Berkley White: Unlike most competitions, we down play the contest and thus get to enjoy a very non-competitive atmosphere. Even with over $45,000 in prizes, we had a very supportive vibe throughout the week. We do have a few regular guests that are skilled shooters and it's great to see them share info with the new guests, and we all get to witness how hard they push their own creative limits. I believe our end of week contest really brings out the best in all of us.
Judging this year was incredibly difficult. So many great images to select on a tight schedule. In the judging room we first look at all images without comment and then pick selects on the second time through. The most difficult part is then selecting and ranking the top images. I've now judged close to a hundred contests and I'm quite certain each would have different results if judged on a different day. Thus is the random beauty of judged art competitions. For the Digital Shootout, I ask my fellow judges to rank photos by "would I put this on my wall." I think this criteria helps us select more simple and pleasing compositions… ones that will better stand the test of time. For video I ask, "would I share this video with friends." Is this a simple trip video or something that I'd tell my friends they have to watch?
Our best of show image is awarded the Jim Watt Award of Excellence. Many of our new guests never had the privilege to learn directly from Jim, but without knowing it, what they experienced here this week was part of his legacy. This year's award goes to an image that clearly shows the same unique thought, planning, and execution that Jim inspired us with many years ago. It's an honor to give Jeff Honda this award. His best of show image made us step back as judges, and is a shining example of the results of vision and hard work. I'd want that image on my wall. As Sterling said at the award ceremony, this image gives us hope for the future. Jim would be proud!
I can't wait to see the new shooters grow and experienced shooters thrive next year. Thank you all for making this the best Digital Shootout!
This morning, it was time to judge the competition, and it was a lengthy process to review the hundreds of entries. So many fantastic images and videos were submitted, it was really humbling to see all that our participants were able to achieve this week. Berkley, Erin and I each came to the table with our own opinions, and we had some great discussions and debates making the case for our favorite images.
One thing there was no debate about was this year's best in show. A hearty congratulations to Jeff Honda, this year's winner of Video, Wide Angle unrestricted, and the Jim Watt Award for the best in show image. Jeff has been working extremely hard on improving his underwater shooting skills over the last year, and the results clearly showed in his beautiful video and images.
In particular, the overall winning image is one of the best photographs I've seen in a long time, and is a remarkable achievement. It succeeds as a picture not only on its strong technical and aesthetic merit, but for its powerful emotional content. It's about humanity's connection to nature, the joy of discovery, and hope for future generations. I find it truly fitting that this photograph would win an award bearing Jim Watt's name. I'm sure that Jim, wherever he may be, is smiling with approval, as this is exactly the image he would have loved.
Well done Jeff, and congratulations to all of our other winners, and everyone for their great work this week. You guys really worked your tails off, and delivered an amazing pool of images in a very short time. Thanks to the all of the DSO staff, the Divi Resort staff, and all of the attendees for an incredibly inspiring week. I can't wait for next year! See you in Little Cayman!
Jennifer Penner: Joel and I thoroughly enjoyed diving with all of you this past week. Thanks for all the crazy boat antics which we were able to preserve in the time-lapse videos... memories to last for many years to come!
To the beginning shooters: keep shooting and don't get discouraged. Practice, practice, practice the basics and soon you'll see very pleasing results.
Hope to see everyone next year at the 2012 Digital Shootout in Little Cayman!
Jim Decker: This morning was the bait ball. One of the best dives of my life. I don't need to say anymore.
Today is the last day. It was great to dive and shoot with everyone this week. I got to dive with some old friends and make some new ones. For me, this is what it is all about, to answer Harry Martin's question "Why do we do this?". For me the Shootout is about capturing memories, and preserving them for the future.
It was the end of show awards ceremony tonight. There has been some really good shooting, especially on the macro side of things. The NightSea fluoro shots are really amazing. The best way I can describe it is like being in the movie Avatar. Jeff's video was really cool. It's great to see him bounce back after having a rough start to the week. Congratulations to all the winners! We hope to see everyone back at the 11th Annual Digital Shootout in Little Cayman in 2012!
