Behind the Lens: Shooting Sport Underwater
Photo by Adam Pretty (Getty Images). See larger version of this image below.
Adam Pretty describes the story behind his award-winning underwater photo of synchronised swimmers at the 2011 World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, China.
As a sports photographer for Getty Images, my job is to cover major sporting events and create images that will stand out for our clients. This photo was shot at the 2011 World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, and it shows several different synchronised swimming teams during the final warm-up before the evening competition.
My personal mandate is to always try and capture something slightly different. Unfortunately, this is becoming tougher as everyone is now using underwater housings, so I picked my angle and got there early so that I could hopefully grab a different picture before anyone else arrived.
I wanted to show the controlled chaos that is inherent in synchronised swimming, with all these teams squeezed into a pool, fighting for space to perfect their routines. This is different from a lot of my sports work as I normally try to isolate one person in action. However, with this shot, there are so many things to look at; your eye can wander around the image more than is usually possible in a classic action picture.
I normally go into the pool and set up the day before the event. During the event, I control the shutter with a wired remote, and retrieve the card with the images after each session. I decided to go with black-and-white as the water was really murky (it was a temporary pool and the filtration was not great). I find that black and white cleans up a lot of the haze and murk and also allows you to see the graphics and shapes of the bodies much easier than if it was colour.
When it comes to underwater shots, my best advice is to keep practising. There is a lot of trial and error involved, but if you have patience, you can get some really unique images; water and light are so unpredictable but when they work well together, it’s a magic combination that can deliver amazing images.
Competitors warm up ahead of the Synchronized Swimming Team Tech final at the 2011 World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, China. Photo by Adam Pretty (Getty Images). Details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. Exposure: 1/640s @ f/4.5. Subal underwater housing.