Right, so the Russians won, as expected. I mean, they were wearing golden suits, so it was a foregone conclusion:
and the Japanese were wearing silver suits, so guess where they ended?
So let’s get to the less obvious categories, like best T-shirt. I thought it was a shoe-in for this dude:
but then June-bug’s shirt is one i’ve loved for years:
now best turn was an interesting one, for there was this rather splendid example by a Russian guy
but then Tomoka had this oddly beautiful style, kinda poetry-in-motion, or Haiku-in-motion, in her case
Best shorts were undoubtedly the Russian’s, who took ‘shorts’ quite literally -almost too literally
the reactions to which were mostly summarised by this
Best pyjamas were worn by Jesper
best swim cap was by Goran
or maybe that was just ‘most unexpectedly pink’ swim cap. Goran -who knew?
Onwards to most inexplicable position during static, which was definitely Tomoka:
Ok, i know i take a lot of pictures of the Japanese girls, but can you blame me? They are spectacular; fantastic athletes, and when you ask them to play, they do this:
And really, the freediving men just give me a complex. They’re all shaped like action figures
some even have the action figure suit:
amongst these depressingly well-build action figures, my new favourite is Stig Pryds
He’s so cool i suggest we change the surface protocol from “I am ok” to “I am Stig Pryds”. He also has ‘best tattoos’.
Most chill pre-dive judging position? Ute. You can tell it’s near the end of the day:
As a photographer, i’ve also added the category ‘best positioning’, as most freedivers tend to completely ignore my silent pleas to face the sun. Ashleigh was a very pleasant exception to this rule:
Of course, at an Italian competition, you have to pay tribute to Umberto. Best one either goes to Radek
or this lady
But in the end, the best picture for me was the one that brought the biggest smile to my face
ok, 1 more of a Japanese girl
Last week, i had the pleasure and honour to document Danes diving deep at their annual depth championships, this time held in Kalamata, Greece. The winner of the women was Dena Parsa, who also set a national record Free Immersion with 61 meters:
and the winner of the men was my friend Jesper Stechmann, who broke the record for Constant weight no fins:
The comp had a great ambiance and it was good to see old friends and meet new ones. When i started freediving the Danes were the best ones out there, especially in the pool, and it was nice to see some of the old still being on top/bottom and teaching the new. And i was glad they didn’t pick Sweden this year, for the visibility most days was set to epic:
One of the things i love about photographing underwater is how fluid you have to be -everything moves, in all directions, light changes with each wave and unless you anchor yourself, you are going to be floating about as well. So not only is your subject constantly changing position, so is the light and so are you; it’s the opposite of studio photography. So i tend to go into shoots with only a general idea -somebody diving through a bubble ring, dancing in red dress- and then play around with it once we’re under.
But every once in a while i get a specific idea, an image i want to create. That tends to make me nervous, because i know water and know better than to impose my will on it. And in general, especially with specific ideas, reality wins and usually turns out to be way more complex and better for it. That is one of the reasons i enjoy photographing freediving competitions so much: it happens, i’m a witness and all i can do is roughly pick the perspective i think suits the action. When i work on land i also prefer documenting rather than arranging. Letting it happen rather than making it happen.
That’s all fine, but ideas have a mind of their own and will bug you to exist. Normally i can’t trace my ideas; like dreams, they surprise me and show me that it might be my head, but i have little clue of what’s going on inside there. But this one, i can not only remember popping up in that random head of mine, but also i can trace it to its origins: it’s Magritte.
Renée Magritte, Belgian surrealist, has made me smile and left me in wonder for as long as i can remember. I love his work, from the man with the apple head to the pipe to raining business men. His conceptual works have that delicious combination of being both intelligent and pretty, but i also have a soft spot for his more straight forward work. The empire of light does something profound to me every time i see it, like recognising a stranger.
So when the businessman popped into my head, underwater of course, i saw where he came from. And i knew what i’d have to do. And i thought it’d be impossible.
I thought i was going to have to do something like this in the sea, with lots of changes in circumstances, in a real suit, freezing my ass off and drowning, etc. So no, not this picture, not this idea. But the umbrella underwater idea was too funny, and i was kinda thinking of doing the apple man as well (will still do that, next time i’m in the Blue Hole). But too difficult, i thought, to actually pull it off.
