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Scuba Travel

CMAS World Championship of Underwater Photography 2000

by Peter Tatton

Reproduced from in focus 71 (June

CMAS's 8th World Underwater Photography Championship took place last June in Sorna Bay, a new resort 45 minutes by road south of Hurghada, Egypt. Safaga Port is a half hour down the road. The event took place from 11th to 15 th June 2000 when 51 photographers with their models and team captains from 28 countries competed.

Pete Ladell and myself represented the UK and Colin Doeg also attended as part of the five man judging team. We had decided to arrive a few days early to acclimatise, make sure the cameras worked and try out our creative shots.

The flight to Hurghada was inevitably delayed so our arrival at Sorna bay was after midnight. The next day saw us up early to try and organise some diving. blo luck until we met the Austrian team who told us the bus to the dive boots was leaving in ten minutes! With a quick pack we boarded the bus to be transported to Sorna Bay Marina, which resembled a building site. The quay luckily had been finished and a few typical Red Sea Liveabaord boats were waiting for us.

For the next two days we dived a variety of inner reef sites, which, with the exception of Tobia Arbaa, were no better than Eilat. The Egyptian Dive Federation had organised for our non- competition films'to be processed in Hurghada, so a man in a white car collected them after we returned from our second dive and promised to return them that night. Well he kept his word and that evening he returned them at 3.30 am and the following evening at 1.30 am!

The Competition

The aim of the competition was to show your ability in four pre-selected categories; wide angle, fish, close-up and creative shots. Each entrant received just four films, with four one-tank dives over two days and ninety minutes, maximum, per dive timed between entering and exiting the water. There's no time for faff ing about. Peter L, managed to arrive back on board with less than a minute to spare on more than one occasion!

The championship took place at four sites which were not announced until the start of the event so on our preceding days'diving we could only guess which to visit and suss out. We struck lucky with one of the four, which really did help us get our bearings for the competition shoot.

The Egyptian organisers had chosen two inshore and two offshore reef sites. For shallow inshore sites Gamal Soroya and Tobia Arboa (with its seven distinct coral towers) were chosen along with Panorama reef and Abhu Kafan as deeper offshore dives. Each day two competition boats would dive one inshore and offshore site each. On these days the coastguards had closed the sites to all other dive boots, which was great, in theory!

Our boat (which consisted of the UK, Irish, Austrian and Croatian teams) and the Spanish, Brazilian and Portuguese team's boat had been drown together so day one of the championship saw us both heading to the furthest dive site, Abhu Kafan, over an hour and half away. I had dived this site with other Bsoup members over a three-day period in 1994 when few day-boats or safari boats ever visited. Well word gets around for on arrival there was one already anchored and before we even entered the water two more arrived! After that they put coastguards on board the competition boats to keep other people off!

The best anchorage at Abhu Kafan is between the main reef and a large submerged coral head to the south of the reef. Here there is a wide (18m deep) gully that is current swept. The walls are covered in red soft coral and the occasional fan coral. Closer to the surface large shoals of anthias combine to create lines of orange around the reef. Both of us took the opportunity to take wide-angle shots here of the abundant colourful soft coral and seascapes.

The afternoon saw us at Tobia Arbao, a small site of seven coral pinnacles with overhangs at their bases and colourf ul soft corals with small shoals of sweepers sheltering. The problem with this site from a photographic point of view was trying to exclude other divers from your pictures. I got my close-up subject here, an interesting Christmas tree worm on some fire coral.

On the second day we dived at Gamal Soraya (small camel), a small inshore coral reef with a few submerged pinnacles, and one of our test dive sites. I was struck by the number of fish here. Shoals of Red Sea banner fish were almost queuing up to be photographed, and the divers were lining up to shoot them! I also shot masked butterf ly fish, black spotted grunt and a squirrelf ish. With minutes to the deadline and film still left the inevitable blue spotted ray saved the day.
Panorama reef was our final dive. This offshore reef provided us with another opportunity to shoot wide-angle seascapes. The north side of the reef started as a wall down to between 15-20m before sloping to 30m when it again became a wall. This site offered all the usual Red Sea soft corals and a magnif icent fan coral at 30m. Close to our anchorage at 3m was a collection of large red- skirted anemones with small colonies of two bar anemone fish (clownf ish) darting about them. Them were plenty of subjects for the last few frames.

The Results

The Italian and Spanish teams who took first and second places in the team and individual rankings once again dominated the championship results with awesome pictures! Them was however a surprise as a Slovenian have achieved third place in the overall individual ranking.
The British team (which still has much to learn about international competitions) enjoyed the event and I was pleased with my 6th position in the close-up category with my Christmas tree worm on fire coral from the first day's shots. It is certainly an achievement to receive a placing in one of the four categories and probably the one that everyone had hoped to do well in.

I would like to extend my thanks to all those who helped the British team and to our major sponsors who were The Sub Aqua Association, Scuba World Magazine and the British Society of Underwater Photographers. To prepare and compete in International events costs dearly in time and money.

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