The Out of the Blue competition received a staggering number of photographs of great diversity, both thematically and geographically. We received images from all over the Commonwealth, of all different subjects and with many interesting stories.   Needless to say, judging these images and selecting  the winners and runners-up was a very difficult task. Luckily, we had a panel of expert judges, who were able to take on this challenge.  They came to London on a Saturday in September to give their verdict. In this blog, we will convey some of their reflections on the judging process.

All of our judges have very close connections to the oceans. Be it as a photographer, advocate or free-diver, they all share a passion for the world’s ocean and the people who depend on it. These different backgrounds were reflected in differing personal takes on individual photographs which made the judging process very interesting.

In general, the judges agreed that the diversity of entries was a great asset to the competition. They were thrilled to see that so many people of different backgrounds and proficiencies had participated. They also thought that the Commonwealth context brought the perfect mix of geographical and cultural diversity to the competition and noted that the ocean as a theme binds the Commonwealth together. As Terrence Dormer put it: “Seas and oceans should be regarded not so much as barriers between land areas, but rather as our global commons — and as bridges which facilitate trading and other contact between countries and communities”.

The judges also reflected that technique is more important than equipment in creating winning images.. This was reflected in the judge’s selection of winning images. By using composition cleverly and giving a sense of perspective, photographers with very limited means still managed to get to the final shortlists. Daniel Beltrá said: “It is the eye — and not a sophisticated camera — that creates the image”. Kevin Casha agreed with him in this respect; “It is not the camera, but the angle, the thought process and the input of the photographer which makes a difference”.

Reflecting on the different categories within the competition, again, thejudges were very impressed with the subjects that photographers chose. Daniel Beltrá reflected on the number of images which were “metaphors showing the crucial link between humans and oceans, which give a sense of how precarious that balance is”. Likewise, Kevin Casha noted that “the fragility of humankind compared to the power of the oceans” was a predominant theme in the competition.

After long and intense discussions, punctuated by caffeine and sugar breaks, the judges eventually were successful in coming to a decision on the competition’s winners and runners-up. Do keep checking the website in order to find out which images impressed the judges enough to win  an Award.  Excitingly, the Overall Winner will be announced on 27th November at a special Award Ceremony in Malta in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. 


This post was first published on the Out of the Blue website