The British Society of Underwater Photographers (BSoUP) has hosted an annual splash-in contest for over forty years. As such, it is acknowledged as the British Underwater Photography Championship. The event has, for the past few years, been held in Plymouth on the UK’s South Devon coast which provides access to some excellent diving as well as a venues for the associated dinner and awards ceremony.
For the 2012 Championship, some 39 entrants gathered in Plymouth for the splash-in on Saturday 14 July. All entrants were required to register their memory cards with the organisers on the evening before the event, and then had all day on the Saturday to capture their images before submitting them for judging between 4.30 and 6. There was then a buffet dinner, followed by a viewing of the entries and the judges selections.
I met members of the Bristol Underwater Photography Group at 8am at Fort Bovisand for a day of diving and photography on-board Discovery Diving’s dive boat “Red Alert.”
Conditions on the morning were bright, if not sunny, although there had been several days of wet windy weather in the preceding days. The skipper, Danny Daniels suggested that the day’s first dives would be on two of the area’s signature wrecks, the James Egan Lane or HMS Scylla.
As it happened, the group were undecided which would present the best opportunities, so Danny offered to put one group on the Scylla, and one on the Egan Lane. I elected to dive the Scylla, if for no other reason than it is the only purposely sunk wreck/artificial reef in Europe, having “gone down” seven years ago.
The wreck is now carpeted with life, with coverings of dead men’s fingers (Alcyonium digitatum), jewel anemones (Corynactis viridian) and other encrusting soft corals.
I watched Charles Erb setting up his self-portrait, with his camera set to self timer while he posed between two encrusted bollards.
Rick Ayrton found a protruding structure to serve as a subject.
Rob Bailey shot macro subjects while Paula Bailey found a red scorpionfish to capture with her compact camera (despite professing to not knowing how it works!)
Conditions were somewhat challenging, with limited visibility creating problems with lighting and wide-angle photography in general.
We then moved on in search of another site for the second dive. We visited a site close on shore, but after a “recce” kindly conduced by Rick, decided that the reef was too small to accommodate 9 photographers, moved on to a second reef site. This was festooned with sea urchins (Echinus esculentus) and sea fans.
Jules Kaye went off in search of macro subjects:
The visibility was much better than that that we had experienced on the reefs and the reef lent itself to wide-angle images, especially with a model.
We then returned to shore and all the entrants gathered at the Hotel Mount Batten for entry submission and a buffet dinner. The BSoUP staff were hard at work receiving competitor’s images.
JP Trenque concentrating on getting the entries logged:
The judges for the day:
As is traditional at these events, the entrants retired to the bar!
Once the entries had all been received, and the contestant’s had eaten, the event adjourned to the nearby Mountbatten Center for a slideshow of all the images entered in the contest, followed by the judges selections and awards ceremony.
With BSoUP President Brian Pitkin acting as compère, the evening’s events initially kicked off with a show of all the images that had been entered into the championship.
Earlier in the evening, he had described to me how in the days of film, entrants images had actually been developed in a makeshift darkroom in a bedroom at the hotel. He also mentioned that this meant that the prize award ceremony normally ended early in the small hours of the morning!
After a short recess, the judges returned with their selections.
Overall winner and winner of the Marine Life category:
Tim, well-known on the Wetpixel forums, shot his winning image without strobes, using a Light and Motion focus light to illuminate the picture. He wins a 7-day luxury liveaboard holiday for two in the Maldives (exclusive of flights and taxes) courtesy of Maldives Scuba Tours.
Marine Life runner-up:
Mankind in the Sea:
Charles receives the Underwater Visions Trophy and a £250 voucher from Underwater Visions.
Mankind in the Sea runner-up:
Theme category (Crustaceans).
Rob receives the Sport Diver Trophy and a £200 voucher from Sea & Sea.
Theme category runner-up:
Paula will receive a free place on a one-day course run by Maria Munn of Ocean Visions.
Compact camera runner-up.
Humorous (public vote).
Martin will receive the AP Valves Trophy and a Buddy BCD donated by AP Valves.
Congratulations to all the competition entries, and especially to all the winners of course.
Many thanks to the Bristol Underwater Photography Group and my companions on the boat for their company and patience in accommodating and posing for an interfering journalist. BSoUP kindly fed and accommodated me for the event, again many thanks. The organisation of the competition was seamless and a fantastic tribute to all the hard work put in by the volunteer organisers.
The BSoUP splash-in is probably the longest running event of its type in the world. The 2012 contest once again proved how events like this can bring out the best in photographers “on the day.” I look forward to 6 July 2013 for the next one!