Clown fish checking up on eggs Clown fish checking up on eggs A clownfish checks up on its eggs in this incredible macro photo by amateur photographer Shmuel Levi of Israel. "When I saw the clownfish and the eggs, I knew that's what I [was] looking for," Levi describes.

Underwater photography competition showcases international talent

From the clear blue waters of the Red Sea off the coast of Eilat, several beautiful photographs have emerged.

It's truly a glimpse into the unknown – the world of underwater photography literally sheds light on marine life that so few of us get to see firsthand. At the Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition, photographers from around the world don scuba gear and float with a mission: bring back beautiful photos to share glimpses of this wonderful ocean environment with the rest of the world. (The prizes aren't bad either.) 

The underwater photo competition in Eilat celebrated its 10th year in September. Nine countries were represented by 67 participants, a mix of professional and amateur divers and photographers. With the gear and cameras in hand, the participants had just three full days to photograph and turn in their images to be considered for each of the nine categories. An additional six categories were designated for the World Shoot Out, an international competition of photos taken during the year around the world. 

So participants took to the Red Sea, where abundant marine life thrives in the coral reef and around shipwreck sites

Shmuel Levi, a competitor within the amateurs category who snapped the clownfish photo above, said the event is very exciting. "You meet a lot of other minds," he told From The Grapevine, "from all over the world." 

Even with the "real time" urgency and limited ability to edit photographs, the results are amazing to behold:

Main Category – Portfolio of Best 5 Images

Fish on patterned backgroundA tiny, transparent goby fish rests atop a patterned coral. (Photo: Eyal Cohen/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

Israeli photographer Eyal Cohen won the main category, a grand prize of $10,000. His photos carried themes of patterns, colors and meticulous attention to detail. 

"The Eilat Red Sea competition is an amazing event," Cohen told From The Grapevine. "It combines three things I really love: diving, photography and a good competition."

Cohen won the competition partly because of his ability to turn a common subject into something spectacular, like in the case of the goby in the above photo. "It lives on different types of corals and it is very common in Eilat," Cohen explained. "I used a macro lens and wet diopter, which is a magnifier that helps with tiny subjects.

"I decided to photograph the little goby from above," he said. "The goby itself is mostly transparent, and this setup made it look like part of the coral. The result is very different than other photos of gobies."

A pair of eelsTwo eels peek out of their hiding spot. (Photo: Shadi Samara/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

Second place in this category was awarded to Shadi Samara, whose ethereal photos have a surreal quality to them.

LionfishA lionfish emerges from the dark depths of the Red Sea. (Photo: Arturo Telle Thiemann/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

Third place winner in this category, Arturo Telle Thiemann of Spain, focused on creatures emerging from the deep. 

Colorful underwater photo Colors pop in this photo, part of Fabian Alvarez Gomez's Best 5 submission. (Photo: Fabian Alvarez Gomez/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

Fourth-place winner Fabian Alvarez Gomez of Spain somehow managed to capture the colorful photo above, featuring a rainbow array of bokeh.

Fish swim near coral reef This photo captures the movement of a school of fish near the coral reef in Eilat. (Photo: Boaz Samorai/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

This dizzying, fantastical photo by Israeli photographer Boaz Samorai was one of the five that earned fifth place. With limited photo editing options, Samorai got creative when taking this photo.

"The swirly effect was made by choosing a slow shutter speed and turning the camera while taking the picture, using a combination of strobes in the center of it to freeze only a small part of it," Samorai told From The Grapevine. 

Fish and Fashion

Dancing models underwaterModels do an eerie, upside-down masquerade dance underwater in this winning photo. (Photo: Yuzuru Masuda/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

Not all competitors travel to Eilat with nature photography in mind – the Fish and Fashion category is a unique addition, drawing artistic photographers from around the world to show off their underwater skills. Photographer Yuzuru Masuda of Japan won first place in the Fish and Fashion category with a series of photos illustrating graceful movements.

Fish of the Year

Fish of the Year winning photoThis photo won first place for Fish of the Year. (Photo: Mark Fuller/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition

The Fish of the Year category requires photographers to submit a series of photos highlighting the specific kind of fish chosen by the event organizers. The dark portrait created by Mark Fuller of Israel gives an almost humanlike quality to the fish.

Amateurs Portfolio

Close-up of fishA close-up image shows a green reflection in this fish's eye. (Photo: Yoav Lavi/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

Israeli photographer Yoav Lavi won first place in the Amateurs Portfolio category with richly colored images. Amateurs were only allowed to use a compact digital camera – no DSLRs allowed! 

Amateurs Wide Angle

Sunken shipA wide angle shot of a sunken ship. (Photo: Yoav Lavi/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

This image of a diver exploring a sunken ship won first place in the Amateurs Wide Angle category. The photo was taken by Yoav Lavi. 

Amateurs Macro

Camouflage fishA macro shot of two transparent fish blending in to their surroundings. (Photo: Shay Erel/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

This photo of two camouflaged, transparent fish by Israeli photographer Shay Erel won first place in the Amateurs Macro category. If the photograph had not been close-up, we might never have been able to tell these little guys were there!

Jury's Prize

Parrotfish grinThe close-up grin of a parrotfish. (Photo: Boaz Samorai/Eilat Red Sea International Photography Competition)

The wacky smile of a parrotfish won the hearts of the competition's judges. This colorful macro photo of a parrotfish was taken by Boaz Samorai. 

In the National Team Category, teams representing each country in the competition submitted their best six images. The Spanish team won with its close-up views of all kinds of marine animals – see their photos (and more) on the competition's website.

As an internationally renowned competition, the Eilat Red Sea event decided to take it a step further for its 10th anniversary – attempting a Guinness World Record: the live-streamed underwater video with the most viewers. It may be awhile before we know if the divers achieved their goal, but regardless of record-breaking viewership, it is a truly incredible sight to behold, with 200 divers taking part at the Satil shipwreck. See the video for yourself.

"Many known underwater photographers attend the competition each year," Cohen said. "They have amazing gear and thousands of dives in their logbook." 

But don't let that discourage you. If you're interested in keeping up with next year's competition, event founder and underwater fashion photographer David Pilosof has a message for you: Everyone's welcome! 


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