Patrick Neumann
  professional Underwater Photography
Hall of Fame
Contact | Order
Copyright 2009
by Patrick Neumann

Aphrodite – The Cypres Experience
Author: Sharon Rainis
Images by Razi Livnat and Sharon Rainis

Aphrodite, goddess of romance and passion, of fashion, beauty and art, has captivated poets and painters for centuries. Known for her numerous affairs of the heart, as well as her willingness to help others find the love they seek, Aphrodite’s irresistible touch transformed the lives of individuals and shaped the course of human history. Both playful and sophisticated, Aphrodite makes our world a livelier place.

This is the inspiration for "Aphrodite", the Cyprus Experience competition - making the diving world a livelier place by combining the diving world with hi tech, photography and extreme sports, tourism, conservation and even new categories for beginners and video clip, produced during the event in Cyprus.
The motivating spirit behind the competition is David Pilosof (Pilo), a veteran underwater photographer, producer of the Epson Red Sea competition, and creator of the renowned photo album, "Samantha". Pilo has participated in many underwater photography competitions himself, and shaped the genre of underwater fashion and nude photography.
"I took part in many photography competitions, and it was very nice to win a few trophies and medals", says Pilosof. "But I always felt that something was missing – some sort of financial reward, a prize that could help and encourage photographers to continue joining those competitions and adventures.
The Cyprus Tourist Organizationrose to the challenge, and allows us to run this prestigious competition where underwater photographers have the chance to win cash prizes. I am proud to invite you all to Cyprus, to take part in the competition and perhaps win the jackpot.”

The winners of the competition will go back home with checks in the amount of 20,000 euro, 3 weeks diving trip to Papua New Guinea including air fare Singapore/Papua New Guinea/Singapore and other valuable prizes.

The competition is open to all photographers, amateurs and professionals alike. It is a shoot-out competition, meaning that photographs have to be taken in Cyprus during the 3 days of:
June 2-4 2009.

Kategorien und Preise:
5000 Euro
First Prize for the Zenobia best 5 images courtesy of Mayor of Larnaka
2000 Euro
For the best Singular entry live in the Zenobia
3000 Euro
Best 5 Images - Environmental Conservation Advertising Campaign
4000 Euro
+ 3 weeks diving trip for two to Papua New Guinea with Walindi, Loloata Resorts and aboard Febrina + Round trip air tickets Singapore/Papua/Singapore
For the best 5 fashion and nudes images

June 1st, 2009

Today was the first day of the “Aphrodite” Cyprus Experience.

The event consists of three main photography categories. The first is Wreck Photography, mainly focusing on the worldwide famous “Zenovia” wreck. The second is Fashion and Nudity, a category announced in memory of Mike Portelly, in which creative underwater photographers will be making use of Cyprus underwater bedrocks and crystal clear water as a photo studio. Last but not least is the video clip category, which consists of 90 seconds edited underwater videos. All images and videos will be taken during the three days of the competition this week, which leaves us, competitors, with quite a challenging schedule!

Today was basically the registration day, in which images submitted to the competition could not yet be taken. However, since most participants have never visited the Zenobia before and also wanted to feel that they are efficiently making use of their time, we joined an introduction dive at the wreck. Surprisingly, most of the photographers arrived to this dive without any photography equipment, probably taking advantage of their last opportunity within the next few days to view the underwater scenery through their own eyes and not through the lens. As someone who cannot recall an entrance to the water without carrying at least two camera systems along, I must admit it was nice looking at a fish without desperately trying to white balance it.

As for the Zenobia wreck, it was simply an amazing dive and I am so glad we are going back there tomorrow (and the day after, and the day after…). No matter how many wrecks you have previously visited, you could not feel indifferent when touring around the 172 meters of this ship. Trucks, cars, boats, machinery, corals and countless fish are only some of the attractions you find on this wreck. Needless to say that one dive was hardly enough to satisfy our curiosity, but something tells me that by the end of this week, most of the photographers will be able to draw such an accurate map of this wreck and its surroundings, despite its humongous size.

Up until recently, Derek owned a Canon 400D camera with an Ikelite underwater system, but just a short while before taking off to Cyprus, he decided to replace his camera with a Canon 5D Mark II. When we found out that today, the first day of the competition, was basically Derek’s first dive with his new underwater camera system, we could not help but worship his courage and self confidence. Derek intends to submit images to almost all competition categories, including underwater fashion photographs of his beautiful friend from Switzerland, Caroline, and also an edited underwater video for the Cyprus Video Clip award (after all, he now owns a camera with HD video capability!). He feels that after successfully coping with the challenge of photographing in Ireland dive sites, which consist of such difficult light conditions, he is more than ready to take a winning shot of the Zenobia in Cyprus’s clear water and sunny weather. When I asked Derek if he had planned anything ahead for the competition, he glanced at me with a smile and said: “Have I planned anything ahead? Sure I have. I plan to win!”

June 2nd, 2009

It is Tuesday morning, the first day in which participants start taking shots that they will be able to submit to the competition. Everybody is very excited as we all meet on the boat, cameras and photographers (in that order). We are all aware that there are only three days in which our winning photographs should be taken, and photographers already start sneaking around, trying to find out if there are any other amazing spots at the Zenobia which were discovered by their colleagues and weren’t (properly) shared.

