Antibes Festival 2004 Report

Festival Mondial de L'Image Sous Marine - Antibes, France
October, 2004

This is a personal, rather than a meticulously researched Official Wetpixel Report) -Alex

Antibes is unique. I cannot think of another event that concentrates so many interesting and important people from the world of underwater film and photography in one place. But what really makes Le Festival special is, unlike just about every other event, in Antibes everybody has the time to for banter. In fact, so much socialising time is built into the program that when you bump into or are introduced to someone interesting you can go and grab a beer, a glass of Pastis or even sit down for a long chat over a meal. The Festival runs to pretty much the same format each year, and every time I return I recognise more and more familiar faces. Despite the weather stopping me going last year - I found that many people knew me this year and came up and said "Hi". Many more who didn't know me also just came up and said hi - it really is a friendly place.

The business of the Festival is the underwater film and photography competition. The Festival sets out to be the best! The rules are kept to a minimum - they don't even care if your work has won other competitions - they just want the best. Most people enter their work Antibes because they believe it sets the standard in underwater imaging, and the awards carry the most prestige. The awards I have won here have made more difference to my profile as an underwater photographer than anything else I have done.

To business:

In 2004 the winning Palme D'Or for Films went to Thomas Behrend (Blue Planet Film, Germany) for Hunters at the Cape of Storms.

The Slide Portfolio was won (for the third time in 5 years) by an impressive selection by Frenchman Laurent Ballesta including an awesome behavioural image of a mantis shrimp attempting to spear a fish (looking at his images it is hard to think of anyone who is taking better ones at the moment).

The Colour Prints was won by Jeff Honover of the USA.

The Black and White Prints was won by Vadim Zverev of Russia.

The Italian Book Oceani Segreti by Andrea and Antonella Ferrari won the best book prize.

My only claim to fame was that my 10.5mm fisheye bagged third in the B&W prints, although unfortunately for me it was not attached to my camera at the time and was on JP Trenque's D100 (Congrats to JP, who is also a Wetpixel member)! So, alas, this year I can't even blame my equipment!

In 2004 D60s and D100s have won awards in both Antibes and at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year - a reminder that we photographers should concentrate more on the images we strive for and less on having to have the latest kit to make them with!

You can read the full list of prizes here:

My one disappointment with the Festival this year is the print display, which is nowhere near as good as it used to be before the organisers changed the rules two years ago. And, shocked as I am to say this - I can only attribute the change in the rules to French going all politically correct on us!!! I believe the prints form the most important still image category in Antibes because they are on display throughout the Festival (nobody ever goes to see the slides being projected) and second it is much easier for digital photographers to enter the print category than the slides (so it is the most inclusive category). Anyway in the past you could enter three colour and three black and white images - now it is just one of each. The justification apparently is that this way more of the photographers who travel to the Festival have the chance to see their pictures up. With only space for 200 or so images to go on display, in the old days only about 10% of the images entered got up. Apparently people complained that they had come to the festival and they couldn't see their images (when I first entered Antibes I saw it as a real achievement to make this grade). Anyway the result of not wanting to offend anyone is that now the display has more fillers in it. Also given the choice of three images, photographers often entered one or two thought provoking images as well as the old safe one. In short the quality of the display has been reduced, both in terms of the quantity of real excellence and the amount of new ideas. The winning images remain superb.

The Festival also has a good display of camera equipment, and below are a few snapshots I took. These images were taken as a personal record - so please excuse the poor quality and also the lack of detailed captions in comparison to those provided by the team who covered DEMA so well.

As far as Housing Manufacturer's were concerned, like DEMA, film was a dirty word in Antibes. Although there were lots of film housings on the second-hand stall (some as cheap as 400 Euros). Some nice old Hugyfots - which I was tempted by - I've always wanted a Hugy. Anyway my money is being saved for a new DSLR!

The D70 was the most popular DSLR on display. Lots of housings from everyone. Seacam, Sealux and Subal were there as companies. With other manufacturers represented by dealers (Ikelite, Bruder, Sea and Sea, Nimar and others).

Confirming chat here on Wetpixel, Sealux told me that Subal now use their GS/GD viewfinder (I didn't ask Subal the same question). With the stalls so close together I was able to try the viewfinders within a couple of minutes of each other. The Sealux/Subal viewfinder is excellent and IMO provides a bigger and brighter image than the Seacam 45 degree one - although the viewfinder is plastic on the outside and is not as sexy(!) and doesn't offer the 45 degree angle. WARNING - if you do not have the money to buy a Sealux/Subal viewfinder - do not try one - you will not be able to contemplate photography without one.

Before the show I was not that familiar with the Sealux range (probably because they do not have US and UK dealers) but left very impressed. The housings for the different cameras are all quite similar - but despite this are not unduly large and the ergonomics are good. They had housings for the D100, D70, 300D, and 10D at the show, and are preparing a 20D housing. I was particularly impressed with some of their solutions for the some of the more tricky camera controls, which were well thought out. I'd still place them behind the two Austrians (possibly my own bias), but their prices are better (Basic D70 housing 1200 Euros).

Read Colin Gans review of the Sealux D70:

Sealux Website: http://www.sealux.de/s1e.htm

Harald only had Nikon D70 and a Fuji S2 Housing with him. I guess he has sold the rest of his stock! I think that Seacam's housings for small DSLRs are bigger than they need to be, and their ergonomics suffer as a result. I think Seacam's best housings are for the big boys like the 1DS, 1D MkII etc and I am very excited to see their Nikon D2X housing, which they are working on at the moment. The first batch of D2Xs are already pre-sold in the USA and Seacam expect a very strong demand for this housing (here in the Wetpixel bubble we sometimes don't realise how many of the top UW photographers are still shooting on Nikon 35mm SLRs - the D2X may well change that).

Seacam Website: http://www.seacam.de/english/

Rolph brought several housings to the show, which they displayed from Mike Warren's Sea Cruise stand (Subal's were on sale at other stands too). There were lots of D70s some fitted with the new viewfinder, plus a 10D housing and of great interest to me a D2X housing. Subal are making an initial batch of 10 before the D2X comes out, and then a larger second batch once they know for sure that the camera is physically the same as the D2H. The initial batch should be out before the end of the year (the camera is due out in January). I was already imagining taking pictures with this beast! Subal are also working on a 20D housing, which should be out before the end of the year. Subal were sharing the stand with Mike Warren's Sea Cruise. Mike had a couple of neat gadgets including a new mini-slave strobe for 150 Euros that can ignore preflashes.

Subal Website: http://www.subal.com/indexe.htm

Other than that, there were lots of Digi-compact housings - Olympus ones, Sony ones etc etc. Other odd-balls I spotted were a Bruder EOS housing and a Nimar stand with nobody on it (I was there early in the week). There were also lots of Video housings, including several behemoths for High Definition Betacams!

[Special thanks to Alex Mustard for his wonderful coverage of the Antibes Festival! -Editor]

Part of the outdoor display of Polynesian Humpback prints

Images in the print competition

Paints and prints

The Sony Stand

A Sealux Canon 10D housing with a GD Viewfinder

A Sealux Video housing for a Sony VX1000

A Subal D10 housing is put through its paces

Subal's new Nikon D2 housing

The author considers which kidney he can sell

A Subtronic Mini with a Subtronic Alpha Pro

A Seacam D70 housing

Harald regrets not making the D70 housing a bit lighter (only joking - it is neutral in the water)

A Label Bleu High Definition Betacam Housing

A Seaspace Betacam Housing

Sea Cruises "handy" slave strobe that can be set to ignore preflashes.