HERE BE DRAGONS
LIKE AN ALIEN craft traversing the surface of the moon, a sea dragon glides over the white sands of an Australian sea bed, quite unaware that a major invasion of its privacy is about to take place. For cruising along the same sea bed was Kiwi diver Darryl Torckler, with a 20mm lens on his housed Canon F1, Fujichrome Velvia in the cassette, and two flashguns riding high. "It seemed to ghost along with no means of propulsion, sometimes hovering like a helicopter over the sea floor," Darryl remembers. "A close look revealed an almost invisible , clear fin on top of the body at the base of the tail." His picture won first prize in the underwater section of the British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year 1995 contest.
British photographers Paul Kay and Linda Pitkin both received highly commended awards in the recent British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year 1995 competition. Paul Kay received his commendation in the Underwater World section for a picture of jewel anemones taken on the south side of Skellig Michael, in County Kerry, Ireland.
In the Animal Behaviour section, Linda Pitkin's picture of a coral trout with a cleaner shrimp also went down a storm with the judges.
This was the twelfth time the competition had been run, and it proved to be the biggest ever - attracting more than 19,000 entries from 57 countries. Generous sponsorship from British Gas also meant entrants were competing for the biggest purse ever - a whopping 30,000! The competition comprises 14 categories, one of which is an underwater category. This was won by New Zealander, Darryl Torckler, for a picture of a sea dragon, taken off Kangaroo Island in Australia (see preceding page). Amazingly, it was the first time he had ever seen a sea dragon! Fortunately he had film in his camera. It was obviously the year for underwater photography, because there were many underwater images among the winners in other categories.
The Eric Hosking Award for the best portfolio of six images taken by a photographer under 26 was won by a portfolio of underwater photographs. American Brandon Cole's portfolio had pictures as diverse as sea anemones off Vancouver Island, manatees in Florida and crabs in Sulawesi.
In the Animal Behaviour section, the winning photo was of a sea star spawning, by Doug Perrine of the USA, taken off the Galapagos islands. Matching Linda Pitkin's effort, David Seifert also picked up a highly commended for an unusual view of a remora in the spiracle chamber of a whale shark.
See DIVER January 1996 for photos.
Whale shark with divers, photographed off Western Australia with an 8mm lens by Amos Nachoum (USA). Below right: the threatened West Indian manatee, pictured in Florida by Jurgen Freund (Germany).
A pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins, found on the Little Bahama Bank by Doug Perrine (USA). Right: a 9m whale shark feeding in a concentration of fish known as a bait ball, on Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, shot by Douglas David Seifert (USA).