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Belgian Underwater Festival 1987

by Jenny George

Reproduced from in focus 26 (Feb/Mar. 1988)

A spectator's view of the judging.

During the weekend of 21/22 November 1987, judging of the prints, colour slides, audiovisuals and films. which had been entered in the Belgium underwater photographic festival, took place in Gent, Belgium.

David had been asked to be one of the international group of Judges for the audiovisuals. prints and slides on the Saturday. We ' skimmed' across the Channel on the late afternoon Jetfoil on Friday and were met at Ostend by BSoUP member Vic Verlinden and his girlfriend Agnes, who took us to Antwerp

On Saturday we drove to the Dolphins clubhouse in Gent, where the judging took place. What British Sub-Aqua Club has a place like this, solely to themselves - bar, comfortable seating etc., etc.

Judging began at 13.00 with the audiovisuals, which were presented to the judges by the competitors. Lots of people were 'milling around', including a nervous Mike Wong (BSoUP) who had flown over to show his first ever A/V in the Advanced Section. The Saturday jury consisted of David George (U.K. ), one Dutch underwater photographer and five Belgians. They were given a long table at the centre of the room and were continually supplied with good Belgian coffee. They were to need it!

Seven A/Vs were submitted in the Beginner's section and although the changeovers' were fairly fast, this section seemed to go on for ever. Most of the A/Vs were far too long (20 minutes +), and it was a real pleasure to suddenly be confronted with a short snappy A/V called 'Blue Monday' by Frank de Bode (Belgium), This A/V had an excellent beginning and some good shots of Mediterranean underwater life, At about 16.00 the judges retired, refurbished by yet more coffee, to decide the medal winners.

During the break more people appeared and so did a large four-projector setup with gargantuan speakers. Mike Wong looked awestruck and even more nervous! There were 8 A/Vs in the Advanced section, including two by Mike Wong, The competition began with the four-projector A/V submitted by a Belgian - the beginning was good and although there were some excellent shots of a model underwater with Maldives' marine life, the A/V was spoiled for me by not having the two images merging well on the screen. I am used to Martin Edge and Jim Eldridge's superb multiprojector productions I suppose! The next A/V was an Italian entry which used a computer pulsing system. Unfortunately this proved impossible to run, although we saw the pictures, the sound was missing. An A/V on the Maldives followed (popular place) and then it was Mike Wong's turn. He was using Viv Verlinden's equipment and all went well. The first A/V, on underwater life around the Amirantes Islands, was good, but the second called 'Underwater World' caught everyone's attention with its really good images and choice of music, The only criticism I had (if I dare) is that the ending needed to be stronger, but I felt it must be in the running for a medal - a really good A/V.

Two A/Vs concerned with freshwater life followed - one exploring a lake near Antwerp Docks and the other by a Dutch underwater photographer, Angelika Honsbeek, on life in Austrian lakes, This A/V had some very artistic pictures of water weeds (reminiscent of the Warren Williams collection), but there were too many land-shots for it to be considered as a medal winner. The last A/V was 'Absolute Beginner' by Vic Verlinden, which won a Silver medal at Brighton '87. A strong contender for a medal, I thought, with its good beginning, interesting fades and excellent Red Sea pictures.

The judges retired again and the competitors left - it was now about 19.00 (phew) and still the prints and slides to look at. Supper was served for the judges and 'hangers-on' (like me and Mike Wong, who was staying with Jos Audenaard, one of the judges). A large selection of French cheeses appeared, superb bread, lots of red wine, coffee and the melt-in-the-mouth Belgian chocolates.

The Prints were then laid out under special large spotlights. There were three categories - Black and White, Colour and Creative. As usual the Black and White class had very few prints. During the Judging when prints were gradually removed by the judges to leave only a final few, Mike Wong swears that he saw David placing his prints on the unwanted pile! Strict anonymity was observed - the judges having no idea whose name was on the back of the prints. I remember two striking prints (which actually won the gold and silver medals in the colour class) of simple but artistic shots of water weeds by the Dutch underwater photographer Willem Kolvoort.

Time 22.00. Only the slides to go! Each photographer had submitted a sequence of three slides and there was macro and everything else. Wouldn't take long I thought until I realized that there were about 170 entries! I settled comfortably at the bar. So did Mike Wong! All of the slides were projected once and then a second time, when the judges decided on the slide sequences to be retained. The projectionist did a fantastic job and all went like clockwork, The procedure was repeated and by 01.30 about six sequences were left in each category. These sequences were then placed on a light box and the Judges voted for their top three. By 02.30 the medal winners were decided and the judges (looking bleary-eyed) had finished. (The 1986 record of a 02.00 finish was exceeded - and to think that Peter Scoones, a judge in 1986, had complained).

It was a long and enjoyable day, night and early morning and the Belgians are to congratulated on their organisation and hospitality, The festival was held in Antwerp on December 19th and there were some good prizes for the winners - holidays on the Lady Jenny V in the Red Sea, in Yugoslavia and in Ireland as well as a wealth of diving equipment. David has judged the festival twice now (in 1985 and 1987) and we are always made to feel so welcome. Unfortunately we were unable to get to the festival this time, but we hear that it was a great success.

Some Results.- MIKE WONG won the Gold Medal in the Advanced A/V Section, with Belgian, BSoUP member, Vic VERLINDEN taking the Silver Medal. FRANK de BODE won the Gold Medal in the Beginner's A/V section, VIC VERLINDEN won the Silver Medal in the Slide Sequence (Macro) Category and MIKE WONG won the Silver Medal in the Slide Sequence (Open) Category.

Well done! Let's have a large British entry next time which will be in November 1989. From now on the Festival is going to be every two years, as its getting more difficult to organize every time.

Reproduced from in focus 26 (Feb/Mar. 1988)

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