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How this AP photographer captured a unique splash at the swimming worlds with an underwater camera

How this AP photographer captured a unique splash at the swimming worlds with an underwater camera


Why this photo

I’m always thinking of ways to take a different photo. I’m looking for things like new angles and exposures, in sports as well as in general news. Because there are multiple players involved in sports, you have to take as many pictures as possible in one location, which can result in a lot of similar photos. Swimming had already been going on for several days at the World Aquatics Championships when I decided to change things up to see what I could get. In the preliminary round, I planned to take shots outside the marquee middle lanes – 3, 4, and 5 – we usually focus on. After adjusting the underwater camera location and test-shooting a few times, I could predict that certain positions would give me the diverse, new photos I wanted.

How I made the photo

During heats in the morning – the races for qualifying for the finals – I took the initiative to test other camera placements. I asked the diver in charge to move the underwater camera to another lane in advance, and I took this photo during the men’s 200-meter breaststroke using the appropriate shutter speed and my custom white balance settings, one of the three presets I made on the camera. I set the white balance, which varies depending on the camera’s distance from the subject in the water and the lighting, and applied the appropriate setting at each moment of the swimmer’s movement. As a result, the most optimal combination of the white balance in and out of the water and color enhanced the swimmer’s movement in my photos. I tried to shorten the distance between the swimmer and the camera as much as possible because both the exposure and color balance change as you get farther away from the camera.

Why the photo works

Underwater photography is not just about camera adjustments but a combination of various technologies. AP photographer David J. Phillip helped me with the installation of the underwater camera. I troubleshooted through zoom meetings and real-time conversations, and I was able to make the photos I wanted for three weeks. Also, with cooperation from the underwater divers, I was able to install the camera in my desired lane. I received help from fellow photographers on the ground, too. Although the underwater camera housing moves faster with increasingly advanced technology, taking photos by hand is still different. I planned ahead, using the zoom of the lens and the movement of the housing to preset the camera angle where I wanted. I set the white balance, which varies depending on the distance and lighting in the water and applied the appropriate setting at each moment. As a result, I was able to best express the swimmers’ movements.

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