2015 Rules & Instructions



SEA 2015 is open to all amateur photographers and/or videographers. Industry professionals, including those who teach underwater photography, photo trip leaders and those receiving industry sponsorship are not eligible for the SEA competition. Previous SEA Competition judges are not eligible for the SEA Competition.  The competition officials reserve the right to determine the level and eligibility of an entrant.

Although all possible care will be exercised, Northern California Underwater Photographic Society (NCUPS) and competition officials will assume no responsibility for the loss or damage of entries before, during or after the competition.

Permission to reproduce any entry for the promotional purposes of NCUPS is inherently granted by the entrant. No reproduction fee will be paid. Due credit by name is given to the photographer and the photographer retains all rights to the image.

Entries must have been taken underwater in a natural environment. No pool or aquarium shots will be accepted. Fresh water shots taken in a natural environment are allowed.

Any of the following will be basis for disqualification of one or all entries by an entrant at the sole discretion of the competition officials:

1.  Aquarium, pool, and book reproductions.

2.  Images or video having won a Best of Show or first place award in any major competition (competitions not restricted to a club member only) prior to submission.

3.  Images previously published commercially.

4.  Improperly formatted video or digital media.

5.  Images derived from one original entered in more than one category (the image will only be judged in the first class it is seen).

6.  Insufficient entry fees.

7.  Misrepresentation of skill level.

8.  Entry of an image that was not photographed by and thus not the property of the entrant.

9.  Failure to provide on request the original Raw digital file, negative or slide. The judges and/or competition officials reserve the right to request original images from entrants for review. If an original image is requested for review, the entrant has two weeks to comply or the entry may be disqualified.

10. Images displaying breach of conservation and exploitation of wildlife and/or the ocean environment. The judges and/or competition officials may disqualify any images exhibiting divers touching coral or animals, feeding animals, animals under stress or in an unnatural environment.

DEADLINE:  Entries must be RECEIVED by November 30, 2015. Please, if mailing, mail your entries early enough to be received by the deadline.


All decisions of the judges are final.

Digital and video categories will be judged separately. Novice entries will be judged separately.*

*Competition officials reserve the right to regroup categories by skill level or subject if an insufficient number of qualifying entries are received in any one category. Novice categories are available in Digital Still categories excepting Creative. NCUPS reserves the right to separate classes (creative, video) by skill level if enough qualifying entries are received.

Winners will be announced on the NCUPS website, and the winners notified by email or telephone.


Points are awarded for all places including honorable mentions. All first through third places will be awarded. Honorable mentions will be awarded, at the discretion of the judges, depending on quantity of entries in a category.

After the judging, winning entrants will be contacted and asked to fill in their preferences for prizes, from the competition prize list. Winners will have three weeks to indicate their preferences. Prizes will then be awarded on a highest point-highest priority basis. In the case of a tie extra points (in ¼ point increments) may be added depending on skill level of entrant, difficulty of class, and/or quantity of entries in an individual class. Should a winner not indicate prize preferences  within the three weeks allotted, they will be granted a prize from those remaining after others have made their selections.

In the event that an award winning entry is later found to have violated any rule, it will be disqualified, and the competition officials reserve the right to recall prizes or request reimbursement of fair market value if a non-refundable prize.


  1. A weighted point system will be used for awarding prizes to encourage competition and reward excellence. Points are awarded for all places including honorable mentions. Photo and Video competition points are added together.
  2. No participant may receive more than one prize.
  3. In the event of a tie, winners’ prize selection order will be determine through random selection.
  4. All persons selecting a prize agree that their image(s) or video may be used by NCUPS and SEA for promotion of the club and its competitions in future years.
  5. NCUPS and the SEA have solicited prizes from various individuals and companies. Each prize donor has represented to NCUPS and SEA that the prize offered will be provided to the participant who selects it. However, NCUPS and the SEA do not guarantee that the donor will actually deliver the prize and will not be responsible if the donor does not do so.
  6. Prize trips must be used within one (1) year and may have other restrictions.
  7. Prizes are nontransferable


All entries must be accompanied by an entry form and payment. A maximum of five (5) entries may be entered per category.

Video Entries:

1.  Classic Video entries should be between one and three minutes long with a maximum length of three (3) minutes. At least 80% of footage, exclusive of titles and credits (do not put your name in the credits) must have been filmed underwater.

2.  Video Snapshot entries should be between 10 and 30 seconds in length, and must be an unedited continuous clip with no music, text or voice effects allowed and must have been filmed completely underwater.

3.  No pool, aquarium or pole-cam shots are allowed.

4.  The entrant is responsible for any copyright liabilities with regard to music and title formats. Winners will be posted on Vimeo.com.

5. Accepted video file formats: MOV, MP4, WMV (unless submitting DVD).

6.  An entrant may enter both the Video Classic and Video Snapshot categories.

7.  Video entries may be uploaded using the link provided after registration. Video upload may be slow. Enter early and be patient.

8. Maximum file size is 2 Gigabytes.

9. Entries must be named correctly. File name format:

  • Category: ss (snapshot), cl (video classic)
  • Entrant name: first name last name (ex. janesmith)
  • Number: 1-5 if entering more than one entry per category.
  • File name example: ss_janesmith1.mov
    (Underscore between file name components and use lower case.)

10.  Alternatively, videos may be loaded onto a USB drive or DVD and mailed (see submission instructions below). USB drives and DVDs will not be returned.

11.  The same USB drive or DVD may contain both classic video entries and video snapshot entries for the same entrant. If sending a DVD, please add a DVD menu that clearly shows there are two (or more) entries on the DVD.

12.  Please put two second black slugs on either side of your Video Classic entries, and a two second title slug (without your name) before each entry. Video Snapshot entries should NOT include titles and slugs (new for 2015).

