2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year | Wreck

I am very honored to be awarded the Winner in the Wreck Category for the 2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY) contest.

The “photo” that won is a screen capture of the final photogrammetry model I built of the F8F-1 Bearcat that sits 230 feet deep off Point Loma, California. To date, there have only been two divers on the wreck (myself and Drew Wilson) and the target was initially identified by Tyler Stalter.

F8F-1 Bearcat : An Engine With a Saddle

I had submitted a few different angles of the model and this was the one that the judges selected.

People have entered photogrammetry models in the contest in the past and they have won awards, but I think this is the first time that a model was the Category Winner.

This model is the result of two dives.

The first dive was in June 2022. Tyler had a few targets to check out and he had to work so I was out with Chris & Lora looking at them. One of them had a really small blip on the sonar but looked promising. The wreck is in an area where we have found many different “dumped” planes and so I wasn’t really expecting to find anything really great. When I got to the bottom, I couldn’t see any structure but waited a short while for my eyes to adjust and then I saw some fish. I followed the fish and then the wreck started to appear and I first saw the bent propeller and then the engine. What a fantastic find.

I built an initial model and it looked pretty good but it was missing parts of the wings and I knew I needed to conduct a second dive if I wanted something good for the UPY contest. After June, I had a couple trips and got pretty busy with other dive projects but always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to go back and that I could possibly submit something to the UPY contest.

In December, they announced that UPY 2023 was open for entries and I was really running out of time and conditions can be completely unpredictable that time of year. I booked my dive for December 19th and crossed my fingers. We actually had great conditions and I got the photos I needed and built the final model. I did some post-processing of the photos for white balance, contrast, etc. before building the texture. The model itself is about 750 photos and is quite detailed.

Other Views

Below are the six different views I submitted to the contest.


I was asked to provide a short video about the dive for the contest. It is available on the UPY website via YouTube and I’ve posted it below.

Thanks To….

  • The UPY Contest organization and judges – they do an amazing job with the contest and provide detailed feedback on the photos submitted. They put a lot of thought, time, and energy into the contest.
  • My wife who encourages me to follow my passions. When I get discouraged or frustrated or when I spend too much time out of the water and get “cranky” she always gives me a fresh perspective.
  • Drew Wilson who went with me on the second dive
  • Chris, Rod, & Lora at Marissa Charters. Accurately placing a downline on a tiny target like an airplane is not easy and they always nail it. When you are doing long, complex dives in the open ocean with a lot of deco, it is very reassuring to know that the surface team is world class and “has your back.”
  • Finally, a big “thanks” to my dive & research partner, Tyler Stalter. He is often behind the scenes, but he is the one that first identified this as a potential target.

Listening To

“I woke the same as any other day
Except a voice was in my head
It said seize the day, pull the trigger, drop the blade
And watch the rolling heads”
— Chris Cornell

11 thoughts on “2023 Underwater Photographer of the Year | Wreck

  1. UPY is quite competitive, and this award is a significant acknowledgment of your skill. Congratulations, Brett!

    1. Thanks, Jim! Yeah – I was really amazed when I found out I had placed in the Wreck category and then I found out that I actually won. There are some really amazing photographs.

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