Today was the practice day for the contestants in the CMAS World Underwater Photo and Video Championship. As the Techival Director of the contest, Cenk Ceylanoğlu, noted, this is as much a practice for the organisers as it is for the participants.
The structure of the contest is somewhat unfamiliar to many in the Wetpixel community. The goal is to select the winners who produce the best results on the day. The dive teams rotate through each dive site and are strictly limited in terms of dive time, depth and reserve air supplies.
The only edits allowed are those available to contestants in camera, and must be carried out during the dive and each contestant is limited in terms of the total number of images they can shoot. Deletions are not allowed.
To enforce these rules, each camera has its memory card formatted while being overseen by a judge and the housing is then sealed. It may not be opened except under the supervision of an official.
A verification image is then taken, and the camera reset to a (standardised) random date.
At the end of each day, a final verification images is taken and then the organisers break the housing seals, and collect the memory cards, which are then stored in sealed bags. At the beginning of the next day, the cards are distributed and the housings sealed again under supervision.
All this takes a huge amount of organisation and has numerous moving parts that need to be practiced by both contestants and staff alike.
So at 8.00am promptly, buses set out from the contests hotel bound for the contest site at the harbor. Upon arrival, the teams got their diving gear set up and went through the process of formatting their memory cards and having their housings sealed as discussed above.
Boat and dive site allocations had been done in the draw at the technical briefing and once the formalities had been completed, there was an exodus as people headed out to their boats. Once at their boats, and after sorting out an island wide shortage of lead diving weights(!) the boats headed out to the dive sites. The maximum time allowed on each dive in 90 minutes, so predictably, after around 2 hours, the flotilla all returned.
Many of the contestants reported significant current on some the allocated sites, which made conditions challenging. While this may seem somewhat unfair to the observer, it is important to remember that given that all the contestant will dive each of the sites they all face the same difficulties. The format of the competition is very much the best images captured during the contest, and as each individual will encounter the same difficulties.
CMAS takes safety at their events especially seriously. To this end, there is an ambulance and a doctor continuously in attendance. After the dive, member of the Netherlands team, Robert Sminty was unfortunate enough to fall over while rinsing his equipment, and in doing so, managed to injure his knee badly. The paramedics and doctor on site splinted his leg and he was then taken to hospital. Once his leg had been X-rayed, it was determined that he need to be evacuated to Madeira in order for his injury to be treated. The Portuguese military arranged for a low level flight.
His fellow team mates, all the contest participants and staff and the Wetpixel community hope that Robert makes a speedy recovery and will be able to join the next Championship!
After lunch, a second “practice dive” was carried out. I was able to join some of the contestants underwater, diving on the wonderful wreck of the NRP General Pereira d’Eça.
I was able to use the Nauticam EMWL in blue water for the first time and am very impressed with its image quality and the perspective that the lens provides. It is perhaps the ultimate close focus wide angle tool. Despite being used with a SAGA adaptor on my Seacam housing, it balances beautifully underwater and is much easier to handle underwater than might be expected. I used both the 130° and 110° objective lenses.
I plan to use the lens more and will be writing up my findings in a formal review here on Wetpixel soon.
At the end of the day’s diving, the administration team collected the contestants’ memory cards and secure the, ready for the start of the first actual day of competition shooting tomorrow.
The contestants are all very focused now, and have formulated plans that they hope will give them an edge over the other teams. As an observer, it is very exciting to see how these plans will pan out.
Please check back tomorrow for the details from the first competition day.
Pre-Competition Warm Up
Day 1: Registration and Parades
Day 2: Dress Rehearsal
Day 3: Contest day one
Day 4: Contest day two
Still Image Results
Awards ceremonies and celebrations