To be inducted into the Underwater Photography Hall of Fame an underwater photographer must have excelled in their art, and be universally recognised by their peers as being among the all time greats.
2011/12 World champion - Rico Besserdich
Rico Besserdich is this year’s breakout star!
A member since June 05, 2010 he has 478 entries in the contest. I make that (more than) one upload per day! His average vote is 26 and, when spread over so many images, requires incredible consistency for such a high score in that time frame.
He’s from Germany but names his adopted country Turkey on his member record. This is where he lives and, until recently, where he was a diving instructor - diving, and shooting, every day. If you think this gives him an unfair advantage remember - Rico doesn’t have the best u/w photo subjects in his Mediterranean waters – yet he knows how to turn the slightest opportunity into a stunning u/w photo.
He’s one of our community MVP’s and was instrumental in starting our photo critique service.
A photographer since 1978 and underwater photographer since 2001, he uses a Canon D-SLR in a Ikelite housing with Sea & Sea strobes.
If you want to learn Rico’s Tricks and secrets he will be bringing his knowledge and experience to running UnderwaterPhotography.com resort courses in Turkey and Egypt this year. Check out website
for more details.
One of our previous world champions sums up Rico’s talents... With no hesitation, Rico (Besserdich) HAS to be our World Champion this year (2011/12)
Wide Angle, Macro - super Macro, Outside, Half-Half, Modeling, B&W...etc... have no secret for him... Almost every week, Rico came up with amazing and surprising pictures...
He control's to not far from perfection all the techniques of photography... and that is the mark of a great and versatile (polyvalent) photographer...
He also has done a lot with the "critic" initiative.... Great job... and so useful for the new comers on UP.com...
High praise indeed! Rico’s ambition is to become a professional underwater photographer in 2012 and we wish him luck. If anyone can, he can!
Grand Master - Doug Anderson
Doug Anderson is one of the World’s most respected underwater photographers. He does shoot the occasional wide angle but mostly specialises in macro photography.
The old saying ‘form is temporary but class is permanent’ applies to Doug. He has 360 entries and an average vote of 30! That takes quality!
His shots are simple, yet classic. They are usually characterised by a single subject that fills the frame so pleasingly, with attention to detail, saturated colour, and a well thought out negative space background. Doug’s nudibranch shots are delicious, as is his eye for behaviour.
Even his captions say ‘less is more’ - usually a species ID (always accurate!) and the place taken. The pictures do the talking!
If you want to learn macro underwater photography just look over his work, and learn.
We are particularly pleased that he is one of the photo critique team, always willing to help newbies with a succinct observation.
Doug is an Aussie, living in Sydney where he dives his native waters (especially the Tasman Sea) extensively. He also dives Indonesia (Andaman Sea, Bali Sea) the Banda Sea (East Timor) Andaman Sea (Indian Ocean).
An ardent ecologist he is the Biodiversity Officer at Leichhardt Council He Studied Philosophy, Applied Ecology at University of Sydney, University of New South Wales
Grand Master - Henry Jager
Henry Jager is from Switzerland and has been a member since 2007 when he upgraded to D-SLR and started taking underwater photography seriously.
Henry is a valued member of our photo critique team with always a kind word of encouragement and a concise solution to our newbies.
He has been in the medals from the start with two runner ups, a Bronze, and now Gold.
His over/under of a reef at sunset was technically brilliant and universally acclaimed. It took the monthly winner earlier in the year and a Gold in these annual awards.
He does most of his diving in the Phillipines/Indonesia.
He shoots with an Olympus E-5 in a BS Kinetics housing with two Inon Z 240 strobes.
Grand Master - Michael Gallagher
Michael Gallagher is our second Aussie Grand Master of the year.
He has been a member since 2009, has entered 268 images in 14 categories, which has gained him a runner up placing and a medal for the past three years.
His versatility stretches from super-macro shots of Pygmy seahorses through to large pelagics - with wrecks and everything else in between! Whatever he shoots fills the frame nicely, and shows his empathy for the oceans.
Michael really gets about. He has dived his native Australia, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Indonesia, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Seychelles, Sudan, and the United Kingdom!
He uses a Canon 50D in Hugyfot housing with dual Inon Z240s.
Grand Master - Patrick Neumann
Patrick Neumann is from Germany and a member since 2006. He has been diving since the age of seven!
Most of his work is done in Asia, especially the Andaman sea and South China sea.
Patrick shoots the full range of categories with an emphasis on macro. He shoots anything; from nudibranchia to models with much creative flair and the occasional experimental lighting.
He has 3 runner up places, Bronze, Silver and Gold medals from 312 entries over the five years he has been competing. He shoots on a Canon 7D in a Hugyfot housing.
Grand Master - Steven Anderson
Steven ‘Creech’ Anderson is a freelance photographer from the United States, where he lives in Brentwood, TN.
He’s been a member for five years (and diving many more). In those five years Steven has entered 917 images in a wide range of categories well balanced between wide angle and macro. But, over a third of those entries are in the sharks category! Yes, Steven is the Shark Guy!
He believes Shark conservation is very important in order to maintain a proper balance in our oceans and uses his images to promote it.