13. Label each physical DVD with the entrant’s name and title(s) of video entries.

14. There will be one skill level in video classes.

Digital Still Entries:

Digital manipulation is restricted to RAW conversion as necessary, sharpening, cropping (no more than 20%), saturation, and contrast adjustment (levels and curves). Minor backscatter cleanup is allowed. Masking, compositing, cloning, multiple exposures, and other digital manipulation are not allowed except in the Creative category.

1.  Still image entries should be uploaded using the link provided after registration. Alternatively, images may be saved onto a writable CD, DVD or USB drive and mailed along with the signed entry form and correct payment. We will not accept email entries.

2.  If using CD or DVD, write your name and e-mail address on the CD or DVD d (see submission instructions below).

3.  All digital still entries need to be in JPEG format.

4.  Scanned images are accepted.

5.  All images will be judged on a large monitor and should have a minimum size of 2000 pixels on the longest side and should be full resolution.

6.  It is recommended that images be saved in the highest JPEG quality for optimum viewing.

7.  Images should be saved in sRGB color space.

8.  Entries must be named correctly. File name format:

  • Skill level:  nov or adv (nov = novice, adv = advanced)
  • Category:  macro, wa, CA, mc, cre  (wa = wide-angle, CA = California, mc = marine conservation, cre = creative)
  • Entrant name:  first name last name (ex. janesmith)
  • Number: 1-5 if entering more than one entry per category.
  • File name example:   adv_macro_janesmith1.jpeg
    (Underscore between file name components and use lower case.)

9.  Images without an entry form will not be judged.


There will be novice and advanced skill levels in the digital categories and one skill level in the video, conservation and creative categories.

Novice:  Any amateur photographer who has been taking underwater photographs for two years or or less, and has not won more than two (2) best of, or first places in a major photography competition. A novice may enter the advanced skill level if they so desire.

Advanced:  Any other amateur photographer. A novice may enter the Advanced Skill Level classes, but if so may not enter the Novice Classes also.



No creative editing allowed. Please note entry specifications above for rules on digital editing. Final decision on whether an image is entered in the correct category (Macro vs. Wide angle) will be determined by the judges.

Macro: Images where a full frame image has a maximum life size of 8 x 5“. In the Macro category a certain feature or part of the subject takes up most or all of the frame. Macro images are useful for showing detail. Extreme Macro is allowed in this category. Extreme macro would be used to show extreme detail such as an image of an eye filling the frame or to show an extremely small creature such as a pygmy seahorse or skeleton shrimp.

Wide-angle:  Images where a full frame image has a minimum life size of 8 x 5″. This category will show a wide shot of an entire scene, placing the subject(s) in their environment. The point of the image is to show the subject in its surroundings.

California Underwater: Any image that was taken in the California state waters. Fresh water images taken in the state of California are allowed.

Marine Conservation:  The entries in this class should illustrate a marine conservation issue; whether it is an endangered or rare species or environment, an illustration of a non-sustainable fishery; or something more positive such as a conservation effort, re-growth of an environment, return of an endangered species, or an illustration of the benefits of artificial reefs. Open to still images taken underwater anywhere in the world. Entries should include a few sentences describing where the image was taken, what the story behind the image is, and why it was important to the photographer to take the image and tell the story. (Maximum of 75 words.) Still images only. Proceeds from this category are to be donated to a marine conservation/environmental educational organization of NCUPS choosing. The winning images will be displayed with description on a special marine conservation page on the NCUPS website.

Creative: This category is for the photographer to showcase their individual creativity. The only restriction is that the original image must have been taken by the entrant, underwater. Entrants are encouraged to use any and all tools available to express their individual creativity. Digital still images only. Please see entry specifications above.


Video entries will be judged on filmmaking ability, originality, creativity and entertainment value. Please see entry specifications above.

Classic:   Any qualifying short subject, between one and three minutes in length. The primary objective of this category is to tell a clear story using edited video clips together with music and/or voice and/or text. At least 80% of the footage, exclusive of titles and credits (do not put your name in the credits) must have been filmed underwater. Special effects are allowed.

Snapshot:  A video snapshot is one unedited continuous segment shot by the entrant and is a video at least ten (10) seconds but no more than thirty (30) seconds in length. It must be taken 100% underwater. Adding titles, music or sound effects will disqualify the entry. White balancing is encouraged.


There are two methods to submit entries. The first method is by uploading entries via the link on the NCUPS SEA web site, filling out and submitting an online entry form, and paying with PayPal. The alternative is to mail entries with digital still images or video files on CD DVD or USB drive with completed entry form, paying with either PayPal or personal check (U.S. only). This is our fifth year using an upload process with an online form and PayPal payments. We would appreciate receiving your feedback on how this process worked for you by emailing SEA@NCUPS.ORG.


Complete the on-line entry form.

•Click the submit button and follow the payment process to pay with PayPal or payment by check. Take note of the PayPal transaction number for your own records.

•Upload your images and/or video using the links provided after payment. Follow the instructions to submit your digital still or video entries. Video upload may be slow. Enter early and be patient.


Fill out online entry form

Print form and include it with shippment.

If paying with PayPal select the PAYMENT button and follow the payment process. Write the PayPal transaction number on your entry form in the space provided.

If paying with a check (U.S. only) they should be made out to NCUPS and mailed with your entries and entry form.

Package it all up (entries, entry form, and payment) and send to:

NCUPS – SEA 2015
c/o Brad Brown
328 Rolling Hills Ave
San Mateo, CA  94403 USA

Although every attempt will be made to confirm receipt of your entry, mailed entries may not receive a confirmation that they have been received until after the November 30, 2015 deadline date. If you have concerns please contact SEA@NCUPS.ORG.