Ocean Art 2018

3rd Place - Wide Angle
Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The Story: I've long dreamt of Cabo Pulmo's Jack tornado, since being inspired by an image from marine ecologist, Octavio Aburto, some years ago. After a failed attempt in 2017, I returned to Cabo Pulmo in 2019 hoping to catch a glimpse. It is difficult to plan dives in Cabo Pulmo because the National Park implements a first-come, first-serve, quota system for the maximum number of divers allowed on each site per week. To my surprise, the most popular dive sites were already closed upon my arrival. On the second dive day, we lucked out and found the Jacks. Descending from the surface, I immediately saw the largest school of fish I’ve ever seen. One moment, they were a massive wall, blocking out the sun. Next, they were a "river" of fish flowing from the surface to the ocean floor. And then they transformed into a spinning tornado around my dive guide, Moctezuma, who could see the surface through the "eye" of the tornado. Since I had a fisheye lens, I was thankfully able to capture much of the scene from very close-up. I always try to set realistic expectations, and never did I imagine I would actually see them like this. It was one of my most exciting dives to date, surrounded by thousands of fish like never before.

Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

The Story: In February 2019 I had the pleasure of diving for a week in the Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the queen) archipelago, Cuba. Our group was participating in an educational people-to-people exchange program that granted us entry into Cuba. We learned about the history of Jardines de La Reina and how strictly it has been protected by the Cuban government, thanks to early foresight by Fidel Castro. During my diving in Jardines de La Reina, I witnessed the healthiest reefs I have seen in the Caribbean. It is a model system, detached from the stressors of pollution and commercial fishing that plague so many other reefs. Goliath, Nassau, Black, Yellowfin and Tiger groupers, Snapper, Caribbean Reef sharks, Silky sharks, and American Crocodile were among the abundant wildlife. My contributed image is from a dive site named ‘Vicente’, well suited for photographing Silky sharks at sunset. For three of our nights, we entered the water just before sunset and waited for the scene to unfold before our eyes. It was chaotic attempting to compose images in a rough surface swell while Silky sharks bumped into my arms and legs, and I am thrilled have been able to capture the scene for just a moment.

Ocean Art 2018

Honorable Mention - Cold Water
Davíðsgjá, Iceland

The Story: In January 2018 my friend Fraser Cameron picked me up in Reykjavik, Iceland, to explore a lesser known dive site named Davíðsgjá, accessible by 4x4 only. This time of year is winter, and the daylight lasts only from about 11am to 3pm. An hour after departing we were in the snow, taping the neck and wrist seals on my loaner dry suit to ensure that the 2°C (35°F) water wouldn’t seep in. We walked 100m over frozen terrain, trying to avoid slipping while carrying my underwater camera, tank and a lot of weight. We arrived at a 2m cliff where there was an opening in the ice that had formed over the majority of the lake. After lowering my camera down, we proceeded to giant stride off the cliff into the freezing water! What hit me next was the facial numbing sensation I remembered from Silfra the year prior. After getting dialed in with my camera and buoyancy, Fraser tied up a line to trace our path under the ice sheet. It was amazing - seeing the winter sun penetrating the ice ceiling, all while hearing the sounds of shifting ice. He led me through some lava fissures similar to Silfra, maintaining perfect buoyancy and tension on the reel. After some exploring, we messed around standing upside down on the ice, which is surprisingly difficult in a dry suit with a camera. After 40 minutes, we surfaced at the edge of the ice, removed our BCDs, and slid all the gear up onto the ice. Then we slid ourselves up onto the ice like seals, grabbed our gear, and walked across the ice and back to the car! It was so much fun, and the discomfort was forgotten shortly thereafter, leaving only good, lasting memories!

SoCal Shootout 2017

5th Place - Wide Angle
Catalina Island, California

The Story: Swimming in the shallows of a dive park in Catalina Island, California, I encountered a large school of kelp bass traveling in one direction. It was a bright and sunny day, making for some very fun lighting conditions.

Ocean Art 2015

2nd Place - Novice DSLR
Daedalus, Red Sea, Egypt

The Story: On the Red Sea we awoke each day at 4-5 AM for a full day of diving. On this day in particular, it was the first dive, and it was our friend Tim’s 1000th dive. We boarded the Zodiac to access a dive site on the North Wall of Daedalus Reef, and after a speedy negative entry, we found ourselves descending right on top of an 18ft juvenile Whaleshark. No one was expecting this, and we watched in excitement as it swam by. The encounter was loud with the sounds of divers cheering through their regulators while the Whaleshark navigated our bubbles. At this time he turned back and swam directly towards me, and I suddenly found myself distanced from the commotion of the group. There was a moment frozen in time - an unobstructed view of the Whaleshark and our dive guide gliding silently through the water, side by side, coexisting. I reminded myself to pull the trigger, and this will remain one of the most special dives and photographs I have had the fortune to experience.

SoCal Shootout 2015

2nd Place - Wide Angle
Santa Barbara Island, California

The Story: 60 ft. underwater in a kelp forest off the coast of Santa Barbara Island, Channel Islands National Park, California, I encountered a group of territorial Sheephead fish that did not enjoy my company. This image shows the moment when one of the larger males came to give me a closer look.