One of the winning photos (detail)
One of the winning photos (detail) Paula Faiferman, courtesy Epson

The Land of Israel has many beautiful spots, but one of the most beautiful isn't even on land – it's underwater, off the coast of Eilat, under the Red Sea. And to celebrate that beauty, a maker of digital cameras this month sponsored the sixth annual Epson Red Sea World of Underwater Images contest, which handed out tens of thousands of dollars in prizes for the best photos of underwater life and living in the Red Sea.

Nearly 90 photographers from Israel and around the world – including the U.S., Europe, and the Far East - participated in this year's event, which was held between November 8 and 14th, in cooperation with the Isrotel chain, Israeli scuba diving magazine Yam, the iDive internet portal, and others. Over $80,000 worth of prizes were handed out this year in what is considered one of the world's most prestigious underwater photography contests, in categories including “Fish of the Year,” “Undersea Fashion,” best color photo, most humorous photo, best video clip, and “Children of the Red Sea,” with photos taken by under-18 year olds.

The top prize, worth $25,000, was awarded for a series of the five best underwater digital shots – and this year's winner was Mark Fuller, a new immigrant from South Africa. Fuller,  a resident of Kibbutz Darom who moved to Israel five years ago, won a $10,000 check, along with an excursion for two to scuba dive off Papua New Guinea – a package worth $15,000. After the award, he said that the competition had been “difficult,” as he was pitted against many other talented photographers, and that he appreciated the fact that the judges had selected his photos as the best. Other Israeli winners included Eitan Nadel, who won for the best underwater video, and Amar Yunis, who was selected best amateur photographer.

Oren Fleisher, chairman of Epson Israel, said that the company sponsored the contest as a way to let underwater photographers express their creativity. “The blend of colors, and the need for fast underwater movement in order to capture a shot, makes winning this contest a technical challenge,” said Fleisher, a scuba diver who indulges in photography himself. “