I hadn’t counted on serendipity. A few years back i was looking into superman costumes for a video idea i had and i came across something called ‘second skin costumes': lycra outfits in one piece that looked like the superman costume. But they also had them in other colours and themes, including tuxedos, and yes, business suit. It was weird, and a bit kinky, but i made a mental note -the business suit problem had a possible solution. I’d be able to swim and move in that. Then my friend Eric van Riet Paap of be-water provided the other missing link: he’d secured two days of diving in Nemo 33, the world’s second deepest pool. I’d have 6 hours of a controlled, deep environment. And and and: Nemo 33 is located in Brussels, where Magritte lived and where his museum is.
Too good. So as much trepidation as i feel with specific idea for UW shoots, i started preparing for this one. I bought the suit, a bowler hat, an sturdy umbrella, and in the process of searching i also found a suit that had Magritte written all over it: a cloud suit.
It all came together: the anonymous female figure, the clouds, the hat, the umbrella, Brussels, the surreal. I played with the themes, gave them my own spin, and apart from the raining businessmen thing, didn’t try to copy Magritte too literally -ceci nest pas un Magritte. At the end, my friend Eric had time to don the suit and we created what turned out to be my favourite image of the session: cloud lady sheltering under business man’s umbrella. I rarely name my pictures but i’d like to call this one The possibilities of a rainy day.
Of course the umbrella broke instantly, the apple was too much trouble to work with (next time) and reality got in the way most wonderfully, but i’m very glad with the results and am planning to do more planned stuff, more inspirations. Maybe with even sturdier umbrellas.
In Crete last month, the UK static record holder Georgina Miller broke her own record of 6 minutes 20 by 7 seconds. I got to stand by her side and say stuff like “come on”, which she said helped:
And if that wasn’t enough, she also won silver in the depth competition with these three beautiful dives, which i got to film:
Plus she did a perfect tag grab on her no fins dive, which was one of my favourite pictures of the comp
The water’s so clear here in Crete that there’s barely a point for me as a photographer to go deep -you can get overview shots at 10 meters, like this one of Monika, who did a national record Free Immersion for Poland
Beautiful dives again today -and a turtle! Only caught that one on video -poor battery on the main camera died of sheer exhaustion.
I’m a firm believer in lots of prizes at competitions, so here are the ones from the first day. Best nerves before the dive went to cool newbie Monika, who then also won most relieved smile after her dive:
Quikest dive while blocking yourself with your palms went to Yaron:
Best Jesus went to Aurora:
Aris got the ‘managed to look bigger than the boat’ prize:
Nicholas had the most definite ‘those are my fins’ award:
Do won most inexplicable position:
But the picture of the day goes to Chris:
My first freediving was in a lake, and despite the cold and low visibility, despite the mud on the bottom you sink into, despite the smell afterwards, i loved it. Maybe it’s the contrast of all that’s off-putting with the deliciousness of freediving. But then i dove in the Kreidensee in Germany and it turned out that lakes can have more than a foot of viz and be quite beautiful. Cold still, yes, and still smelly, but the same fantastic feelings, combined with an utterly alien view.
I have it from reliable sources that it looks good from above, too. I first played in that blue/green water as a safety in 2010, and last year made a couple of videos there. But i’d never been this early in the season, because the water is 12 degrees there now and i’m a complete wimp. But i was lured back there by the promise of excellent viz, and armed with a new 5 mm wetsuit and socks and gloves and a neoprene scarf and rubber earmuffs and a cosy in my crack i went down. And dear lady of the lake is it gorgeous there
It has a colour that’s hard to capture or describe (and makes editing photos even harder than it is when dealing with mesmerising blue) but it is a little like dropping into a smaragd being held by a smurf. Or is it a topaz in the hands of the hulk? I don’t know, but it’s radiant. Especially when the light comes out to play
Shot this image of our champ William Trubridge last month, but messed up a little, had the setting wrong and it underexposed quite a lot. Couldn’t really make the series work, until i finally made the switch to Lightroom, and what a joy that program is. It was still a very tricky edit, but i watched the image come alive today: