The Byron Underwater Festival 2007

Neville Coleman with the Underwater Festival organisers Tim and Wandy Hochgrebe, Byron BayThe 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.

Marine Visions exhibition launch with Retrospect Galleries, Byron BayWe 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.

Lance Ferris talking turtles at the Marine Wildlife Talks, Byron BayOn 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 Sunday.

Interactive sculputures by Angela Pozzi at Marine Visions, Retrospect Galleries, Byron BayFriday 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.

Underwater cameras all set up, Underwater Festival, Byron BayThe 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.

Olympus stall at the Underwater Village, Underwater Festival, Byron BayOlympus 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:

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.

One of the winning shots of John Natoli, Underwater Festival,Byron BayOne of the winning shots of Gerard Braithwaite, Underwater Festival, Byron BayOne fo the winning shots of Eric Winters, Underwater Festival, Byron Bay

For winning photos from this year and updates for next year see - you can subscribe to the newsfeed to remain in touch with updates.

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