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CMAS World Championship of Underwater Photography 1990

by Mark Webster

Reproduced from in focus 38 (October 1990)

Most underwater photographers must fondly dream of representing their country at the World Championship event. I was therefore extremely flattered to be informed in August by BSoUP's Chairman, Brian Pitkin, that I had been selected with Les Kemp for this year's event, only the third in the series.

The competition was due to be held in Milazzo, Sicily, between the 19-24th September, so we had only 4-5 weeks to prepare. It was at this stage that the daunting nature of the event began to dawn on us! Each country was to field two underwater photographers, two underwater models and two assistants. We therefore immediately secured the services of two attractive young ladies, Diana Davies from Torquay and Amanda Levick from Eastbourne, to act as models, whilst our equally attractive wives, Sussana and Diana were enrolled as assistants. We expected that models and props would be used extensively, as the seas around Milazzo offer very little in the way of marine life.

The British and Irish teams joined forces in London for the journey to Sicily, which was uneventful once we had coped with the surprises of the security staff at Gatwick at seeing so much odd equipment and even stranger props. Once we arrived we found that the organisation was typically Mediterranean, which meant that most timings were open ended!


On Day 1 of the competition the photographers were allowed a reconnaissance dive, without cameras, to identify possible locations for the next two days. Some local teams had been in the area for the preceding week and therefore had a shrewd idea of the desired areas, which they vehemently guarded throughout the event! Les Kemp and I found sites fairly close to each other, so we would be able to render assistance if necessary.

Each photographer was given four rolls of film from which to produce a portfolio of six different images, one of which had to be an experimental technique and not more than one a straight macro shot. Time for the two sessions was restricted to five hours each and each photographer had only one fifteen litre bottle of air. Careful planning for each shot and lens change etc was therefore essential.


Day 2 dawned sunny and calm as the thirty-two photographers from sixteen countries carried their masses of equipment down to the beach to board their individual boats with models and assistants. The armada then set off for the competition area, where a signal was given for the event to commence. There followed a mad dash to the various sites. Les Kemp unfortunately found that the Italian team had already laid claim to his chosen location! For my part, we found that our site was now beset with a one knot current, where it had been totally slack at the same time the day before! However, there was no time to stop and think, so we pushed ahead with the planned shots.

Films from the first session were returned in the evening, so that we were able to judge successes and failures and plan for the next day. Unfortunately Neptune had decided to throw a spanner in the works and produced a strong wind on Day 2 which excluded all the original sites. The armada therefore proceeded to reserve sites, which were grossly inferior and heavily silted. A large number of competitors descended on three or four locations and the requirement to keep a radius of twenty metres between teams was quickly forgotten in the search for at least one reasonable shot. The day ended with with most of the photographers feeling thoroughly dejected and disappointed.

We never-the-less made our selections of six slides and submitted them to the jury. We had the rest of the day to relax and ponder what the jury would be looking for as subject matter and techniques. Some of us spent the time watching the World record holding deep free diver Pippin make an abortive attempt to reach 94 metres on one breath, which nearly ended in tragedy for him. This left us to reflect on the wisdom and reasoning for such attempts as we prepared for the gala evening and prize giving. The results were in fact leaked before our arrival at the theatre, which rather took the edge off our anticipation. All of the competitors portfolios were projected prior to the official announcements and awards.


Individual Class

I st Frederic Di Meglio, France
2nd Marc Debatty, France
3rd Alberto Muropelliconi, Italy

Best Photograph

Frederic Di Meglio France

Best Experimental technique

Francesco Taccrni Italy

Team Class

1st Frederic Di Meglio and Marc Debatty, France
2nd Francesco Taccmi and Alberto Muropelliconi, Italy
3rd Andreas Koffka and Milan Czapay, Germany

So no laurels for Great Britain on this occasion, although we were informed that the standard of entry was extremely close to the winners. The whole event was a unique and enjoyable experience for all of us and our thanks go to BSoUP and the BSAC for sponsoring our travel expenses and to West Wet Suits, AP Valves and Sea and Sea for their kind support with diving equipment. BSoUP members must now start planning for some stunning images for the next event in 1992.

[Britain's representatives to the CMAS World Championships, LES KEMP and MARK WEBSTER, were two of several accomplished underwater photographers nominated by BSoUP's Committee for consideration, pending availability. Not surprisingly, given the short notice of the date of the event, most of the nominees were unable to participate due to work commitments or holiday plans.

BSoUP and the BSAC generously sponsored the cost of flights to Sicily for the photographers and their models. Accommodation, meals and diving were kindly provided by the Italian Federation.

LES KEMP will be interviewed by Radio Sussex on Wednesday 17 October at 7.30 p.m. following his recent participation with MARK WEBSTER in the CMAS World Championship. Ed.]

Reproduced from in focus 38 by kind permission of Mark Webster.

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