A Conversation With Fotosub Photographers

A Conversation With… Spain’s Fotosub Photographers

Welcome to the third instalment in this series, to add to the previous interviews A Conversation With Todd Mintz and Rand McMeins and a A Conversation With Martin Edge.

This month you join me on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, out in the Atlantic off the north west coast of Africa. The Canaries are a popular diving destination for Europeans, noted for their abundant marine life, volcanic landscapes and clear, blue waters. Upwelling off the African coast means that water temperatures are cool, so despite the latitude there is no coral and most people wear 5mm to 7mm suits. The islands are particularly noteworthy for the large numbers of resident underwater photographers! At a popular shore dive on any weekend it is quite usual to see 30-40 photographers with SLRs and many more with compact systems.

The underwater photography world here revolves around Fotosub Competitions. These are events where teams of photographer and model compete to produce the best collection of images while diving the same sites, at the same time, with limited dive time and a limited number of exposures. Images must be shot as JPGs and no Photoshopping is allowed. The emphasis is squarely on nailing the shot in camera. This competition undoubtedly sharpens skills and fotosub photographers from countries like Spain, Italy and France have long been lauded in our community for their control of lighting and their work with their models.

In the last decade, Spain and particularly the Canaries, inspired by the successes of photographers like Carlos Minguell, has really become an epicentre for these events, with many very talented shooters battling it out for serious cash prizes at competitions through the year. In a successful season a photographer can win more than 20,000 Euros at events across the islands. The competitions are real spectacles too, with an atmosphere not unlike the CMAS freediving competitions staged in the film Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue)!

My interviewees are all talented and very successful fotosub shooters: David Barrio, Carlos Villoch, Carlos Suarez and Arturo Boyra. I spoke to them during the Fotosub Gran Canaria – Costa Mogan event, where David, Carlos V and Carlos S went on to finish first, second and third. All three have been past winners of this event and many others too. Their track records of success are far too long to list here, but their websites are listed at the end. My aim was to discuss this unique discipline in underwater photography, talk about the techniques of working with models and lighting control and to pick up some specific advice for anyone inspired to start entering fotosubs. We also had a great laugh, as you might expect with the friendly rivalry that the competitions bring.

Photographers and models, Gran Canaria. L-R: Maite & Carlos V, Cristina & Arturo, David & Luisa, Mercedes & Carlos S. Photo: Alex Mustard

The final bit of background you need to know is that the Spanish National Championships were the week before this interview. In them, David had a fairly average octopus photo in his collection, which everyone has been teasing him about all week. It gets mentioned once or twice. You can see it with a bit of scrolling here (in the results from that competition).

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