Although the Zenobia is known for its clear water surroundings, the visibility during the past two days wasn’t at its best. Usually the visibility is approx. 50m, which is more than perfect for wide angle wreck photography. However, these days, we are somehow challenged by a visibility of about 7-10m, which greatly affects our compositions. Whoever planned these shots ahead, imagining a panoramic image that reveals the whole 172m of the wreck, soon found himself thinking that photographing the wheel of the truck is not such a bad idea after all. This way or another, considering the fact that almost all photographers are taking images of the same dive site, the poor visibility serves as a great challenge and certainly spices up things. At the end, judges will be looking at so many Zenobia images, that one would really have to be creative (luck will be very much appreciated as well) in order for his Zenobia images to stick out.

The fact that during the days of the event all competitors spend their time together on one boat, creates a wonderful atmosphere. I guess you can say that some sort of an intimacy is slowly built, and those who thought they would be able to hide their images from all other photographers, soon find themselves publicly consulting with their colleagues regarding their ideas. Of course, the “Happy Hour” on the boat, in which everyone gets free beer and spends some time on the deck under the sun, plays an important role in this respect…

Anyone who spends more than 5 minutes on the boat could not ignore Jaime Burns, a photographer with so many amusing, thrilling and fascinating diving stories (as well as one of the coolest T-shirts I have ever seen). Jaime is a video photographer who intends to submit his video to the Cyprus Video Clip category, as well as taking some good shots and stories for his new program called “Diving Diaries”, covering all aspects of the dive site, including the diving center, the people, facilities and services. This was Jaime’s first time diving at the Mediterranean Sea and he was a bit disappointed with the visibility on the Zenobia, but somehow I am sure that thanks to his positive approach and his endless source of energy, he will overcome this disappointment very soon. When I asked Jaime if he had planned ahead the video he is going to submit to the competition, he said “When you make plans, nothing ever happens. It’s when you don’t make plans that a tiger shark suddenly comes by”. So I’ll take it as a “no” and start waiting for a tiger shark. Jaime says that if he wins, he feels that it’s mostly because he got lucky. I guess that although he sure seems like an underwater photographer that has been through a lot, Jaime gives a lot of credit to his fellow photographers.

Getting ready to another intensive day of diving, in the evening, all photographers retire early for a good and long sleep. After all, spending three days in a wreck that is laid on a bottom of 42 meters surely requires a good rest for well being, if not for safety reasons!

June 3rd,2009

After two days of diving at the Zenobia, which is considered to be quite a deep dive site (17-42 meters), one would have expected the divers pace to slow down a bit today, but this certainly was not the case. Fully motivated and determined to accomplish their goals, underwater photographers kept taking advantage of any opportunity to go back to the water, thereby increasing the chance that their memory card consists of a winning image. Naturally, the safety tank positioned at the bottom of the boat, at a depth of 5 meters, became more and more popular, as nice and long safety stops at the end of the dive became even more essential than before.

Even when simply observing the divers preparing themselves on the boat, you could easily tell which photographer is participating in what category. Huge underwater video cameras laid around the boat represented the Cyprus Underwater Video Clip category, pretty women fancily dressed up (or not dressed up at all…), working on their make up, served as an evidence of the Fashion & Nudity category and handmade plywood banners with environmental awareness titles acted for the Environmental Conservation Campaign category.

One of the participants in the Environmental Conservation Campaign category is Ronny Fogelman from Israel. Equipped with a very original idea, Ronny arrived to the competition especially in order to participate in this category and dedicated all of his dives in order to produce 5 underwater images that together assemble his campaign.

Ronny thought that an initiative campaign, which focuses on how divers and sea lovers can increase underwater environmental awareness, would be more effective rather than simply going for the common underwater environmental violation scenes that usually perform a leading role in such categories. He designed an underwater protest, making use of divers holding plywood signs prepared ahead. Each of the images in the campaign features a different composition in which the divers and signs are differently arranged. Ronny is very happy with the results so far and he is confident that his creative campaign will produce some nice results, with respect to a few different aspects…

June 4th,2009

This was the last day of the competition, in which all competition participants had to take their final shots. Some of the photographers, who were already happy with their Zenobia images and looked for a variety of underwater creatures, chose not to get on the boat and instead, headed towards for other dive sites around Larnaka. Others went for another intensive set of deep dives at the Zenobia wreck.

Since the Zenobia is one of the main categories in this competition, it was the major subject that most photographers focused on, including those who participated in the Cyprus Underwater Video Clip category. Edward Snijders from Netherlands, for example, prepared a video clip called “Woman of Cyprus”, referring of course to the Zenobia wreck. He looked for the origin of the name of the wreck, and found out that Zenobia was the queen of Palmyrene Empire who conquered Egypt in the 3rdcentury. His video presents the “Zenobia Queen” as a remarkable attraction, while everything was planned ahead in details, including independently mixing a soundtrack, recording a voice track and preparing a storyline for his shots. Edward shared with us that he first visited the Zenobia wreck on 1989 and that he was very thrilled to come back after 20 years. Back then, he says, there was significantly less life on the wreck, though he recalls that the lorries, which are now found towards the bottom of the wreck, were still hung up from the wreck on 1989. Producing a video clip that tells the story of the Zenobia is one great closure after 20 years!

