2020 Underwater Tour Awards Winners

The Underwater Tour Awards recently announced the winners of its inaugural photography competition. Hundreds of images were submitted from around the world. Winning entries were selected by a panel of judges led by 6-time winner of the AIPP Professional Nature Photographer of the Year competition, Darren Jew.

The Guru Award, bestowed on the photographer who submitted at least 5 images, and had the best collection, went to Chelsea Haebich. An accompanying Q&A session is included with the 5 Guru images on display below. ‘I am still a few inches off the ground. I genuinely did not think I was in for a chance as I watched all the other amazing shots winning categories!’ exclaimed Haebich. ‘Winning this award might make me stop doubting myself and have a bit more faith in my abilities. Something I struggle with for sure.’

‘Moving forward I hope it can put my work out there further and bring people and connections into my life that will help me grow as a photographer and further share this astounding world with more people,’ Haebich continued. ‘I love seeing people’s curiosity and hearing their questions about the Underwater World. If winning lets me share that more, grow more and impact more people then that would be wonderful and very fulfilling.’

The next Underwater Tour and photography competition is set to commence May 13th, 2021.

Winner, Guru Award: Chelsea Haebich (Adelaide, Australia)

UTA: What was it that inspired you to take up nature photography?

CH: I came to diving somewhat later in life than most people and had never picked up a camera, but that first dive, nine years ago, under the Jetty at Rapid Bay in South Australia just blew my mind. I was inspired by the colors and the creatures. The variety and energy just astounded me.

I was so excited about what I saw and wanted to share it with anyone who would listen, but I found it so hard to convey what I was experiencing in words, so I grabbed a camera and never looked back! A little Panasonic point and shoot. Loved it. My long held fear of cameras went out the window pretty fast from there on, apart from Instructing, I hardly ever enter the water without a camera.

I feel compelled to capture what I see and feel, from the tiniest Clingfish, to the towering pylons of our local Jetties. I have always loved nature and animal interactions and now I feel inspired daily to capture that in images as best I can.

Winner, Guru Award: Chelsea Haebich (Adelaide, Australia)

UTA: How will winning the Underwater Tour Award help you moving forward?

CH: Personally, winning this award might make me stop doubting myself and have a bit more faith in my abilities. Something I struggle with for sure! Moving forward I hope it can put my work out there further and bring people and connections into my life that will help me grow as a photographer and further share this astounding world with more people.

I love seeing peoples curiosity and hearing their questions about the Underwater World. If winning lets me share that more, grow more and impact more people then that would be wonderful and very fulfilling.

Winner, Guru Award: Chelsea Haebich (Adelaide, Australia)

UTA: What do you consider your own challenges when taking photos?

CH: What do I consider my own challenges when taking photos (I was going to say something about the challenge of a permanently empty bank account, but I don’t think that is what you are looking for here in this question). Seriously, though, my challenges when taking photos is getting out of my comfort zone and experimenting more. I work a regular job full time and don’t get to dive as often as I like, so I want bang for my buck when I do.

I love to come home with new images to edit and explore and sometimes I don’t think I push myself and risk a card full of learning errors because I need to come home with something! So time would be the other challenge. I really have to push everything else aside to get the dive time I want, often neglecting other important life matters…which of course I can TOTALLY justify at the time.

Winner, Guru Award: Chelsea Haebich (Adelaide, Australia)

UTA: What is your aim when you’re taking images?

CH: My aim when taking images is to capture something about the animal or moment that makes people keep looking. With tiny creatures I love to capture the detail that often can’t see until I’m home looking at it on my computer. This draws me back to images to keep seeing detail. I really like to capture character and humor as well. Right or wrong I find many of the behaviors and habits of Marine creatures very comical and endearing. I love to capture character as it gives people something to relate to when they look at an image.

The image of the Australian Sea Lion is an example of that. The look it’s giving the camera conjures up images of peoples own puppies at home. Marine life is so often seen as cold and glassy eyed. I try and capture those personalities, or at least the personalities I see! I want people to connect and find something they love in a world they could never image themselves entering. I believe people will protect and look after things they love and understand better. So I guess my aim is connection, both for myself in the moment and for others when viewing the images.

Winner, Guru Award: Chelsea Haebich (Adelaide, Australia)

UTA: Do you have any preferred underwater subject or concept?

CH: I don’t have a preferred underwater subject or concept when I dive. Sometimes I have a goal or a shot in mind, but on the day I really like to just see what is presenting itself when I am down there. I don’t like to turn down opportunities with a critter or a shot just because I have a set goal. I really like to just let the world pass me by while I am down there and see what my eye picks up on.

I dive and set up my camera to the conditions we have here in South Australia and try to make the most of the day. Sometimes wide angle happens, but macro is more reliable here in SA. I don’t set out with any very set ideas. It’s part of what I love. I never know what I am going to come back with. It does mean you have to be on your toes with your settings and sometimes completely rethink what you are doing, but that all part of it for me. It helps me switch off.

Winner, Underwater Scenes: Pavlos Evangelidis (Brussels, Belgium)

Artist Statement: Leru Cut in Solomon Islands is one of my favorite dive sites. It goes under the island for about 100 meters at a depth up to 23 meters. It really comes alive when the sun is out and the sunrays break through the cracks but photography here can be challenging because of the extreme light conditions and the deep shadows.

Winner, Underwater Characters: Simone Caprodossi (Byron Bay, Australia)

Artist Statement: Northern Gannets fighting for a fish in Shetland Island UK.

Winner, Aquatic Abstracts: Louise Nott (Lane Cove, Australia)

Artist Statement: Pineapple Swirl, Sydney Harbour NSW.

Winner, Topside Scenes: Yung Sen Wu (Keelung City, Taiwan)

Artist Statement: These Pacific species of salmon will come to the west coast of Canada from the distant sea every autumn, return to the birthplace of the inland river through the estuary, and look for the estuary of the estuary, the temperature of the river, and the environment.

Winner, Underwater Black and White: Richard Condlyffe (Battle Creek, USA)

Artist Statement: Two Spotted Dolphins look as though they’re communicating and watching something out of shot. Bimini, Bahamas.

Winner, People’s Choice Awards: Pierre-Laurent Pablo (Nimes Languedoc, Philippines)

Artist Statement: Frog Fish hanging at Southern Leyte in Philippines.

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