Is it possible to compete in underwater photography? I find that question difficult to answer! What is a good picture? Is it an image of an unusual animal? Nice colours on a nudibranch? Capturing the incredible light on a wreck? An image in which I can see that there has been a lot of planning and work behind it? Or just an image of a diver, on some interesting dive site, where I get the feeling that I also want to dive there?
I have seen many underwater photos during my years as editor of the Swedish dive magazine Sportdykaren, which, before it was shut down, was one of the oldest dive magazines in the world. (The first issue was published as early as 1958, and the last was published in 2020).
But the pictures that impress me the most are probably the ones that have a model without any dive equipment. We usually do not think about the model, who does a lot of the work. Imagine being stuck with your foot in a fishing line at a depth of three metres, without a mask, and having to one-hundred-percent trust that your assistant or dive buddy will come with air when you need it. In addition, you have to look nice and relaxed in the picture.
But is it possible to compete in an underwater photo competition in a fair way, as everyone has a different opinion about what a good image is? Competing in photography is like competing in music; it is what the viewer or listener thinks is good that decides who wins.
That is what is so great about underwater photo competitions; you never know which picture will win. It is not always the one who has the most expensive equipment that stands on stage as the winner. It can also be the one who has a small compact camera; it can be very lucky too.
But as a famous Swedish athlete said in a TV interview, “The more I train, the luckier I am.” While I am primarily a writer, I can honestly say that I am useless at taking pictures, not only underwater pictures but also ordinary pictures. But I know I can get better if I just practice and compete more.
Last summer, I participated in the Smögen Dive & Experience Photo Week. It is an underwater photo competition that takes place in July each year, on Sweden’s western coast (see article on page 85). What is special about this underwater photo competition is that everyone can participate, from beginners to those who have participated in the World Championship of Underwater Photography (CMAS).
Of course, we do not compete against each other; there are many different categories, so everyone can be in the category that best suits their experience, both in terms of diving and photography. But the most fun part of this competition is that friendships are forged after a week together.
We do not see each other as competitors, but everyone comes with tips and advice on how to get better pictures. It is a bit like a liveaboard after a week when everyone becomes friends with each other; it does not matter where you come from or what equipment you use.
We divers dive and socialize peacefully across all national borders, as I think our world leaders should do. Then, maybe we can see an end to the insane war in Ukraine.