Professional Tustin photographer Alex Cowdell, known for his imagery of Maui’s cliff divers, captured another sea-going creature and won first prize with “Henry the Harbor Seal” in the seventh annual Laguna Bluebelt Coalition photo contest.
While free diving last April in Crescent Bay, Cowdell and his friend spotted two harbor seals playing hide and seek in the kelp. His friend convinced Cowdell to return to the 60-degree water off Deadman’s Reef. Using a GoPro 6 on a 28-inch metallic pole with a trigger, he held the camera three feet below the surface. As his friend was surfacing for air, the harbor seal looked in his direction and Cowdell caught the glance.
Contestants offered a rainbow of 80 colorful submissions to the annual contest, which aims to highlight the organization’s marine preservation efforts. Organizers Jinger Wallace, Charlotte Masarik, Ray Hiemstra, Debbie Meany, and Mike Beanan announced the winners this week.
Other winners include Noah Munivez, 17, a junior in high school who won first place in the amateur category with his “Blue Glass” wave. Julianne Steers, a biologist with the Dana Point Ocean Institute, won honorable mention among amateurs for her school of sargo fish.
Contest judges included locals Tom Lamb, Mitch Ridder and Pat Sparkuhl. “Photography has the ability to stretch our imagination and see in a new way,” said Lamb, who specializes in aerial landscape photography. “We looked for excellence in the medium and how the scene was portrayed to give us both a new perspective on the Bluebelt while maintaining the opportunity to create a wonderful photograph that presented a compelling story.”
Ridder, known for artfully composed landscape imagery, said the 10 honored images “rise above the all too familiar Laguna postcard with exceptional diversity and creative beauty, telling visual stories of mood and motion, even a touch of humor!”
The winning images will be displayed beginning Sunday, May 27, at the Forest and Ocean Gallery, 480 Ocean Ave., capped by an artist reception at the gallery Friday, June 8, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.