A Conversation With Fotosub Photographers

Alex: Hopefully this interview has helped people understand more about fotosubs and get enthusiastic about taking part. So my final question is what is your general advice for budding competitors? The whole JPG issue, for instance.
Carlos V: It is a difficult adjustment from shooting RAW to shooting JPG. You really have to understand white balance, strobe colour temperature. Every picture needs a different white balance, we set the Kelvin value manually. You have to learn this for the best results.
Alex: But you end up a more knowledgeable photographer as a result.
Carlos V: It is amazing in the last few years how quickly we’ve all got used to just touching up our photos in the RAW converter. When you start shooting JPGs again, it is like, whoops I have backscatter in one corner, or the colours look dull, or it is just a little bit under exposed.
David: Knowing the camera is very important. All the picture settings - so the photos look very good right out the camera. Training allows you to dial in all those settings, so you get exactly what you want for each type of photograph.
Alex: OK, and other tips?
David: Basics: the typical lenses are a fisheye and a long macro [e.g. 105mm] with a wet dioptre. Do a practice competition with yourself once in a while. Try to build a collection over a weekend. Like any other sport you need to train. For other sports you do drills, you run to keep your fitness. And for fotosub, we practice and train too.
For many photographers training seems a very alien idea. I don’t imagine many land photographers go out and say “Today I will take photos of complete birds!”.
Alex: “And I have 37 minutes.”
David: “Today macro, I am going to take pictures of spiders. Click, click, click, click.” But practice like this is essential for fotosub competitions.

Photo: David Barrio & Luisa Quintanilla. Fotosub Gran Canaria - Costa Mogan 2009

Carlos V: The judging panel can make a huge difference to what you shoot. You should understand what they like and plan your collection accordingly.
David: Sometimes you have a jury dominated by people who are not active underwater photographers and the results can be unexpected. You can even have judges who have not even dived before.
Alex: I always feel you get the best results, that the competitors and audience like the most, when the panel is dominated by active underwater photographers.
Arturo: You should also think about what you expect your competitors to shoot, to avoid entering similar shots.
David: Or you can try and take a better photo of the same creature. That can be part of your strategy.
Carlos S: That can be easy with an octopus.
David: Ha ha ha. I realise that it is very hard for you to understand my art.
All: Ha ha ha.
David: The most important thing is to get images that the jury can understand straight away. Pictures it is easy for them to like. In the end competing is so much fun. And addictive. Give it a try.
Alex: And the prizes can be reasonable, sometimes!
David: More than reasonable…

Websites of the Photographers
David Barrio
Carlos Villoch
Carlos Suarez
Arturo Boyra

Next time Alex enjoys a conversation with Espen Rekdal.