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Flores '92 U/W Photographic Competition

by Brian Pitkin

Reproduced from in focus 45 (August 1992)

Flores, lying east of Bali between Sumbawa and Timor, is an unspoiled tropical island occupying a unique position at the junction of the Australasian and Asian submarine ridges and between their distinct faunas marked by the Wallace Line. The island boasts active volcanoes, including Mt. Kelimutu, with its three craters each water-filled and strikingly different in colour - blue, black and white.

During the last two years the Sao Wisata resort on the north coast of Flores has staged an international underwater photographic and video competition. The event is organised and sponsored by the Indonesia Subaquatic Sport Association (ISSA) under the patronage of the Minister of Tourism, Post and Telecommunications. This year I was invited along as a member of the jury. Unfortunately, due to lack of participants, the video competition had to be cancelled at the last minute, but the photo competition went ahead as scheduled with an anticipated 30 participants.

To get to Flores we flew with Garuda, the national airline of Indonesia, from London Gatwick to Jakarta, Java stopping en route in Zurich, Abu Dhabi and Singapore. In Jakarta we met up with Jos Audenaerd, also a member of the jury, and some fellow Belgians and Hollander Marion Haarsma for the onward flight to Denpasar, Bali, where we spent the night. The following morning we flew onto Maumere, Flores via Bimi, Sumbawa where we were met by the staff of the Sao Wisata Resort. Greetings over, we were whisked off to the resort over rough tracks through agricultural land.

At the resort our accommodation comprised a spacious and clean wooden cabin with bathroom en suite cooled by an electric fan, although air-conditioned cabins are also available.

That evening a splendid barbecue was held on the beach prior to a meeting of all the participants to go over the rules and collect films. Each entrant was issued with ten rolls of Fuji Velvia slide film and had four days and ten dives to expose it in Flores clear waters. The competitors were split into groups, at least one member of the jury accompanying each group, to visit the same sites but on different days on different boats.

On the first day of the competition I joined the 'Osprey 0', an air conditioned deep-sea fishing vessel from Cairns, Australia, skippered by Mark Patterson and crewed by his wife Tove. For our first dive we went north to Pamana Kecil where we anchored on the reef top in 25m for a wall dive dropping through clear water to 130m. The wall was covered with large colourful sea fans, sea whips, featherstars and sponges with shoals of fusiliers hurrying along the reef face in lines like excitable school children. A hawksbill turtle resting on a ledge departed gracefully as I approached, Other fish seen on that first dive in Flores included two species of anemone fish, humphead wrasse, moorish idols, damsel fish and goldfish.

After lunch we moved to Pasir Sari and anchored on the atoll to dive a second wall. Here I photographed glass fish, white gorgonians, soft corals, lion fish, goldfish and fusiliers, with my Nikonos and 15 mm lens.

The same site was chosen for a dusk dive when I switched to a 28 mm lens and supplementary close-up lens to photograph the brilliant yellow dendrophyllid corals, small crabs, large Pleurobranchus, lion fish and scorpion fish.

Over the next three days I joined the 'Osprey 0' and two other boats - one an old, but sound, wooden fishing vessel, the 'Kowaria II' and the other a smaller fibre glass boat the 'Eka Putra'. We dived at Maragajong, Mageramut, Pulau Babi and Wair Mitak.

Megeramut is a particularly fine tilla rising out the sandy sea bed not far off shore to within 7 or 8m of the surface. Here I spent 105 mins exploring and photographing some of the prolific marine life including three species of sea slug, ribbon eels, featherstars, corals, hawkfish, anemone fish and lion fish with a housed Pentax LX. The night dive, however, was a real knock-out. I photographed hermit crabs, decorator crabs, egg cowries, Spanish dancer, Diadema sea urchins, red urchins, sea cucumbers, and sleeping fish, this time using 28 mm plus a supplementary close-up lens.

Meanwhile the competitors had been, hopefully, enjoying similar dives and doing their best to capture some of the wondrous creatures on film.

A brand new dive centre with its own darkroom had just been completed in time for the event and film processing continued non-stop throughout Friday and much of Saturday in order that the competitors could choose slides to enter in the three categories - macro, portrait and wide-angle. Light boxes and a projector were made available to all to facilitate their choice.

The jury, comprising Lufti Zahar (Indonesia), Jos Audenaerd (Belgium), Rudi Kuiter (Australia), Goro Takano (Japan) and myself, retired into the dark on Saturday afternoon to view and judge the entries during the heat of the afternoon, cooled by four electric fans. Rudi's wife, Alison, had collated and numbered all of the slides and she alone knew which slides had been taken by which competitor right up to the announcement of the winners that evening.

Following a splendid barbecue, again on the beach, the awards ceremony began. Dr Frans Seda, the resort's owner, and a representative of the Minister of Tourism made speeches before the winners were announced and the awards presented. The evening concluded with a colourful exhibition of local dancing, in which all present eventually joined.

Fourth, third and second place and a total of US$1250 in the macro category went to LIONEL POZZOLI (France) for his spotted cowrie, magnificent shrimp and tiny toby amongst fan coral respectively. No first prize was awarded.

Fourth and third prize in the portrait category and US$500 went to LINDA PITKIN (GB) for her anemone fish and close-up of a featherstar respectively. Second place and US$750 went to Lance Adrian (Australia) for his close-up of barnacles and their reflection in the waters surface. No first prize was awarded.

Fourth place in the wide-angle category went to LIONEL POZZOLI (France). Third place and US$500 went to LINDA PITKIN (GB) for scenic shot dominated by red sea whips. No second prize was awarded. The winner of the category and overall winner of the competition with a prize of US$1000 was LIONEL POZZOLI (France) for his scenic shot dominated by sea fans but with a distant diver on the surface.

The event, which is extremely enjoyable, is scheduled to take place again next year between 9-16 May and is offering a total of US$6,750 in prizes. For further details please send a stamped addressed envelope to Brian Pitkin, 12 Coningsby Road, South Croydon, CR2 6QP.

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