath it. There was a school of hunting trevally patrolling the boundary and every once in a while they would rush through the bait fish, sending shock waves rippling through the packed bait fish. You could feel the tension rise before the trevally came through!” Being in shallow water with the mid-day sun, “I avoided the bright sun as much as possible while still trying to get the line of the piling through the baitfish. I tried a number of angles and strobe settings before getting the shot”. Phil was using a Canon 40D in a Subal housing, with Inon Z240 strobes. The strobes were at the side and pulled back, the left one closer in at 1/4 power to light the soft coral and the right one out farther at 1/2 power to add a touch of light to the baitfish. Camera settings were ISO 200, f/7.1 at 1/250 sec. 


Batfish and Baitfish under the Jetty

Batfish and Baitfish under the jetty.

ISO 200, f/8 at 1/250 sec.


With some foresight and a little luck, what could have been a macro dive based on recommendation, became an amazing wide angle opportunity. As Phil says, “not only was there an amazing school of baitfish and hunting trevally, but also a school of semi-cooperative batfish under the jetty as well.” That makes for a winner of a wide-angle dive!

Phils prize for the winning shot is an 18 night trip in Papua New Guinea; 10 nights on the Febrina and 4 nights in Walindi, sponsored by Walindi, and 4 nights in Loloata! Congratulations Phil, for a great shot and winning a fantastic prize!






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