Long Beach engineer joins 3-person team in international underwater photo competition

So when an illness kept his dad out of the water, Watkins picked up a camera to keep his father from being shut out of the underwater scene entirely. Now, nearly 20 years later, Watkins teaches underwater photography everywhere from Alaska to Indonesia, and his undersea images have won international accolades. Most recently, the Bluff Heights resident became part of a three-member team representing the U.S. At 15, Ron Watkins learned how to dive from his father. in the finals of the International Underwater Photo Grand Prix, also known as the World Shootout, a competition that will conclude with an awards ceremony in Düsseldorf, Germany Saturday.

“For the first thing, each of us was extremely committed to this team concept, and wanted to put two of our best photos together that complemented the photos from the other people.”For Capozzola, that meant over-under shots — images that show a subject below the waterline and also what’s above the water. “We took a very structured approach to it,” Watkins said. Milisen, who specializes in blackwater photography, contributed two images of sea creatures backed by black ocean water. • RELATED: Palos Verdes biology teacher a finalist in international photo competition

• PHOTOS: Underwater images by local photographersWatkins, who works as an engineering consultant on top of his photography duties, said he specializes in catching rare and unique behavior of his subjects. He captures wide-angle images of large animals, such as sharks and orcas, as well as macro shots of small creatures like fish and shrimp.“The wide angle really allows me to combine ambient light … with artificial light from the strobes and create fairly dramatic images,” Watkins said from Germany.

Competition strategyCapozzola, a Palos Verdes Estates resident, and Jeff Milisen, a Hawaii-based photographer, joined Watkins on the team representing the U.S. And getting there took some strategy, Watkins said. Renee Capozzola, one of Watkins’ teammates in the World Shootout, said that’s rare – photographers generally specialize in either wide-angle or macro shots. For the national competition, the three photographers played to their individual strengths to produce a well-rounded collection of six images. in the finals for this year’s competition.