Our guides have been diving a lot with the camera over the last year, and they’ve made some stunning images with our rental camera fleet. The most used camera was the Olympus TG-4, which has recently been replaced by a TG-5 due to a leak! The GH-4 was the next most popular, with the 1Dx being the most daunting prospect to use as it is all manual, and also not really a camera you want to get wet!

Judging was performed by Simon Buxton, Mike Veitch (www.mikeveitchblog.com) and Alex Lindbloom (www.alexlindbloom.com). Judging took just over 45 minutes as we made the rules quite simple. Cropping and photoshop allowed, but use should not be excessive. We allow this to take the pressure off the critters, as of course these guys all know how to make a shot happen! Allowing more photoshop use means that photographers tend to spend less time maneuvering animals (to get a black background for example). We also did not reward rare animals, we distilled it down to sharpness, exposure and composition as the key criteria, and once those had been approved we debated our favourites. Cropping was allowed without limit.

The Prizes

The Runners-Up

As you can see, the quality of images is quite high, most of these images would have been vying for the top spot had they gone a little further either on editing or photographic technique. Below is some feedback from teh judges as to what they could have improved.

For the hairy shrimp, we felt that the composition was not strong enough, but for a new photographer Nope can take encouragement from this and work on his technique for next year.

Gigs surprised us with this one, as I know what else he has on the camera room computer, we felt the image was flat due to the lack of colour in the image. He should have picked one of his other excellent images from his collection.

Boa is not only new to underwater photography, but also to technology! He’s working hard on it and getting better every week, next year he should be up with the rest of them. For us the snoot light from the torch should have also hit the tail of the animal. Zanzibar Shrimp are a great subject to practise on as they are plentiful and you won’t likely find a queue of photographers waiting to shoot them!

Nando is a purist – this is a no crop no photoshop submission, other than a few basic tweaks. If there had been a little more light on the face of the goby and the distracting flare at the bottom of the image was cropped out then he would have been more successful in the judging rounds.

We thought this Banggai image was great, however on zooming in the eye of the Banggai was not sharp enough to make it to the next round. If the eye was sharp then this may well have made it into the top 3.

Stenli’s Hairy Frogfish – Again, we liked it, it is a sharp well centered image with great catch light on the eyes, but somehow it was missing something that would have made it a winner. Likely the image was too dark and lacked the brightness. The funny thing with this one, is that Stenli edits most of the other guides images in lightroom, yet he has under developed his own shot here!

The Harlequin shrimp – there’s nothing wrong with the photo per se, it just didnt have enough depth of field in our opinion, it needed more as the out of focus claw was distracting. This is a limitation of the TG4, so Rockles will have to step up to a bigger camera for the next year if he wants this kind of shot.

Honourable Mention

Risman and Amba came close, Risman’s pipefish was Simon’s favourite shot of the collection, but when you’re judging in a group of 3, sometimes you get beaten down! The colour matching of the red eye to green background is excellent and the shallow depth of field technique was carried out masterfully (according to Simon). However there was another pipefish shot in the mix and this one fell down the field. Risman won a NAD drybag for his efforts.

Amba’s blackwater pelagic octopus is cleanly lit, and the eye is tack sharp. Technique wise this is a bit of an anomaly to our criteria, but the image jumped out of the group, in particular the shallower depth of field in this shot. Amba won a NAD drybag for his photo.

Honourable mention and above also received a framed print of their winning image, in addition to their prize.

The Winners

Within the top 3 it was quite close, and once we had argued about which pipefish was getting through it became a little more simple. All images were strong, and we think the team did a great job.

3rd Place

Joni Malintoi – Shallow DOF Pipefish- 3rd place.

Joni’s image provided sharp focus, and good use of the shallow depth of field technique to isolate the eyes, this image had a prettier pipefish and the judges felt that the composition of the subject led to a more captivating image. Joni won an orange dry bag worth around $100.

Good Job Joni!

Runner Up

Backlit Rhinopias in Lembeh
Paulus Naumang – Backlit Rhinopias in Lembeh – 2nd place

Paulus did a great job with the TG4 here. Paulus is the first to admit he doesn’t like a complicated camera set up. He likes the simplicity of shooting with a small camera and a hand torch, and based on this picture he’s doing a great job. Paulus won a white drybag worth around $130.

Excellent work Paulus!

1st Place

Shrimp in sponge
Johan Lumonang – Shrimp in sponge – 1st place

This shot stood out from the beginning, and after every round of selection it made it through and proved to be the eventual winner. Again, simple technique of compact camera with torch proved to be successful, and of course the unusualness of this image helped it to stay in our minds as we were looking at the other entries.

However, the result is not without contention! Unbeknownst to the judges (including Simon) this image was actually from previous year, however as Johan had been recovering from a bend for a good portion of 2018 (first physically and then psychologically) he had been given a pass by the guides and Zee at the time of submission. You’ll be pleased to know Johan is back to full diving form, and has been so busy diving with his repeat guests he hasn’t had chance to get a run with the camera in 2018. Johan won a Citizen Promaster divewatch worth around $300.

Congratulations Johan!

  • 3 guides did not take part in the competition.


To show what Stenli is capable of i edited Stenli’s image again. Here it is below. The problem is that the image was set to white balance with too much orange, I pulled the slider towards blue, and did a little dodge and burn in lightroom (with Stenli) and came up with this: