Seal of approval for photographer
- Credit: Archant
Diver wins international award with his stunning shot of a playful seal in the waters off Lundy Island.
THE antics of this delightfully playful seal pup off Lundy led to a Woking scuba diver winning gold in a top international competition.
Nick Blake of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) and the Surry Aquanauts was awarded the title of ‘Grand Master’ by the judges at underwaterphotography.com after surfacing above 12,000 entries from 100 countries.
Nick was inspired as a youngster by legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau’s television films.
He received awards for no fewer than five of his images in the underwaterphotography.com competition.
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He scooped gold in the Temperate Water category with his self-portrait, joined by the playful young seal while diving near Lundy Island.
“I enjoy diving and photography in UK waters as it’s quite challenging,” he said.
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“Abroad, in tropical waters, you perhaps know what to expect. That isn’t always the case in UK waters where visibility can sometimes be a big issue.
“I also like natural history and was thrilled to get my gold-winning shot of the cheeky seal pup. He just came over my head and I managed to turn the camera and take a shot of the two of us together. It worked far better than I could have hoped, I certainly didn’t plan it!”
Nick also took silver in the Close Focus Wide Angle category with a picture shot off the coast of Indonesia.
Three other images were recognised in the Sharks, Over/Under and Freshwater categories.
It was also a proud moment for BSAC, the UK’s leading dive club and the sport’s National Governing Body, which provides an internationally recognised diver training and development programme via a network of clubs and centres across the country and overseas.
Mary Tetley, BSAC chief eExecutive added: “The awards won by Nick are richly deserved because his underwater images are absolutely magnificent.”
Nick also hit the headlines last year with a remarkable image of a sunken London taxi pictured at the bottom of a Wraysbury Lake, near Heathrow, which also won an international award and gold in last year’s underwaterphotgraphy.com competition.
“It’s been a fantastic year and I’m really delighted with my success after all the hard work I have put in to improve as an underwater photographer,” said Nick, who works in consumer research.
“I suppose like lots of young people in the 70s and 80s I grew up obsessed by the adventures of Jacques Cousteau. I was always glued to the screen when his shows were on television.
“I learned to dive as soon as I was old enough, aged 14, and initially joined Ramsbottom Sub Aqua Club as my family lived near Bury then.
“I dived for many years but took a break for a few years. Then, in 2004, I started diving again and joined Surrey Aquanauts as I now lived in the Woking area.”
“Of course digital photography began to boom and I saw the underwater results that were possible while visiting a dive show.
“I bought a SLR camera and underwater housing in 2007 and in 2009 I was lucky enough to get some one-to-one tuition with celebrated British underwater photographer, Martin Edge.
“There are very few people who teach underwater photography or share their skills but Martin is superb. He really got me interested and showed me just what can be achieved with planning, thought and hard work.”
Nick would love to make his living as a professional underwater photographer but is happy to take his camera out whenever he can.
“I’m content though just enjoying diving and always have my camera with me when I do dive,” he added.
“I use a Nikon camera in a special underwater housing, various lenses and strobe lights and that’s it really.
“I prefer natural light and, I have to admit, black and white images have an appeal, especially when photographing wrecks. However, I have been experimenting with remote flash lights placed within wrecks. The resulting images can be very effective and almost ghostly.
“I used that technique on the shot I took of a sunken aircraft which was awarded a runners-up award in the Freshwater category. I took that photograph at Capenwray Dive Centre, near Carnforth.
“I have had other successes with awards in other photographic competitions but for me the underwaterphotgraphy.com competition is top of the agenda every year. After all it’s a global competition entered by the world’s very best photographers.”