Madeira hosts underwater photography and video competition
Historically renowned for producing excellent fortified wines, the Madeira group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean have attracted visitors for a variety of reasons over the past two decades. This group of islands, located to the west of Morocco and to the north of the Spanish Canary Islands, is now known for adventure sports such as hiking, paragliding, mountain biking and scuba diving. The island archipelago, which is an autonomous region of the European country of Portugal, hosted October 4e to 9e this year at 18e World Underwater Photography Championship, and 4e such championship for underwater video.
Kerim Sabuncuoglu is chairman of the visual commission of the World Confederation of Underwater Activities (CMAS), which coordinated this diving event. CMAS is an outgrowth of an organization founded in France in 1959 by oceanic explorer Jacques Cousteau, and which is now based in Rome.
Sabuncuoglu grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, and dove into water sports when he could.
“I went sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling. I first dived in 2000. ‘
Attracted by underwater images, he buys photographic equipment through eBay, then follows his passion. Sabuncuoglu’s own photograph of a dead moray eel, pictured in Bodrum, Turkey, drew attention as the death was caused by the eel getting tangled in a fishing line. For this image, he won the 2021 Oceans Conservation Photographer of the Year award.
CMAS, in collaboration with the Portuguese Federation of Underwater Activities (PAS) and the Nautical Association of Madeira (ANM) organized the underwater photo / video event off the coast of the island of Porto Santo, a two-hour (or 12-minute flight) boat ride south-east of Madeira.
“The competition is the most important of its kind,” continued Sabuncuoglu. “We have around 100 divers from 18 nations competing underwater. Unfortunately, countries in the Far East like China, Japan and South Korea couldn’t make it this year due to the pandemic, but this year for the first time Kuwait is here. Teams of two people dive at a specific time at one of the four locations around the island for 90 minutes and cannot dive deeper than 30 meters. We have rule pages.
“When the divers surface, we take video and camera photos, format the cards and seal the cameras so that no one can edit images or insert images taken previously. We only allow software to edit photos according to the capabilities of the camera, and this can only be done when divers are underwater. We have underwater referees who check if divers are harming the underwater flora / fauna, and emergency boats for rescues at sea. ‘
There are six categories of photographs and three categories of videos in the competition, resulting in nine categories in total and nine medals.
“It’s a very expensive sport, so having nine champions instead of one means more social media following and more sponsorship.”
The best photography prizes by category this year went to Chile (Yakasovic / Duarte team) for “fish”, as well as Chile (same team) for “close-up”; in Croatia (Zurub / Mihaljinec team) for “crustaceans”, in Turkey (Pasa / Pat team) for “creative”, in Hungary (Lorincz / Takár team) for “wide angle”, and in Italy (Cicerchia / Molsa team) for ‘wide angle with model.’
The winners for the underwater video are Germany (Boettcher / Riegel team) for the “unmounted” category, France (Maignot / Locqueneux team) for the “short film” and Spain (Illan / Barros team) for the film “.
“We show people the beauties of the underwater world. People on earth who are not fortunate enough to dive do not know what is underwater. The idea here is that if you see what is there, you are trying to protect it. You like this. These divers are now tourism representatives for Madeira for now. They will share their images, on land and underwater. ‘
“Porto Santo is an incredible place for diving. The island is equipped with the needs of the competition. They have tanks, weights and are very prepared for emergencies. Divers have come here for training dives and love the underwater flora and fauna. It is important to note that the people of Porto Santo have a big heart, so visitors have fun. ‘
Porto Santo Island is just 16 square miles [42 square kilometers] in size. It was there that the navigator Christopher Columbus met and fell in love with Filipa de Moniz, the daughter of the local governor, in 1479. The two were later married in Lisbon. Each year, residents reenact the landing of Columbus on their shore, with locals wearing period costumes on the beach and a life-size galleon sailing to shore. Island life, heritage and culture revolve around the ocean.
Renée Cappozzola from the American city of Los Angeles chaired the photography jury for this CMAS event; she went to Porto Santo for judgment.
“It’s a very difficult job because we get a lot of images that we have to go through. One of the things we all start looking for is the “wow factor”. Does the image impress us? We also rate the images in terms of composition and lighting. Participants are not allowed to make any adjustments or crop images. We will look at the general technical details of the pictures. We also have six remote jurors who will vote from around the world. Our seven combined scores will determine the winners. ‘
“I did wreck diving this morning. Very impressive. Good visibility, lots of marine life. Because it’s a big wreck, there will be a wide variety of images. ‘
Teofilo Cunha is Secretary for the Sea and Fisheries of the Autonomous Region of Madeira. He spoke of the region’s respect for conservation.
“We have 10 diving schools in Madeira, Porto Santo and the Deserta Islands, as well as a protected area with more than 40 species of seals. Two thirds of the territory of the Madeira Islands are protected. We also protect areas in the seas. We have more land protected in number and area than anywhere else in Portugal. One of the challenges we face is to integrate ocean protection into the fishing industry. The most important thing is to give the future a better ocean than the one we have received. ‘
Event Manager Pedro Vasconcelos, based in Madeira, works with a diving school. He provided a local contribution on the event.
“Porto Santo and Madeira are very similar in terms of marine life and fish, but Porto Santo has greater visibility and transparency of the water. There are 113 divers and approximately 70 employees at this event. There are not enough resources to run this event on Porto Santo alone, so we had the support of local and regional governments and the tourism office. ‘
At the post-event awards dinner, Licínia Macedo (formerly Miss Portugal and now TV presenter on RTP Madeira) mentioned her own reasons for loving Madeira, in addition to her beautiful dive. “The food, the wine, the mountain walks. We have a quality of life and we feel safe and have great weather all year round, ”she said before asking her audience, rhetorically:“ Have I convinced you to come back?