Our World Underwater 2009 - Judges Statement

We are honored to have such esteemed judging panels for both the still images and video competitions. Since photography and film are such subjective artforms, we have asked the jduges to provide a collective statement about their process, the submissions and advice for those who want to imrpove your selection proces for future competitions. Thanks to all the judges and a special thank you to the judging coordinators Cor Bosman and Steve Douglas.


The 4th Annual Wetpixel and DivePhotoGuide International Underwater Photo & Video Competition, in Association With Our World Underwater, has once again produced a stunning winners' portfolio. All the judges were deeply impressed by the entries, and not only those you see here, but the many more images that we could not squeeze into the winners' circle. These results leave us in no doubt that standards in underwater photography continue to improve, year over year, and that photographers are still able to find innovative and stunning images from the underwater world, even of subjects that are commonly photographed. We also praise photographers for searching out rarely photographed species and locations, pushing underwater photography ever forward. It was an honor to judge.
Since its inception, this competition has always been judged primarily by highly experienced and active photographers. This year these were David Doubilet, Cor Bosman, and Alex Mustard. Entrants regularly tell us that they like this approach because they are confident that the judges know what is truly original and can also consider the difficulty in correctly executing a particular photograph. This year the snappers have been joined by Dietmar Fuchs, whose eye has been evaluating underwater  photographs for more than 20 years as editor in chief of several international diving magazines. Dietmar added a fresh perspective to the judging, identifying several of the winners that had escaped the rest of us and contributing more variety to the winners' portfolio.
Determining the final ranking of so many excellent images is a tough process. There were many images that would have been Best Of Show standard less than five years ago, that this year we could not find a placing for. Entrants can be assured that the judges invest considerable time and energy in reaching conclusions. Disagreements occur and views are exchanged, sometimes energetically, until a consensus is reached.
When judging we try and recognise excellence in underwater photography within its various disciplines. This way we can evaluate a perfectly produced natural history photograph against a creative concept image more suited to the advertising world by regarding how they excel within their various genres. Above all we want to choose images that leap out and leave us astounded. We hope that they have a similar effect on you.
We would like to point out some common failings that held back many fine images. Frustratingly these are the same issues as in last year's competition and some photographers would see much more success for their images if they follow this advice. The rules emphasize that this is a photography competition and not a Photoshop challenge. One of the most difficult decisions in judging is to reject an otherwise extraordinary image because it has been over processed. This is particularly problematic in the compact camera category.  .
The biggest issue we have is with images being modified outside the rules in the Traditional categories. The rules in the Traditional categories do not allow cropping, nor can anything be added or taken away from the image. This includes backgrounds and most importantly backscatter. We audit the RAW files of any suspect images and all the finalists. Sadly, our faith has been eroded by too many entrants not abiding by these rules. That said we don't mind a few specs of backscatter in the Traditional categories. The ocean naturally has particles in it.
Finally, we would like to congratulate all the winners and encourage everyone to get out there and keep shooting. We are already excited to see next year's entries.

- OWU 2009 - Still Photographs Judges
Cor Bosman, David Doubilet, Deitmar Fuchs, Alex Mustard


Having been involved in many film festivals and competitions over the last several years, the three judges for the Video portion of this year's  Wetpixel and DivephotoGuide International Video Competition had high expectations for the submissions. With the growth of HD and HDV imaging, we knew that that the bar of excellence would certainly be raised.  We were not disappointed, as our expectations were met by many stunning video entries.  What was surprising was that there were so many videographers whose names were not among the regular list of shooters consistently entering film festivals, names from so many different countries. This just goes to show the tremendous growth within the video community and its ubiquitous influence throughout the world.

The three judges of the video competition, Steve Douglas, Ric Frazier, and Eric Hanauer have been involved in the field for several years and expected a difficult judging process attempting to pare down the films to 3 winners in both the general film and conservation categories.  Steve and Ric met first and watched all the submissions, writing separate scores for content, imaging and production.  A  few weeks later Steve and Eric met, and went through the entire process again. The previous scores were not known to Eric as he watched the videos.  He and Steve then tallied each judge's scores to arrive at final conclusions and decisions.  There is no question that the cream rose to the top and that the final winners in each category were well deserving.
For future competitions we would jointly like to encourage underwater film makers to be aware that a film should have a purpose, and tell a story.  It must have a beginning, a middle and an end, not just a series of moving stills set to music.  The producers should ask themselves 'What is the point of this film?'.  There is a difference between placing music behind a vacation video to show family and friends,  and a film meant to share a story with a wide audience. We encourage film makers to edit to that story.  In addition we strongly encourage all film makers to use music that rightfully and legally belongs to them, and avoid copyrighted music without written clearance from the copyright holder.  While the use of narrations is strongly recommended, even a music video should demonstrate a theme for the film.
That said, we were honored to be asked to judge this year's film competition and offer congratulations to the winners and enthusiastic words of encouragement to those who, by only the slimmest of margins, did not place. Your efforts did not go unnoticed and we look forward to seeing you on the winners' podium next year.

- OWU 2009 - Video Judges
Steve Douglas, Ric Frazier & Eric Hanauer