How to Capture Award-Winning Underwater Sports Photos

Years ago, Adam Pretty started out as a news photographer at the Sydney Morning Herald, but his true passion was sports photography, so he spent his spare time perfecting the craft. Today, the Aussie is a multi-award winning, world-renowned sports photographer who has traveled the world and shot for some huge sporting brands and events. Here, the Getty Images photographer talks about his experiences and explains the process behind some of his best images:

The image below is Pretty’s award-winning underwater photo of synchronized swimmers warming up at the 2011 World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, China. It was taken with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens with Subal underwater housing. The exposure is 1/640 of a second at f/4.5.

synchronized swimming

As for some advice for aspiring sports and underwater photographers, Pretty says it’s all about pre-visualization.

divers underwater

Canon 5D Mark II, Subal underwater housing, 16-35mm f/2.8 II lens, 1/600 of a second at f/4.5, ISO 500. Converted to grayscale and contrast added.

You need to be able to predict a moment before it comes. That means a lot of waiting and a fast trigger finger, not to mention shutter speed. He also notes that it’s important to find a unique vantage point, a view that’s different from what everyone else is shooting.

midair divers

Synchronized divers at the exact moment pigeons take flight at the 2003 World Swimming Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

“When it comes to underwater shots, my best advice is to keep practicing. 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.”

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