Over the years he has treated us to a fantastic portfolio of tiger shark shots from Tiger beach in the Bahamas, where he dives with our sponsors, Stuart Cove’s. He gets up close and personal with his subjects, capturing the magnificence of these creatures. This work has earned him a runner up, Bronze, and two gold medals.
He dives the Caribbean and coastal United States and is also a member of our photo critique team
World Champion - Brian Mayes
Brian collects this award with almost unanimous acclaim by the judges. If he was not a judges first choice - he was the second.
Brian is a long time (since 2005) popular member of the community here at UnderwaterPhotography.com. He has won medals for three years running and was a strong contender (though he does not know it) for champion last year.
Brian is a Brit and fortunate enough to get multiple trips per year to some of the World's greatest u/w photo destinations including the Arabian Sea, the Atlantic, Bali Sea, Caribbean Sea, Celebes Sea, Coral Sea, Flores Sea, Great Australian Bight, Indian Ocean, Irish Sea, Molucca Sea, Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. Phew, what a list!
He started U/W photography in 1994 with a Nikonos V as a means to identify what he had seen U/W. His first digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 990 in an Ikelite housing and Video Lite. He is currently using a compact Canon G9 with Canon housing and, amazingly, only the internal flash! He refuses to upgrade to a housed DSLR thus proving that it is the photographer, not the kit, that counts.
Brian is our first champ to shoot, pretty much exclusively, only macro. He has entered some wide angle but it would be true to say that, by specializing in small subjects, he has taken the art of shooting small subjects to a new level. That is an achievement not seen since the lenses enabling super macro became available. You can tell from his sympathetic treatment of his subject matter just how much he loves the marine environment.
Brian hasn’t entered many shots this year but boy have they been World Class! Many subjects he has shot have been unique, and some even new species!
He has an average vote of 27 for his entries and is in the #1 spot for all-time monthly hotshot winners. All in all Brian makes a deserving World champion for this year.
Grand Master - Aleksandr Marinicev
Aleksandr is our first Grand Master from Latvia and has been a member since February 2008.
He shoots on a Canon 1Ds MarkII in a Subal housing and has been an u/w photographer for 6 years.
His favorite photo dive site is Wolf Island and he has dived Bali Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caribbean Sea, Coral Sea, Indian Ocean, Java Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Norwegian Sea, Philippine Sea, Red Sea, Solomon Sea, Sulu and Sulawesi Seas.
Aleksandr is another photographer who is very strong on macro with some very considered portraits of small marine creatures. He also has some very strong wide angle work including some spectacular wreck shots.
Aleksandr is a Contest Monthly Winner, previous annual contest Medal Winner and Monthly Hotshot. He has an average vote of 25 for his entries and is in the #3 spot for all-time monthly hotshot winners.
Dray Van Beeck
2009/10 World champion - Dray Van Beeck
Dray has been a member since 2005 and in that time has entered over 200 underwater images of extremely consistent quality. This is reflected in an average score of 29 votes per image!
Dray's images incorporate a wide range of subject matter from macro to wide angle. He dives mostly in Egypt though has shots from Indonesia, Mazambique and South Africa under his belt.
This year we have seen a great improvement across the board from Dray. His Photoshop work has come on in leaps and bounds and even challenges that of previous Grand Master, Manfred Bail.
Grand Master - Jim Garland
Jim is another longstanding member (joined 2004) and comes from Ireland, where he is a science teacher. We won't hold that against him!
With Jim's qualifications in Zoology you might expect him to shoot natural history subjects yet he has dominated the Gold Medal spot of our wreck category since he joined.
He has a great wreck site I recommend you visit website
Jim has entertained us with wreck shots from Croatia, Egypt, France, Ireland, Italy, Micronesia (Truk) and the UK.
Grand Master - Jim Chambers
Jim hails from Atlanta, Georgia in the US and has been a member since 2004.
A very popular member with over 1,000 forum posts. Jim has always been there with advice and encouragement for newbies.
He has specialised in macro, an area where you do not get an average vote of 21 unless you are really good.
Jim has had back problems in 2009 and is hanging up his reg. I'm sure he will be about for some time with his practical jokes - at least we all hope so!
Grand Master - Dejan Sarman
Dejan Sarman is sadly no longer with us. He died in 2009 whilst doing the thing he loved most, underwater photography.
Dejan was a photo contest monthly winner, medal winner (annual contest), monthly hotshot, runner up in the annual contest, and a trusted member (site moderator).
His average vote in the contest was an astounding 42
Dejan had dived the Adriatic Sea, Andaman Sea, Bali Sea, Red Sea, South China Sea, and Sulu and Sulawesi Seas and entered a broad spectrum of subjects including some of the most memorable images from the past few years. His Gold Medal winner of Apnea divers racing in a pool was admired by all.
I have no doubt, with his talent, that he would have gone on to achieve Grand Master so it is fitting that we accord him the title posthumously.
2008/9 World Champion - Michel Lonfat
Michel only joined the contest at the end of March 2008 but managed 179 entries to the photo contest in that time!
