Winner’s Profile | Kevin Coombs Discovering Shipwrecks and Winning Photo Competitions

Winner’s Profile | Kevin Coombs Discovering Shipwrecks and Winning Photo Competitions

The Cairns Nautilus Scuba Club Underwater Photography Competition is a yearly underwater photography competition hosted by the Cairns Nautilus Scuba Club. This non-profit scuba club promotes scuba diving in North Queensland, Australia with monthly club meetings featuring guest speakers, dive trip opportunities, and social events. Their annual photo competition is judged by prestigious photographers and backed by incredible prizes. 

Competitor Kevin Coombs recently took home a number of awards from this year's Club Competition - most notably 1st Place in Portrait and DSLR Portfolio categories as well as high commendations for both Wide Angle and Macro categories. 

Learn more about Kevin's scuba and underwater photography history, from the shores of South Africa to sailing his own boat around Australia and abroad for the last four decades in search of those winning shots. 

From South Africa to Australia

I started diving in South Africa in the early 70’s before there was even such a thing as a dive course in that country, so at first, I was self-taught and really didn’t know anything.

I left South Africa in 1981 with the intention of diving the Great Barrier Reef. On leaving I cashed in a life insurance policy and bought a Nikonos IV underwater camera. On arriving in Australia, I realised I needed a C Card to go on liveaboard dive trips and consequently did my PADI open underwater course in 1984. After the Nikonos IV got flooded and fixed a couple of times I literally threw it overboard the last time on the way back to shore and bought a second hand SLR and Ikelite housing which has been upgraded a number of times over the years.

I now use a Nikon D7000 in an Ikelite housing coupled with two Ikelite DS160 strobes. My favourite lenses being a Tokina 10-17 mm fisheye and two macro lenses, Nikon 60 and 105 mm.

ikelite kevin coombs portrait 1st place winner

My winning Portrait photo (which was my personal favourite) of a pink Rhinopias was taken in Bali about 20 minutes west of Talumben. © Kevin Coombs 

Setting Sail in Australia 

We also bought a boat on arrival in Australia which has been upgraded a number of times over the years so I have dived out of Cairns with our own boat for over 40 years as well as doing numerous local and overseas holidays.

Having owned our own boat for many years I also became obsessed with finding wrecks. I happened to be in the right place at the right time when GPS’s first became available and acquired co-ordinates from fisherman then dived their fishing spots. I this manner I discovered a number of wrecks the most well-known being the Lady Bowen a two masted Brigantine off Mission Beach and a Catalina Sea Plane off the Frankland Islands (both south of Cairns). Credit to the fishermen who needless to say didn’t know what they were fishing on. In this manner I discovered a number of wrecks off Cairns in the 90’s.

kevin coombs DSLR portfolio first place

Image of a manta ray from 1st Place win for DSLR Portfolio. © Kevin Coombs 

Diving Around the World 

My wife is also a keen under water photographer and I would have to say two of our favourite dive destinations would be Indonesia and the Philippines... I have been competing in the Club Competition for a number years and have also won both Macro and DSLR portfolios before and numerous Highly Commended places.

At the beginning of this year, we did a great white cage diving trip in South Australia aboard the Rodney Fox boat MV Rodney Fox which enabled me to get the photos of the great white sharks and sea lions in my DSLR Portfolio and well as two Highly Commended Wide-Angle places.

Our next dream trip will be to the Lembeh Straights this October. World famous macro destination and our second trip to the area. We will also be doing a trip to the Northern Tip of Australia to dive the wreck of the Quetta, a passenger/mail ship which sank in 1890.

sea lion kevin coombs underwater photography winner with ikelite housing

Kevin's sea lion images won him multiple awards in this year's competition - high commendations for Wide Angle category as well as his 1st Place DSLR Portfolio category. © Kevin Coombs 


kevin coombs ikeliteKevin Coombs is an underwater photographer, sailer, diver, and traveler. Starting out as a self-taught diver (current PADI certified), Kevin has traveled the world over sailing and diving. A member of the Cairns Nautilus Scuba Club, his underwater photography portfolio is well-awarded and highly commended. He recently returned from a trip to Lembeh where he and his wife Ann, a fellow award-winning underwater photographer, explored the many macro wonders that region has to offer. Check out more of Kevin and Ann Coombs' underwater photography on their Facebook page. 

Get Competitive

You work hard for your underwater photo and video, and competitions are a great way to get rewarded for all your hard work. In addition to winning monetary and practical prizes like equipment, competitions are also a great source of exposure for underwater photographers. Whether you're looking to win some prizes, get your name in the press, or just want to challenge yourself, photography competitions are a great avenue. Read our article Tips on Entering a Photo Contest and learn how to start getting rewarded for all your hard work.


Ikelite in Australia

Digital Diver is Australia's source for high-quality and value-packed underwater photography equipment for over 20 years and is an Authorized Ikelite Dealer. They're a knowledgeable and friendly source for all your Ikelite gear.

Additional Reading

Photo Contest Tips From a 100x Winner

The Importance of Hitting the Water with a Shot in Mind [VIDEO]

An Insider's Guide to Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Up Close and Personal: A Guide to Underwater Animal Portraits

Tips on Entering a Photo Contest

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