Volume 13, Issue 83  |  October 15, 2021

Winners announced for 2021 Laguna Bluebelt Photo Contest

During the endless pandemic, 63 photographers turned to the ocean for solace, solitude and inspiration in capturing the beauty and biodiversity of Laguna’s Bluebelt – a network of State Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The 2021 Laguna Bluebelt Photo Contest awarded more than $2,000 in cash and prizes to contestants, encouraging them to spend it locally, as a way to give back to the many Laguna Beach businesses sponsoring the popular event over the past 10 years.

Jinger Wallace, a contest organizer along with Charlotte Masarik, celebrated the successful contest as a triumph over adversity and a tough year dealing with technical challenges and the unknown impacts of COVID. “It’s the magnificent teamwork of the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition that brings us together to capture the photos of the places we love and cherish.”

Winners announced Brown

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Submitted photos

Sean Hunter Brown won 1st Place Professional and $500 with “Intertidal” taken below and above the waterline at the same time

In judging the entries, Mitch Ridder said, “We received a fun variety of images this year…to help bring awareness to Laguna’s Bluebelt and the importance of protecting the health of our ocean and its marine life. As a panel, we were more impressed with the volume, quality and creativity of the Amateur work…to choose images that shared a balance of technical ability, strong composition, good light and had an interesting twist to their point of view.”

According to Cliff Wassmann, another contest judge, “Many people are experimenting with new techniques and interesting compositions. They showed the variety of beauty in our MPA very well.” 

Joining judges this year, Patsee Ober said, “The Laguna Beach MPA is such a diamond in our town and much thanks to the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition for sponsoring this annual photo contest. As one who has spent countless hours down at our coastline, I was impressed with the number of amateur photographers who were out in our MPA enjoying all that Laguna has to offer. Their creative and technical abilities in presenting their images made it hard to choose though there were definitely several that stood out.”

Sean Hunter Brown won 1st Place Professional and $500 with Intertidal taken below and above the waterline at the same time. “A remote flash was used to illuminate the underwater portion of the photo that was taken at low tide in the tidepool area at Brooks Street beach,” said Brown.

Winners announced Sears

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Brandon Sears took 2nd Place Professional and $300 with “Two for One,” capturing the beauty inside of the wave as well as when it begins to break

Brandon Sears took 2nd Place Professional and $300 with Two for One. “It was the perfect winter morning conditions to capture a wave and the sunrise working in harmony. Main Beach aligns really well with where the sun rises during these early months,” said Sears. “I titled this one Two for One, because of the beauty inside of the wave in the foreground as well as the beauty of the wave beginning to break in the background.”

Winners announced Espino

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Aline Espino, the 2nd Place Professional winner, won $150 for “Daydream”

Aline Espino, the 3rd Place Professional winner, won $150 for Daydream, an aerial of Laguna’s Pirate Tower.

Winners announced Remington

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David Remington, the 1st Place Amateur winner, won $500 for “Catch of the Day”

Amateur winners added dynamic images with David Remington taking 1st place and $500 for Catch of the Day. “Earlier in the week, I noticed this osprey hunting in the cove at low tide. Hoping for the best, I returned at low tide two days later and waited, low and behold he shows up and after two aborted attempts, he crashes into the surf and comes up with this kelp bass,” said Remington. “I caught this photo as he circled around the cove to head south back to his nest. I love the contrast of the golden hour light on his white underside.”

Winners announced Roy

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Michael Roy, the 2nd Place Amateur winner, won $300 for “Rancho La Bolsa Dive Club”

Michael Roy, with a 2nd Place Amateur win and $300 said, “During COVID we formed a free diving club called Rancho La Bolsa Dive Club, named after the original Spanish land grant that includes the area of Newport Harbor to Laguna Main Beach. We dive every Sunday, mostly in Emerald Bay, and we collect old, toxic fishing lead and spark plugs that were used for fishing as far back as the early 1900s. Lead is toxic to the ocean, so we are collecting hundreds of pounds and have contracted an artist to cast a statue of a whale we would like to put in Heisler Park as a way to remind people to keep our ocean’s clean.”

Winners announced Welch

Christian Welch, the 3rd Place Amateur winner, won $300 for “Never Board in the Surf”

Christian Welch took 3rd Place Amateur and a $150 award with Never Board in the Surf. “Even while waiting out the waves, trying to find the perfect set, the ocean never ceases to move you. I was out one morning and thought to get some long exposure shots, while off Brook Street I saw this lone surfer and grabbed the shot,” shared Welch.

Winners announced Greenberg

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Suzanne Greenberg, Honorable Mention for “Timeless”

Honorable Mention Winners will receive Yeti Refillable Bottles from the Cox Communications Laguna Bluebelt Partnership. Among Amateur Honorable Mention Winners, Suzanne Greenberg’s Timeless, used intentional camera movement in a horizontal direction, creating a dreamlike sunset at Aliso Beach.

Winners announced Elhatem

Bassim Elhatem, Honorable Mention for “Every Sunset Sings a Song of its Own”

Bassim Elhatem, another Amateur Honorable Mention who provided Every Sunset Sings a Song of its Own, said, “I often run away here to escape on my paddleboard; to hide in plain sight out in the anonymity of the open space.”

For more information about the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition, visit


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