Going deep: photographers honoured for their work

Ice Breaker – Leading Seaman Rommel Billanes first-place entry was snapped from the shoreline of Iceland’s rugged coastline when the Marine Technician visited there in 2015. Photo by LS Rommel Billanes

Ice Breaker – Leading Seaman Rommel Billanes first-place entry was snapped from the shoreline of Iceland’s rugged coastline when the Marine Technician visited there in 2015. Photo by LS Rommel Billanes

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

An amateur photographer with a passion for capturing colourful underwater imagery has claimed two awards in the Canadian Armed Forces Imagery Contest.

Master Warrant Officer Mario Robillard, who works as a Senior Financial Manager for FSA and Financial Policy, Procedure and Inspection at Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC) headquarters, was pleasantly surprised to find out in email from the contest’s judges that his first-ever submissions won not one, but two prizes.

He took second place and third place wins in the Novice Division in the CAF’s annual contest for photography and videography, noting his images were unique as they were not taken on dry land.

He is an avid diver and member of Aquarius Dive Club and snapped the ­photos while below the surface of Brentwood Bay near Henderson Point. His photo of an illuminated white jelly fish entitled Over Easy Please captured Second Place in the Open category, and Dancing Nudibranch, a close-up image of a colourful sea slug, took third spot in the Macrophotography (close to the lens) category.

Four years ago he bought a professional underwater camera to capture the beauty he saw beneath the waves.

“It’s not as easy as a point and shoot,” he explains. “The settings and controls are much more complicated, so there was a learning curve.”

The camera uses two powerful strobe lights, a focus light, and a floating arm for balance and buoyancy, and is vacuumed sealed to keep water out.

MWO Robillard says it’s not only a case of having the right equipment to get a good image, but also having good buoyancy underwater to avoid touching the fragile sea life.

As part of the contest prize structure he received a $100 Bank of Montreal gift card for his second-place entry and a $50 card for his third-place entry. This year’s contest involved 1,473 entries from 272 participants.

Strong Showing for Esquimalt
MWO Robilliard wasn’t the only photographer from CFB Esquimalt to be recognized.

Four other photographers from the base collected top prizes.

Leading Seaman Rommel Billanes of Canadian Forces Fleet School captured First Place in the Advanced Division Environment category with his photo Ice Breaker. He snapped the image of early morning sunlight shining on shoreline ice while on vacation in Iceland in 2015.

It is the seventh consecutive year that the 49-year-old Marine Technician has captured a top prize in the photo contest with his entries last year earning him recognition as Advanced Photographer of the Year.

“I sometimes think the judges must be tired of seeing me, since I have been entering the contest for so long,” says LS Billanes. He first entered the contest in 2011 while he was a new recruit living in Nelles Block.

Also recognized in the Novice Environment Category is Leading Seaman Sisi Xu who took Second Place for her photo Shades of Toxic, and LS David Gariepy who took third spot for his submission Midnight Pollution.

LS Gariepy snapped his grim, industrial-themed black and white image depicting a Quebec City pulp and paper mill last year and didn’t think much of it at the time.

“When I was taking pictures at the site I was trying to avoid the fence,” he says. “It was only when I reviewed my pictures later that I realized how powerful an image it was.”

LS Xu said she thought the sulfurous fumes coming off an active volcano near  ˉOwakudani, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, would make an interesting photo, snapping her image from a tourist ropeway.

Corporal Stuart MacNeil of Formation Imaging received an Honorable Mention in the Advanced division Animals category for his submission Eagle Eye. He captured the image with his 200 mm lens near Duncan, B.C.

Two West Coast-based photographers claimed this year’s top overall prizes in the contest. Petty Officer Second Class Greg Matthews, from Vancouver’s Naval Reserve Unit HMCS Discovery, won Photographer of the Year in the Novice Category, while Major Jean-Francois Dupont of 442 Squadron Comox was named Advanced Photographer of the Year.

The CAF Imagery contest has operated since 1968 and is an effort to celebrate the many facets of military life through recognizing excellence in the art of photography. The contest is organized by CAF Imaging Systems Program Management (ISPM) and Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) has seen 20,000 photos submitted from 4,000 participants since 1999, the year it moved to a digital format.

For further details and full contest results, click here.

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