They require the skills of swimmers, divers, biologists, photographers and artists; they are visitors to another world, a world with its own flora, fauna and magic.
They are underwater photographers, and they converged in Cuba twice this year to enjoy the archipelago's beautiful sea bottoms and to learn about and document, with their photographs, its biodiversity, conservation and natural beauty. Even beginners at these events have done well; they're not just for the pros.
Underwater photography is a competitive sport, and every year, diver/photographers make their bid to be the best in the world at presenting the underwater landscape in all of its beauty. At the same time, they follow established regulations to ensure that they protect the environment.
For 2013, Cuba was chosen to host the 14th CMAS Underwater Photography World Championship, sponsored by the CMAS, the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatique, in coordination with the Cuban Federation of Underwater Activities (FCAS for its letters in Spanish), and the Marlin Nautical and Marinas business group.
Divers came from 18 countries to participate in the event at Cayo Largo, from Apr. 8-14, after being selected by their respective national member federations of the CMAS. The countries represented were: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Korea, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.
Many teams arrived early to practice their training dives. Once the championship was underway, teams competed in the categories of Fish, Close-Up, Close-Up with Theme (the theme was sponges/ spongia), Wide Angle, and Wide Angle with Diver.
Spain and Italy dominated the event, and the host country, Cuba, came in fourth place in the world ranking.
The top three winners were: David Barrio/Spain, world champion (winner of the gold medal); Stefano Proakis/Italy (silver medal), and Michele Davino/Italy (bronze). Fourth place went to Daniel G. Pérez Hernández, from the host team, Cuba.
“This World Championship was a great success for the CMAS and for the organizers of the FCAS. It shows that even small federations can plan and perform a successful event, when the water and the infrastructure equally stand on their side,” the CMAS website reported in its account of the event.
A couple of months after the CMAS World Championship, Cuba hosted another international underwater photography event: IMASUB 2013, the 3rd International Underwater Photography Competition, June 10-13, in Maria la Gorda, a beach in Guanahacabibes Natural Park, organized by the Gaviota S.A. tourism group.
Caves, caverns and tunnels, long expanses of white sand, large colonies of black coral, and all kinds of fish, plants, gorgonians and crustaceans make up an interesting underwater landscape in this beautiful natural park. The transparency of its waters makes it possible to have visibility of up to 30 meters in depths of 25 to 30 meters.
The IMASUB event was open to underwater photographers from all over the world, and the only requirement was to comply with the event's regulations. This year's 110 participants were from Argentina, Mexico, United States, Slovakia, Canada, and Cuba.
Competition categories were: fauna (invertebrates, mammals, tortoises, birds, etc.); macro; environment (general landscape); and environment with model.
Each participant was able to submit three photos in each category, and 13 prizes were awarded, as well as a Special Prize, granting the winner the right to three nights at María la Gorda for two people, with five immersions each. One of the Cuban competitors, Manuel Pedro Carmenate Martínez, won the grand prize.