Report: MIMA underwater photography contest

All images are from the winning portfolio shot by Marc Casanovas with Sussi Navarro (model)

The 2014 MIMA Underwater Photography contest.

By Nick Robertson-Brown.

Amazing images win the MIMA 2014 underwater photography competition. The MIMA underwater photography competition is tough! 26 teams, comprising an underwater photographer and a model, compete over 2 days of diving at the Medes Islands in Spain. Over these 4 dives, the teams, divided into 2 boats, visit different dive sites to get images that have to be entered into 6 different categories: Macro, Fauna, Wide Angle Environment, Environment with Model, Open and the special category for 2014 – Bryozoans. The competition rules are designed to protect both the competitors and the special underwater marine life that exists in this wonderful national park area. Each dive must not be longer than 60mins and all the divers descend at the same time on the sound of the boat klaxon. You must be back up again, within 10m of the boat, before it sounds again an hour later. Divers must not exceed 40m and must return with at least 50 bar. Environmental officers also dive alongside the competitors, to ensure that none of the fragile corals and other reef dwellers are damaged. Each team must wear ID tags and if they are caught damaging the reef, lying on the seabed to take images or any other bad behaviour, points are deducted from their score.

The 2014 competition was held over the 4-6th June with competitors from the local area, and then others travelling from around Spain, France, Italy, Russia, Canada, Monaco and the UK. The event has a party like atmosphere in the evenings, with interesting talks and exhibitions being held each evening, usually rounded off with local cava sparkling wine. But in the daytime, things are much more serious. A long line of competitors check their diving equipment and cameras before heading out for the morning on their designated boat. As each photographer is only allowed to take 100 photos per day, and not allowed to delete anything from the memory card, they need to make each shot count. The pressure is obvious amongst all the competitors until the dives are over for the day.

The diving around the Medes Islands has a lot to offer, with steep walls covered in red and yellow soft corals. Huge grouper patrol these reefs and have no fear of the divers that visit. Schools of fish swim in the sunlight of the shallows and nudibranchs of all colours can be found by those with keen spotting abilities. The topography of the area gives divers caves, caverns and swim-throughs to explore.

Once the 2 days of diving were complete, each team had to select the 6 images they wanted to enter. The panel of 3 judges then scored each images and prizes for the best in each category were awarded. Pete Ladell, the guest British judge at the event, said we had an “excellent collection of images, some, difficult to separate, only after much discussion was the final result agreed.

With 138 high quality images to assess, ascertaining the wining order was always going to be a challenge. Alongside this main “splash-in” style competition there are also annual video and image competitions from submissions online. The local schools also get involved and there is a competition of the pupils art work, on a marine theme, where the winning painting becomes the image used for the following years posters. It is a wonderfully run competition and we are already looking forward to next year.

The biggest prize (1500 Euros) goes to the overall winner with the highest total score for all 6 images. The standard was very high, but a few sets of images really stood out for having all 6 images that made you say “wow”! The overall winners were Marc Casanovas (photographer) and Sussi Navarro (model) who took a series of outstanding shots to take the title.