The Byron Underwater Festival 2007
Contributed by Wandy Hochgrebe
first Byron Underwater Festival, which was held May 10-13 was a great success
with more than 30 divers entering in the Underwater Shoot-Out and over 100 artworks
submitted to the ‘Marine Visions’ Art Competition. The aim of the
event was and is to be more than just another digital shoot-out competition.
wanted to promote the passion for the ocean to not just divers, but also to
snorkellers, kayakers and even those who never enter the water. At the welcome
BBQ meet and greet at PLANUA Divers Retreat on Thursday night shoot-out participants
could eye the competition and have a relaxed chat to Neville Coleman and the
festival organisers. A very successful night – amongst other things helped
greatly by MadFish wines, the wine sponsors of the Underwater Festival.
Friday and Saturday free Marine Wildlife sessions were held at the Byron Bay
Community Centre with some of the talks being so well visited there was standing
room only. In numerous presentations we heard about whales and dolphins and
Lance Ferris from Seabird Rescue outlined the work he does on stranded turtles
in our area. Unfortunately, a high number of the turtles wash up on our local
beaches because their intestines are blocked after they ingest hard plastic.
On Saturday night we heard our guest of honour Neville Coleman talk about nudibranchs.
Not only was this a very informative as Neville knows a great deal about them,
but there were also plenty of laughs as Neville is a very experienced and entertaining
speaker. The Byron Bird Buddies also gave a presentation with fantastic photographs
on the shorebirds of the Byron Shire. Their talk tied in nicely with the interactive
birdwalks they had organised at the Belongil Estuary on the Saturday and the
night was huge with over 300 people turning up at Mary Ryans’s, one of
the local book/coffee shops with the official launch of the ‘Marine Visions’
art exhibition organised by Retrospect Galleries. And they didn’t just
come for the free MadFish wines. Artists from near and far submitted their underwater
themed works - there were photographs, sculptures and paintings, all of a really
high standard. The overall winner was Angela Pozzi from Portland in the USA
with her brightly coloured interactive marine sculptures.
people that entered in the Underwater Festival Shoot-out had a pretty rough
time, due to big seas and lots of cornflake weed in the water. However, the
marine life seemed to love it and there were plenty of subjects to be photographed!
Both Sundive and the Byron Bay Dive Centre and their staff did a fantastic job
keeping all contestants happy and safe during these challenging conditions.
was one of the main sponsors of the event. They brought two reps up from Sydney
for the whole duration with more than 10 trial cameras in housings, which was
a fantastic addition to the festival and a great chance for newcomers to get
their hands onto one of the latest underwater cameras and have a play. Amongst
the testers were six students from the Shearwater Steiner School in Mullumbimby
who for the first time had the opportunity to take these Olympus underwater
cameras with them on a dive and give underwater photography a go. They did brilliantly
and Caitlin Braithwaite won the first prize in the Young Photographer prize
with her photo of a Green Moray.
The Underwater festival Shootout was the richest in Australia with prizes including
a dive trip for two to Vanuatu from Allways Dive Expeditions and a full set
of Beuchat dive gear. All up prizes in value of over $20,000 were handed over
to the winning contestants.
Main winners of the Underwater Festival Shoot-out were:
- Best Festival Portfolio - 5 images
- Best Festival Photograph - SLR camera
- Best Festival Photograph - Compact camera
- Best Festival Photograph - Novice
- Neville Coleman Awards - most interesting critter finds
During the Finale Night the Underwater Village was well visited with booths
from a range of organizations related to the marine environment and Neville
Coleman was on hand to sign copies of his books. All in all a great event that
will be held again next year. Of course we are aiming for an even better event,
so please mark the dates in you calendar and schedule your time off ! The 2008
Festival will include a video shoot-out section. Currently the planned dates
are around the 11 May 2008.
For winning photos from this year and updates for next year see
- you can subscribe to the newsfeed to remain in touch with updates.