Each year, professional photographers from Australia and abroad can enter four prints into the Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA). There are several categories; I entered my prints into the Science, Environment & Nature category. This was my first year entering APPA.
A panel of five expert judges score each print, evaluating the image itself as well as print quality and presentation. Images must be taken within the previous two years. I was lucky enough that all four of my underwater prints scored high enough to earn awards. Here they are…
The spiky 15mm body of this Soft Coral Crab (Hoplophrys oatesii) mimics the spicules of her soft coral home. The crab even has velco-like hooks on her back and head, where she attaches live coral polyps to complete her disguise. These crabs can be red, pink, yellow, orange or purple, depending on the colour of the soft coral they live in. These super small and well camouflaged critters are difficult to spot. Nikon 105mm macro lens, 1/250 sec, f/25, two strobes. Photographed in Flores, Indonesia.
A tiny commensal shrimp, 2cm long, shelters with impunity amongst the stinging, swirling tentacles of a sea anemone. I waited quite a while for everything to line up for this image, one of my all time faves. The little guy kept jumping around, and the anemone tentacles were swaying all over the place. But I think it all came together in the end. Nikon 60mm macro lens, 1/200th sec, f/22, two strobes. Photographed in Bali, Indonesia.
This nocturnal hermit crab collects and carries anemones. The anemones’ stinging tentacles act as portable home security, protecting the crab as it grazes on photo-reflective algae. I only managed to shoot two frames of this little guy before he disappeared into the algae. Nikon 105mm macro lens, 1/125th sec, f/22, two strobes. Photographed at night in Alor, Indonesia.
Moray eel (Gymnothorax flavimarginatus) and a pair of cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) at a cleaning station. The shrimps remove and eat the eel’s skin parasites, making this a mutualistic symbiotic relationship between the two species. The shrimps rock side-to-side to attract the attention of a new “client” fish. The hungrier the shrimp, the more animated the rocking dance. Field observations by scientists showed that fish are more likely to choose the services of the most lively shrimp. I spent quite a bit of time with this guy, waiting for all the shrimps to line up nicely, and for the eel to turn his head so that his eye and nose would both be in focus. Nikon 60mm macro lens, 1/125th sec, f/22, two strobes. Photographed in Bali, Indonesia.
For each category, the three photographers with the highest aggregate score are considered for the overall category winner. I managed to make it into the this final round, which kept a big grin on my face for quite a few days. The other two finalists were the exceptionally talented photographers Darren Jew and Joshua Holko, with Joshua named as category winner.
The AIPP published a lovely hard cover book with all the year’s Gold awarded images.