Choosing winners for this year’s British Underwater Image Festival (BUIF) proved a challenging task, as the proportion of first class entries was greater than ever across all the sections. In total, there were 750 individual entries from 17 different countries. BUIF presentations are due to made at the Divefest event held at Pentewan Sands, Cornwall on Sunday 2 May.
As has been the case in previous years, the CPS Portfolio section gave the judges the most difficult choice. The remit for this section is very simple; it is left to the photographer to decide whether to enter a personal ‘best-of’, or a selection that is themed by subject, colour or technique. A decision on the running order took some time, but in the end we decided that Keri Wilk’s painstaking use of alternative lighting techniques made his entry, ‘Ambon’ stand out from the crowd.
In second place was Peter Tatton’s atmospheric black and white photographs of a deep wreck, the Germaine, off the Cornish coast – his fascination with the subject material was evident in every shot. Warren Baverstock’s set of whale sharks from Djibouti was a popular choice for third place, each image showing a different perspective of this iconic fish.
Mega-fauna dominated the PADI Compact section, suggesting that digi-compacts are now fast enough to capture big animals on the move. The judges were impressed with the graphic simplicity of Jo Mahy’s turtle portrait, though it was a very close-run thing with David Nurse’s epic manta ray image, which was placed second.
A raft of high-quality entries in the Apeks British section also prompted long discussion among the judges, but it was felt that Dan Bolt’s extraordinary image of a John Dory being cleaned by a spider crab was the standout achievement. His image provides a unique insight into the life of this enigmatic fish. Freshwater photographs were a common theme this year, and Tony Gilbert’s vivid portrait of a sturgeon was a popular choice for second place, with Gavin Parson’s helmet diver coming in third.
The Sea & Sea Open section was the closest-fought of the prints categories; the judges thought the overall standard was the highest they had seen at BUIF, and several commendations were made in addition to the top three awards. Jeffrey de Guzman’s super-macro shrimp portrait impressed with its sharpness and detail, but was pushed into third place by Dennis Vandermeersh’s dramatic photograph of a shark swimming over a shipwreck, which came second.
After much discussion, the judges settled on Sterling Zumbrunn’s dynamic scene of Atlantic dolphins at night for first place. Thematically, this was familiar ground – many photographers on board the Shearwater liveaboard have had the opportunity to photograph dolphins feeding on flying fish in the Gulf Stream off Florida. However, it is a difficult photograph to execute well with a single dolphin, let alone three moving quickly, and in complete darkness. The image benefits from well-directed lighting and the cameraman’s instinctive framing – a worthy winner in the open section.