The quantity is never as important as the quality, which has been of the highest standard in Michel's case. It is the mark of a great photographer that they don't just enter strong images - they never enter weak ones. In this respect his consistency alone made him stand out head and shoulders above the crowd.
One judge said "This year world champ has to be Michel Lonfat. His entries are to a high standard, the split level's are superb. I know he has only been in the comp for a short while but he seems always to come up with the goods.. "
The range of Michel's work is impressive, both cold and warm water, and all categories. Much of Michel's diving is done in his native Switzerland in the gin-clear, but cold, Verzasca River near Tessin. His warm water material is every bit as noteworthy. He has dived the Caribbean, Celebes sea, the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and Red Sea. He has entered something in ALL our categories with numerous 'hotshot' placings in our monthly contests.
Grand Master - Geoff Spiby
Geoff Spiby joined us in June 2007 and made an immediate impact with his atmospheric Kelp forest shots from his native South African coast.
With an extremely high average vote in each of our categories he is a definite all-rounder. This is reflected by the number of hotshots he has, along with a Gold Medal for his shot of a Great White Shark in 2007.
As well as the Atlantic Geoff has dived in the Celebes Sea, Halmahera Sea, Indian Ocean, Molucca Sea, Red Sea, South China Sea, Sulu and Sulawesi Seas.
2008 World Champion - Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas is recognised as having entered the most consistent portfolio of entries over the year.
It is easy to work on colorful coral reefs when you’re nice and warm and have plenty of bottom-time. Mark dives all year round in UK temperatures and still produces ‘the goods’. Mark operates in conditions that test the underwater photographer to the extreme. Most of his shots were taken in one place, Capernwray Quarry. Yes, freshwater! Few subjects present themselves so Mark needs to be inventive to create underwater images.
You cannot talk about Mark without his ‘other half’ – Derek Haslam. They are inseparable like fish and chips, or Sonny and Cher (No, I don’t know which is Cher!). Indeed they dive together and pose for each other’s shots. Both are lively and popular contributors to our forums. Both were named as clear-cut favorites for the top awards by their peers.
Grand Master - Derek Haslam
Since there was very little between Mark and Derek in terms of u/w photo technical ability it is a good job we have a new award this year to cope with the dilemma of Mark and Derek.
We have a new award for underwater photographers who have stood the test of time with a consistent entry over a long period of time.
Derek Haslam becomes our first Grand Master.
Derek is definitely the joker with many a shot that has given us all a smile.
Grand Master - Manfred Bail
Quite simply Manfred has no peers when it comes to manipulated images. He is the king of u/w Photoshop and an inspiration for many others who have followed him.
He’s a multi-medal winner, having produced some stunning composite images over the years.
It’s not always clear what the message is (if any) but eye-catching they certainly are!
And BTW, he has entered some very accomplished ‘straight’ shots too!
World Champion 2005 - Johannes Felten
has been a member since June 2004
Over the year Johannes entered the most consistent and complete portfolio of underwater images. Indeed, Johannes images so dominated the wide angle, diver, natural light, and wreck categories that the judges decided to award only one token gold medal to give others a chance!
Johannes joins an elite band of underwater photographers who can call themselves a world champion.
| Biography |
Johannes was born in Cologne, Germany, on 16/12/1965 and spent five years at a boarding school in England where he started with photography as a main hobby.
Since the age of sixteen Johannes has been living in Israel, doing regular military service, and completed a B.A. in English Literature at Bar Ilan University.
Johannes started diving in 1997, and immediately took up underwater photography. Johannes started off with a Nikonos V, which still serves him well today. Johannes has not yet made the plunge into the digital camera realm, and still relies on a Nikon F5 in a recently acquired Seacam housing.
Johannes soon realized that good underwater photography demands good diving skills and so did the Divemaster course. Recently Johannes completed the E.R. technical diving course. Johannes believes combining the equipment intensive activity of technical diving with underwater photography is still a challenge.
Johannes personal preferences remain in the photography of marine life, and wrecks.
Johannes welcomes any enterprise that promotes the conservation of endangered marine life as a priority goal. In this aspect Johannes finds the efforts of protecting sharks, and particularly the Great White, especially important because their reputation rests so heavily on prejudices and misconceptions.
World Champion 2004 - Andrew Woodburn
Andrew Woodburn is a relative newcomer to underwater photography. He has been taking pictures topside since his schooldays but only moved under water in 2000.
Living in South Africa Andrew has subject rich waters on his doorstep and most, but not all, of his shots capture the marine diversity of the area.
He had his first success with us in 2002 with a well deserved Bronze medal for this shot.
In 2003 he entered a very consistent level of image with a wide variety of subjects. It was a close call with other notable photographers fielding strong portfolios; Rick Tegler and Bob Whorton (to name but two) were all in contention.
However, we are sure you will agree, Andrews dominance with three gold, one silver, and two bronze medals placed him at the head of the pack.
In addition to the medal winning images, Andrew entered these highly commended shots.
You can see more of his work on his website website
Andrew has been published in titles such as Divestyle, Travel Africa, Food and Home and SHAPE womens magazine as well as winning international and local awards.