About Underwater Photography

History of Underwater Photography

The underwater photography looks back on a long, traditionally history in the CMAS.

When 1893 the first underwater photo was exposed, the constructing engineer Louis Boutan could not suspect, which role visual display would soon take also under water. Though it took almost 25 years until perfect shots could be exposed, in colour on sheet film, in moving pictures and even in stereo photography. The underwater photography draws the bow from sciences, in biology and archaeology, unto artistically picture of images as valuable reports of the epochs.

Tracking the diving development, it will be detected, that the improvement of the diving technology proceeded parallel. Pioneers like Hans Hass and Jacques-Yves Cousteau did not only develop the world under water optically, but processed the technical progress to the well-being of a sport, which soon spread rapidly all over the world.

For more than 110 years French and German engineers constructed, always concomitantly to the actual development of the construction of the cameras, adventuresome cases made of various materials, to be able to use the valuable photograph technology in the medium water.

The CMAS – Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatique – has been established in 1958 and soon took, as a world federation, the status as the exclusive representative of the diving sport.

Already in 1985 the first CMAS World Championships of Under Water Photography took place in Genoa / Italy, numerous national photography competitions preceded.

If the results over the many years of the top-underwater-photographers are observed, so it is to be detected, that the artistic attitude, represented in the category creative, lost ground to the demonstration of life and of the biological documentation.

It is better like this, because the underwater-photography got generally classified, also from insiders in diving, as damaging to environmental protection. So collecting, killing and rearranging of flora and fauna soon were proscribed and forbidden and persecuted by the CMAS.

For the younger generation of photographers the technique of the special tarred diving was included into the instructions, the oldies have been persuaded by the reconfiguration of the categories and rules, if they wanted to participate on the competitions.

The CMAS developed strict rules to guarantee the security and environmentally responsible behaviour. The categories close up, wide angle and fish were even either specialised with sub-categories “Close-up with theme” or by the arrangement with a diver “wide-angle with diver” made more interesting for the publicity.

The category creative were rearranged into swimming pools, but only two times offered as an official CMAS World Championship in Paris and in Cobenhagen. Today only sporadic competitions in this vein are announced, which are always carried out beyond nature.

Close up photography develops a world of biotopes

The fascination of the observation of creatures in close up divisions allowed knowledge about the cohabitation and documented various new animal and plant species.

In the domain of macro and micro photography sensational knowledge were collected which also allows conclusions for development of life over water.

The CMAS forces the task of the categories by complementing a theme which always relates to the special situation of the venue.

The general and open category “Close-Up” allows the photographer to shoot his discoveries in macro and close division without parameters in photo technology.

Wide-angle photography – the domain of picture creation artists

To record the impression of the observer in a foreign world and dimension, is a tough task, which is outstanding displayed in this category. The golden section in the hymn of the image, to maintain the colours in their original mark and screen the creatures in the right moment, requires a trained eye and sensibility.

The master-category “Wide-angle with diver” involves the human in his measurement as reference to the environment.

What is described as diver / model / assistant in the image in this category, is in fact an universal-talent. These divers, in general pretty female divers, should bring eminent biological skills, be well schooled in photo technology and additionally come with the body control of a photo model. Furthermore everyone shall know “her” photographer well, because competition stress demands motivation ability and compensative calmness from the assistant.

The fish-category is in contrast miscellaneous and elementary

So they say – but the opposite seems to be the truth. To take photos of fish asks not only for good biological knowledge, but also for the instinct of a hunter, who exactly knows how his motive behaves and how close he can approach.

This category presumes the luck of the brave. Even more if a certain fish is searched for. The photographer cannot decide how he images his motive in this category. He needs the patience and the exact knowledge about the especialness of this fish and the biotope. Can he look for the fish in open water or does it hide in the riff – at daytime or at nighttime.

So photographers learned that the best premise for good snapshots is the natural curiosity of the animal.

To take one’s time and flaunt oneself, then the success is quite certain, then the animal comes to the photographer – eyeball to eyeball are possible like this. Furthermore an experience goes along with every successful shot.

Details of fish-motives are also very in vogue. Typical characteristics are pointed out and recorded in detail. Though the viewer must be able to identify the fish and which detail is illustrated.

The digital revolution

The systems of the technology in the visual designing have changed dramatically. Those who believe that the designing of images in video or photograph did become simpler, yes even become easier, are mistaken.