Rusty Sanoian: Today we headed south past the Salt Pier. I was using my Dive X scooter and trusty Canon 5D MKII camera hoping to get some eagle ray footage. The wind was really blowing and it was raining/overcast. Once we hit the water and got on the reef, it was dark and murky. We searched around looking for rays but had no luck. There were quite a few lionfish though. Lionfish have invaded this part of the Caribbean and the local divemasters are trying to eradicate them, it’s a daily battle. The second site was Angel City with a large school of jacks and a resident frogfish that most of our group had been photographing throughout the week.
We also were very lucky today and had a chance to go to a spot where a huge baitball has been for quite some time. I grabbed my Dive X scooter and 5D MKII and we headed north. Once we arrived at the site, you could see the baitball from the surface, it was huge! We jumped in and were enveloped in a cloud of fish. There were several large tarpons feeding on the school and a couple groups of jacks diving on them. The baitball was in 10ft of water and allowed us to stay on site for quite awhile, they never went deeper than 30ft. I was very careful to keep the sun at my back and constantly watched the exposure. I was not shooting with lights and was using a Canon fisheye lens and wanted to make sure the fish had detail without overexposing them..
Charlie Mazel & Ross Kniffin: End of a great week. Tonight was the closing party and the awards presentation. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves immensely during the week, not to mention learning a lot and improving their photo skills. There were more than 30 contest submissions in the NIGHTSEA Fluorescence category, from 13 different contributors. All beautiful shots and tough judging, and the winners were really spectacular. Boaz Meiri’s shot of the eel and the anemone (see Day 3) was the clear winner – great composition of two nicely fluorescing subjects. And second place? None other than Miranda Johnson, who was on her first night dive!
There was even fluorescence outside the fluorescence category. Jeff Honda had some great fluorescence footage in his first-place entry in the video category, and Steve Cheng’s prize-winning shot in the macro category was also a fluorescence image. Nice to see it creeping into the mainstream already!
Thanks to everyone who made the Digital Shootout a great experience – the Shootout staff, the enthusiastic guests, Divi Flamingo, and Serge at the Divi dive shop.
Mary Lynn Price: Wow, I can't believe how great some of the photo and video entries are this year! The judging was particularly difficult but, fortunately, some entries really stood out. For the videos, I always wish we could show all of them at the awards event but time just doesn't permit.
We have a fantastic showing this year--lots of talent and lots of hard work. Congratulations to everyone who entered their images and video!!
Erin Quigley: No blood was spilled, but it took us most of the day (and about a gallon of coffee) to select the winners for this year's DSO. We had 350+ still images and 7 videos to look at, sift through, and compare. It was a difiicult job to narrow down each category to just a few winners, and every participant, prize-winner or not, should be thrilled with the beautiful images they're taking home. I'm already looking forward to next year.
Jean Bruneau: Today I did the house reef... twice, and will do the same tomorrow morning, it’s a very densely populated site, tons of fishes and mostly going about their business. I guess we were not the first divers they ever saw. I did my best macro work of the trip right there, great shrimps, blennies and the works, plenty of grunts, lizard fish etc.
On a technical note, we will introduce a six pins circuitry for the strobe connectors of our Aquatica housing for Canon soon. Two preproduction units I had with me, Ed Meyers from Canon USA, has been giving it a good run, and came out of the water pretty impressed. I saw his shrimp shots on a white anemone, boy not only were they tack sharp, but exposure was right on the button. (Note to myself, upgrade ED’s housing to new specs!) This new connector has been a long time coming and am I ever glad to see circuitry working in a real life environment. With these new connectors, you can give any Canon DSLR access to wired strobes TTL. While our Aquatica housings for the 7D and T2i do offer optical fibre, which is BTW excellent, the 5D Mk II as well as the 1DS Mk III & 1D Mk IV do not have a built-in flash to activate the optical strobe. For these high end cameras, it’s a hard wired solution, that until recently would only allow manual exposure of the strobes.
