Noam Kortler has photographed all manner of underwater creatures, including this shark. Noam Kortler has photographed all manner of underwater creatures, including this shark. Noam Kortler has photographed all manner of underwater creatures, including this shark. (Photo: Noam Kortler)

One of the world’s best underwater photographers shares his portfolio

These photos give a gorgeous glimpse of what lies below the surface.

The 42nd annual World Festival of Underwater Pictures has crowned its champions. The festival was held in Marseille, France, and features more than 15 categories of competition – including photo, movies, music, books and websites. The photography competition, one of the world's most prestigious, is the main event. This year's winners hailed from a variety of countries including France, Italy, Australia and Israel.

Noam Kortler was one of the big winners of the competition this year. The Israeli received the Jean-Louis Galy, Labo Photon prize, which is awarded to the photographer with the best portfolio of 10 underwater photographs.

An underwater fowl runs afoul of a school of fish in this photo taken from Noam Kortler's award-winning portfolio.An underwater fowl runs afoul of a school of fish in this photo taken from Noam Kortler's award-winning portfolio. (Photo: Noam Kortler)

"It's not something to take for granted. It's a lot of effort and a lot of work. You compete against a lot of great photographers," Kortler told From The Grapevine. "The judges are major photographers who have seen it all and done it all, so it's very difficult to amaze them."

His photos weren't easy to come by. Not only were they taken during dives off the coast of his hometown of Eilat, Israel, but also during diving trips to Singapore, South Africa and Tonga.

Capturing these whales was no easy feat for Noam Kortler, who must rely on the convergence of several key factors to get many of his photos.Capturing these whales was no easy feat for Noam Kortler, who must rely on the convergence of several key factors to get many of his photos. (Photo: Noam Kortler)

Kotler, who owns a diving photography school in Israel, is self-taught and says there's no real secret to deciding if he's taken a good photo. "If you look at it and you say 'Wow,' that's how you know it's a good photo," he said.

However, the process of capturing the photos is a bit more difficult, he explained. "When you're shooting nature, everything happens quickly and you really have to be alert all the time and ready to shoot. And when you're underwater you're limited – by the air you carry on your back, and if you're free-diving by the air in your lungs. So you really have to be very focused and alert."

Noam Kortler gets up close and personal with a school of fish.Noam Kortler gets up close and personal with a school of fish. (Photo: Noam Kortler)

Then there's the issue of actually having a subject to shoot. No small matter if, like Kortler, you want world-class photos with which to compete in competitions.

"If I want to shoot a whale, I have to fly to Tonga to get the shot, for example. But maybe the day I shoot the whale doesn't want to play ... so there are a lot of variations and a lot things have to come together to get a good shot."

Having won the award this year and twice before, in 2007 and 2013, things seem to be coming together quite swimmingly for him.

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