Demanding photography, particularly below the water surface, has become very complex. Precise knowledge of the manifold possibilities of the types of cameras up to the knowledge of image editing with the software of the camera is required. However, a considerable amount of experience of the conventional photography is still very beneficial. A major advantage of today's digital photography certainly is the theoretically unlimited number of available exposures and the possibility to immediately see, save or delete the results.

Juergen Warnecke
CMAS Visual Commission


CMAS Championships History - Visual Commission

1979 1st World Championships Underwater Photo –Calampiso/Italy
World Champion: Mr.Mario Zucchi/ Italy
17-18.06.1987 2nd World Championships Underwater Photo – Costa Brava/ Spain
World Champion: Mr. Kurt Amsler/Swiss
19-24.09.1990 3rd World Championships Underwater Photo – Milazzo/ Italia
World Champion: Mr. Frédéric Di Meglio/France
11-14.08.1992 4th World Championships Underwater Photo – Islas Juventud/ Cuba
World Champion: Mr. Franco Banfi/Swiss
25-30.09.1994 5th World Championships Underwater Photo – Jeju/ South Korea
World Champion: Mr. Frédéric di Meglio/France
06-12.10.1996 6th World Championships Underwater Photo – Menorca/ Spain
World Champion: Mr. Carlos Minguel/Spain
13-18.09.1998 7th World Championships Underwater Photo – Alesund/Norway
World Champion: Mr. Carlos Minguel/Spain
10-15.06.2000 8th     World Championships Underwater Photo – Hurghada/Egypt
World Champion: Mr.Settimo Cioriani /Italy
26-29.08.2002 9th World Championships Underwater Photo – Marseille/ France
World Champion: Mr. José Luis Gonzales/Spain
13-18.09.2005 10th World Championships Underwater Photo – Estartit/Spain
World Champion: Mr. Denis Palbiani/Italy
09-14.05.2007 11th World Championships Underwater Photo – Port Louis/ Mauritius
World Champion: Mr. Carlos Minguel/Spain
31.05.-05.06.2009 12th World Championships Underwater Photo – Jeju/ South Korea
World Champion: Mr. Espen Rekdal /Norway
26-31.05.2011 13th World Championships Underwater Photo- Bodrum/ Turkey
World Champion: Mr. Orhan Aythur/Turkey
08-14.04.2013 14th World Championships Underwater Photo Cayo Largo/ Cuba
World Champion: Mr. David Barrio/ Spain
21-25.05.2015 15th World Championships Underwater Photo Zeeland/Netherlands
World Champion: Mr. Damir Zurub/Croatia
28.09.-03.10.2010 1st World Championship Underwater Video - Fuerteventura/ Spain
World Champion: Mr. Jorge Candán/Spain
07.10.-12.10.2014 2nd World Championships Underwater Video - Las Gallettas/Tenerife
World Champion: Mrs. Katja Kieslich/Germany
12-15.06.1995 1st World Cup Underwater Photo - Hurghada/Egypt
Worldcup Champion: Mr. Milan Czapai/ Germay
03.09.-07.09.2014 1st European Championships Underwater Photo Graciosa- Portugal
European Champion: Mr. Cenk Ceylanglu/ Turkey
08-11.05.1997 1st World Championships Underwater Photo Swimming pool – Paris / France
World Champion: Mr. Ricardo Cioni/ Italy

2nd World Championships Underwater Photo Swimming Pool – Copenhagen/Denmark
World Champion: Mr. Franco Negrin/ Italy


2th European Photo Champion La Herradura Spain
World Champion: Mr. Rafael Fernandez/Spain


1th European Video Champion La Herradura Spain
World Champion: Mr. Jose Carlos Rando/Spain

CMAS Visual Commission - Presidents

1990 - 1992 Mr. Jorge Albuquerque/Portugal
1992 – 1993 Mr. Rino Gamba/Swiss
1993 – 1998 Mr. Robert Pakiela/France
1998 – 2004 Mr. Lionel Pozzoli/France
2004 – 2005 Mr. Paco Fraile/Spain  
2005 – 2015 Mr. Juergen F. Warnecke/Germany

Related Documents

The Board of Commission

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DAVINO Michele
DAVINO Michele
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GARCIA Jose Antonio
GARCIA Jose Antonio
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LASSE Gustafsson
LASSE Gustafsson
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