So now all that you will need to do is get a Sea & Sea TTL converter, hook it up to our Aquatica housing for Canon, which when coupled with TTL strobes such as the Sea & Sea YS-110 or YS-250 will give the Canon DSLR users access to TTL.
Tonight is show time. The judges have been indoors all day, all very hush, hush and I am sure very worn out from deciding the winning entries. If what I saw in the daily slide show is any indication, and knowing quite well that many have kept their secret weapon shots in hiding until today, then we are in for quite a show tonight. I bet ya that even the mosquitoes will be too busy watching the screen to bother taking a swing at us.
It's a wrap for most of us, sniff, the Shootout has kind of become a sort of Thanksgiving reunion for a lot of us. A time to catch up, a time to create new images, to be thankful that someone a long time ago thought it would be a good idea to suck air from a can and to voluntarily put a camera underwater. One year to go and it's Little Cayman, with its majestic wall, its friendly grouper and its lush wide angle vistas. I know that many already have plans on being there, I know I do. I want to test new gear, to have you discover new combinations of lenses, ports, camera and light. To get up in the morning and know my jaw will drop to the floor again and again at every evening slide show. If you are into underwater photography, I don't think there is a better place on earth than being at a Digital Shootout, its a fraternity.
Ed Meyers: So far, this trip for me has been about practicing manual techniques for underwater shooting. It actually brought back memories of shooting products with old manual strobes back in the day…..Wait a minute! Shooting all manual IS like work!!
Jean from AquaticA introduced me to the Sea & Sea TTL converter which works with the new version of their 5DMkII housing with a 6 pin connector. This new housing makes it easy to work in a TTL world.
Shooting TTL was a much more pleasant way of shooting. It's much easier to be responsive and still get exposures that are spot on. It also gives more choices to set the camera on Manual, Aperture Priority, or even Program.
Now I can concentrate on focus and capturing that perfect fish smile :)
The awards party was simply amazing! It must have been quite a project to judge all those fantastic images. It has been an inspiring week to be here among such passionate and talented image makers. It's also been a fantastic opportunity for attendees and staff to shoot pieces of gear that they haven't had a chance to shoot before. Looking forward to next year…Chuckie, you gonna make it?
Chris Parsons: Last day. Wow, this week has flown by. I don't think I sat down for more than 20 minutes at a time the whole week. I think I could charge/change batteries and check o-rings in my sleep at this point. Which is a good thing after another crazy late night of shooting fluorescence.
The images that these people created during this event are absolutely amazing. Congratulations to all who entered and to all who won; absolutely wonderful, inspiring work. Mike, the person who I mentioned a few days days ago who put his Nauticam rig together for the very first time, walked away with not one but two top prizes in the wide angle category. And I want to say a special congratulations to my friend Jeff ,who produced a truly singular image that won best in show. It's an absolutely inspiring image and represents so much of why I love this world of underwater photography.
Cheers everyone and see you next year!
Marissa Wiganowske: All photos were submitted for the contest, but all boats were still flooded with divers to get better and better shots based off of what they learned this week. With a fun dive on boat five, everyone seemed to be full of tricks and some wetsuits that could use a serious cleaning. Hint, hint Philip. It’s awesome to hear divers come up after using the Thruster and say that they would have never been able to get in front of that Eagle Ray to get their shot without it. The Thruster gets you ahead and along side the marine life that is hard to keep up with. It may be the last day, but I managed to snag a demo rig myself to take a few photos underwater. How can you not catch the buzz being around these guys. Before the awards, a few snuck off for one last dive with the bait ball. The way the Tarpon were coming through, and the flashing, it was just remarkable. However, one diver ran their Thruster battery down. Bummer? Nope. I removed my full powered battery from the Thruster on my tank and switched it with his underwater. With everything underwater pluggable, the issue was resolved with ease and people were Thrustering with fresh batteries before they new it.
Talk about three days that turned into ten plus. It was an epic week, and I thank everyone for the nice welcome and opportunity to introduce others to a new product. I’ll be looking for those next year that were kicking themselves they didn’t try it this go around. The Digital Shootout has been nothing short of amazing for all...