“Be. Okinawa Master Class”, organized by Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau, saw the congregation of top underwater photography masters pitting their skills against each other for the most beautiful scenes of Okinawa’s underwater treasures from 16 – 20 May 2017.
Text by Vita Liu
Internationally reknowned photographers included Marco Chang, Jim Chen, Lynn Wu, Nelson Liu and Yangminchcheng Yang from Taiwan; Yuping Chen, Wei Andie Deng, and Erjing Bao from China; Insoo Park, Jaebub Chun, Ki Joon Kim and Seungchul Yang from Korea; Felicia Yen and Lilian Koh from Singapore; Shu Ricky from Hong Kong; Parnupong Norasethkamol and Pipat Kosumlaksamee from Thailand; Kelvin Tan HY from Singapore, Iyad Suleyman from Dubai and Matteo Vicconti from Italy.
Weather conditions were not so ideal for diving in the first two days, but participants still strived to get the best out of every dive in the frigid waters with assistance from the staff of Marine House Seasir.
“It even changed the way I take photos,” enthused Marco Chang
Okinawa Convention & Visitors Bureau also presented seminars to the participants. The presentation by Iyad Suleyman of Dubai was especially inspiring for Marco Chang of Taiwan. “It even changed the way I take photos,” enthused Chang. “I wish there will be opportunities for Iyad to visit Taiwan to share his experience with underwater photography fans.”
The Be. Okinawa Master Class Competition was created to promote the underwater diversity and ecology of Okinawa, and participants were expected to represent the natural environment. Each participant had to submit one photo each in macro and wide-angle categories with no more than 10 percent crop along with strict photoshop limitations. Raw files were scrutinized with scores awarded by participating photographers, OCVB members, staff of Marine House Seasir and the judge: Mr. Jerome Kim.
The beauty of Aka Island, and its abundant marine life was well captured with winners announced over a dinner to mark the closing of the event with Mr. Sen Tamaki of OCVB and Mr. Hideshi Inai of Marine House Seasir residing over the banquet.
2nd Runner up – Iyad Suleyman (Dubai)
“I took this photo on the second dive of the second day. It was a cloudy day and it wasn’t easy to shoot since I had to wait for the right moment. And it took all of 20 minutes to the shot. This was a good experience and I enjoyed every dive. It was even better than my expectation, because Aka is not a famous dive site for me, but the diving condition was surprisingly good and I will definitely come back again!”
1st Runner up – Ki Joon Kim (Korea)
“I took this winning photo at the second dive of the last day of the contest. At that moment, the shooting conditions were okay, I stayed there for a very long time thinking of how to compose, how to set up the lighting and when to shoot…It was a great experience and I am very honored to win.”
Champion – Marco Chang (Taiwan)
“I took this photo on the very last dive of the contest. I wasn’t really thinking much about it, I knew it was a shy fish, so I slowed down my movements and breathing to get closer. Luckily, I was rewarded with a very good shot at the end. This competition wasn’t easy; water temperatures were not warm. My hands felt numb and I had to drink lots of hot tea post-dive.”
2nd Runner up – Jaebub Chun (Korea)
“This competition was not easy, I often had to swim about 100 meters from one spot to another to get a shot. Sometimes I had to swim 200 meters in just one dive. I took this photo on the last day, by this time I felt no pressure to perform; I was relaxed and I didn’t expect anything. I like the competition and I enjoyed the diving environment in Okinawa. I will return one day.”
1st Runner up – Erjin Bao (China)
“I could not find a model for this shoot, so I had to do it myself. I set up the timer for 10 seconds, then swam in front of the camera to strike a pose. It was a lucky shot. This was the first time I tried something like this. It was a very fun experience.”
Champion – Seungchul Yang (Korea)
“I took this photo on the second dive of the third day. The shooting conditions were good and I was feeling very ambitious. There were many people queueing up behind me and everyone got 10 minutes to take photos of this critter. I took 20 photos and I was happy with the results. I will come back to Okinawa again when the weather is warmer.”
Grand Master Special Okinawa Choice
Erjin Bao (China)
“This is totally out of my expectation, I felt surprised and honored to receive two awards; it was truly a big encouragement for me. I was delighted to be able to attend this event with other participants, we got to share and dive together, everyone is great. If a beginning underwater photographer comes to ask for advice, it would be: Dive more and shoot more.”