Epson Red Sea 2008 Coverage- Award Ceremony

Sharon Rainis        photos: Fabrice Boisser

The winners of the Epson Red Sea 2008 competition, held for the 4th year in a row , were announced on Saturday night, November 15th. As the years go by, images submitted to this competition get better and better, and correspondingly, the judges are required for more difficult decisions. The moment on which Noam Kortler got up on the stage to collect his $10,000 check, along with a trip for two to Papua New Guinea, was very exciting. Although all photographers were hoping to take a prize back home, it did not hold anyone from complimenting the talented and lucky winners and celebrating their success.

I had the privilege to host the winning ceremony, together with a talented and well appreciated colleague, Razi Livnat. Both of us were very much involved with documenting the event during the week, getting to know the participants and sharing their hopes and expectations. Therefore we found ourselves as excited as the participants themselves were when the ceremony began. Aside from announcing the winners, the ceremony also featured two lotteries, in which 10 printers and 2 projectors were allotted among all competition participants. This was a surprise planned ahead to provide many other participants with a chance to go back home with a prize, but it was definitely also part of the “build up” in the ceremony, as it delayed the winners announcements a little bit more. After all, when prizes are valued as more than $80,000, one has every reason in the world to create a build up!

Award ceremony

Although this was the Epson Red Sea competition, obviously most of the photographers focused on capturing images of fish rather than printers. Well, most of them. Not all. As an underwater photographer with a team which constantly looks for reasons to (professionally) fool around, we decided to go for the Epson Red Sea 2008 theme. We simply unplugged the first Epson printer we had found and took it for its very first (and last) dive. Let’s just say that working on its buoyancy skills was quite a challenge…

Sharon working on  buoyancy

Environmental conservation concerns seemed to draw much attention during this event and enjoyed the warmth of the spotlights. When Roni Soffer, head of the judges, came up on the stage to announce the Judge’s prize, he began by introducing the story behind the scenes. He spoke about the judges’ initial choice, an excellent picture of a fish on a background that somehow seemed, well, for the sake of this report let’s call it “unnatural”. The concerned judges then opened the folder in which all images of the photographer were uploaded in a sequence, and found out that the fish was somehow forced to swim to a different location, a location which the photographer believed will suit him more as a background. Obviously, this image was disqualified and the photographer was fined.
The issue of environmental conservation came up again when Noam Kortler, the winner of the Eilat Shoot-Out Portfolio, showed up on stage to collect his prize. After letting all the anxious photographers to capture an image of him with his huge check, he came closer to the microphone and asked to say a few words. He was very excited, and though he just won the first prize everyone was praying for, he also seemed a little bit troubled. Noam said that during the competition he was photographed touching a coral, an incident he is very sorry about. He said that he is dedicating this prize to his mother, who is very sick, and finished by saying that although he intended to donate his money to the Israel Cancer Association, and although he was already fined for this incident, he would like to donate half of his prize ($5,000!!) to an environmental conservation organization in Eilat called “The Sentries of the Bay”. As much as I am involved with environmental conservation concerns and as much as I believe that a true underwater photographer is only one that cherishes the sea and its living creatures, I still couldn’t help but thinking that $5,000 dollars is a hell lot of money for touching a coral. Furthermore, I think Noam proved a very important point by initiatively increasing his “fine” by $5,000. He showed he truly cared.

I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite here, because nobody’s perfect, but I would like to state that one cannot be a nature photographer without sharing great respect to the nature. The sea is not our own private studio, and we should remember to act according to what we really are there, visitors. The fact that we are usually surrounded underwater by helpless creatures which cannot fight back, does not entitle us to do as much as we please. I am glad that whoever broke the rules this year took steps to implement that this was unforgivably wrong, but I hope we will not encounter such behaviors in next year’s competition.
Many thanks to all the sponsors which made this event possible, including Epson, Isrotel hotels, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Israeli Ministry of Science, The Israeli Culture & Sports Authority, the Cyprus Tourism Organization, the Papua Tourism Authority, PADI International, Seacam, the Eilat Municipality, Maccabee beer and many others. Special thanks to the person who provide us with the opportunity to engage in this event year after year, the creator, producer, organizer and scene manager of this competition- David Pilosof.
For the coverage day by day ….



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