Ocean Views 2014 — The Power of Imaging

Judging the Oceans Views photography contest took hours. It was not because of indecision but because of these extraordinary images that will stop you in your tracks or make you back up and take another look. The experience was like reading a global, visual atlas of the sea. The geographic range of the imagery in the contest is astounding. Once-hard-to-get places are now mainstream destinations that attract curious and ambitious photographers with an appetite for improving their portfolios. Truly remote and "edge of wilderness" places are no longer the exclusive domain of seasoned professionals with a magazine budget behind them. If you can find it on a map, you can get there, shoot it and bring back a set of images that stir the creative bones of others to reach farther, experiment, explore and create.

Underwater image making smashes new ceilings in nearly every publication I look at. There is no one single expert or best photographer or superhero photographer who gets it right with every frame. I hate the words "best," "most" and "legend," which somehow get applied to shooters when they have been around long enough to earn some title. Looking at the images in this contest I see images that could grace a cover, become iconic and have the power to create change. We are all out there swimming around with cameras, drawing on curiosity, passion, ambition, talent and technology. The Ocean Views photo contest is a collection of passion and ambition that translates into a collective that can make your head spin. I like looking at images that make me want to go there — that motivate me. Several images in this contest motivated me, got my attention and made me ask questions. That's what good imagery does.

In every category I see a combination of talent and technology at work. I see point-and-shoot frames that could be magazine covers. I see environments that would fail on 400-speed film that leap to life and become electric in digital. Sensor technology has transformed new shooters into good shooters and good shooters into great shooters. Historically on a typical National Geographic assignment I used to take 500 rolls of film, eight housings, eight cameras and 16 different lenses and a set of backups. The excess baggage fees were blood curdling. All eight cameras would go into the water and come out with a maximum of 288 frames total. I would not see the film for three months. Now I can see the images in a millisecond and make decisions about them. Now we learn from our mistakes instantly — not just from our single-frame triumphs. The immediate feedback has changed the game for all of us. It has raised the bar to new technological heights, but true creativeness still belongs to the individual brain and eye.

Our photographic IQ has quintupled in a decade; images are stronger, say more and are more sophisticated. A picture has about two seconds to grab a viewer's attention, but it has to have more than a strong subject. It has to have the illusive edge of art. Like music, pictures are a universal language we all can understand. They have power to honor, humiliate, convince the unconvinced, and they have the power to create change.

Keep shooting,
David Doubilet

Ocean Views 2014: Winners Gallery
Ocean Views 2014: Bonus Gallery