Guam underwater photographer wins Best in Class


This shot by Guam’s Mike Fusco Best won him Best in Class at September’s MantaFest 2019. (Contributed Photo)

COLONIA, Yap—Mike Fusco of Guam was not to be deterred by shark-filled waters. In fact, he relished the opportunity to capture a shot of reef blacktip sharks at the ocean’s surface up close and personal. Thus, he was the winner of Best in Class for using a dSLR mirrorless camera for his shot at September’s MantaFest 2019 held in Colonia, Yap State, in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Now in its 13th year, MantaFest 2019 brought underwater photographers and videographers, both amateur and professional, to the small island of Yap in the western Pacific Ocean to compete for prizes, attend workshops, take tours of the island, and experience the unique and well-preserved culture of Yap. The photo school and contest will run again next year from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.

The other grand prize winners were Judy Bennett of New Orleans, LA (USA) for her video of Blacktip Sharks; Sheila Ott of Les Monts-de-Corsier (Switzerland) for Best of Show of a pelagic Diamond Head Squid cannibalizing another of its own species during a late night blackwater dive; and Katja Jakobsen of Smorum, (Denmark) for Best of Class/Non-DSLR and her shot of two of Yap’s resident manta rays.

MantaFest 2019 ran from Aug. 24 through Sept 8. Prizes were dive vacations and gear from leading manufacturers of diving and photo equipment to include Dive Damai, The Siren Fleet, Truk Odyssey Adventures, Ikelite and Mares.

Daily underwater shoots provided opportunities to dive with the resident population of manta rays, sharks and other creatures that inhabit the surrounding protected reef and steep coral walls. Workshops were led by an international panel of photography and journalism experts providing their help underwater with imaging and above water knowledge of editing workflow and software. They also offered advice during sessions with local models in settings that included the island’s unique stone money banks. There was also an afternoon and evening of traditional dance performances, food and activities thanks to the A Taste of Yap event held by the Yap Visitors Bureau and local businesses.

Fishermen know the pain of “the one that got away.” Underwater photographers also joke about the pain of the perfect photo taken the day after the MantaFest awards have been handed out.

To help compensate, Bill Acker, owner of the Manta Ray Bay Resort & Yap Divers, created the “Crying Towel Award” for the photographer with the best image captured the day after. Judy Bennett’s video of a Zebra Shark waking up and swimming off into the channel won a special edition MARES-Just Add Water mask and snorkel and the custom crying towel.

For more information about this year’s winners and the 2020 event, go to www.mantafest.com or visit @mantaraybay. (PR)

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