Since today was the last opportunity to take photographs which can be submitted to the competition, the diving boat did not come back to the harbor at the afternoon as it usually did. Photographers who were willing to compromise on nothing less but perfection insisted to continue for two additional dives and tired but happy, we all came back to the shore in the evening.

Later that night, all the competition crew, including participants, judges, producers and representatives of Larnaka municipality, all went out for a fancy dinner in a fine restaurant that serves Cyprus national food. As drinks were on the house, most of us came back to the hotel in a condition that clearly states:

Now all photographers are examining their photos and videos, making their final choices regarding the work that they will submit to the competition. Since these were three extremely intensive days of underwater photography, many memory cards will have to be processed in this long, meaningful and fateful night. Tomorrow, all photographers will finally submit their work, and those who did a good job and made the right decisions, will burn a CD that’s worth a few thousand Euros…

June 5th,2009

This morning all participants had to submit their final work to the competition. Though photographers were absolutely positive that they were already done with the most difficult part in the competition, of diving, photographing the images and editing the videos, this morning everyone found out that making the final (and may I add- fateful) choices is perhaps the most challenging task of all. Actually, this process began the night before for most of the photographers, as they came back from our fancy dinner and began reviewing their work on the big screen. I guess that we were somehow hoping that after a good night sleep we will find it so much easier to choose our final images, but somehow, this morning most of us woke up even more confused than before. It’s not easy to make up your mind when there are such valuable prizes waiting to be collected.

As there is such a positive and supportive atmosphere among competition participants, most of them chose not to make these decisions independently and therefore almost every screen in the computers room was surrounded by a group of participants, trying to help their colleagues to make the right call. After all, it is so much easier when you have someone else to blame if something goes wrong…

After I got a chance to review so many images and videos today, I can definitely state that a huge challenge is awaiting the judges as well. Initially I assumed that since the Zenobia was the main subject of most photographs in the competition, the judges will get to see so many images that look pretty much the same. Now that I’ve seen many of the photographers’ images and videos, I am amazed how one single wreck can be shot in so many angles, techniques and compositions. The wide variety of images makes it hard to believe that we were all there at the same time, at the same dive site, shooting the same subject, regardless of its humongous size. There is no doubt that the judges are required to make some tough decisions today, as it looks like many of the images that were submitted are high quality ones, as well as unique and creative.

As for the photographers, once they completed their part of editing the videos, selecting their best images and submitting their work, they finally got the chance to wonder around a bit, exploring Larnaka’s beautiful attractions, as the great beaches, restaurants, bars and cultural points of interest. Since this week the Sea Festival is taking place in Larnaka, the city is literally at its best- full of visitors, fireworks, music, good food, shows and treats.

Tomorrow is the big day, in which the winning ceremony takes place and awards are granted to those who have done the most successful job. Something tells me that most of us will have a very difficult time to fall asleep tonight…

June 6th,2009 - The Winning Ceremony

On Saturday, waiting for the ceremony all day was pretty difficult. Participants all pretended that they are simply having a good time, shopping around, lying on the beach, having some rest, till one of the photographers finally spoke out, admitting the truth- “Is it just me or is this day taking FOREVER??”

Between us, as much as I found Larnaka’s beaches and streets beautiful, “forever” was an understatement.

Finally, the evening arrived and the ceremony began. The ceremony took place at the middle of Larnaka’s promenade, which was full of visitors who came for the Sea Festival. Therefore, aside from all event participants, many passer-by visitors stopped by in order to observe the ceremony, creating a magnificent crowd, which only made this evening feel even more meaningful. Everybody was dressed up, looking at their best, hoping that they will have a chance to get up on stage and add a nice accessory-huge-check, along with a huge smile, to their outfit.

The great atmosphere among all photographers during the whole week of the competition added to the high expectations as well. We were not only hoping to win ourselves, but also keeping our fingers crossed for our dear colleagues, which we accomplished such a close relationship with during the week. The first winner announced was Stephan Horvath from Germany, who won the first prize of the Amateurs category. As someone who previously participated in quite a few underwater photography competitions, I must admit that images submitted to the Amateurs category this time were extraordinary and could probably be considered as fine images in the professional category as well on other competitions. Therefore, when Tobias Friedrich from Germany came up on stage to collect the second prize in the Amateurs category, he was quite disappointed, as his images were absolutely wonderful. This way or another, it was the first time that Tobias has ever took part in an underwater photography competition, and he already got the chance to take a prize back home, which is a privilege that most of us (hmm-hmm) never accomplished. The third place was granted to Paraskevas Vasiliou from Cyprus, who made the local crowd very proud.

The second category was the Zenobia 5 Best Images, in which Patrick Neumann from Germany was announced as the winner. At this point I must share that the morning before, when Patrick was selecting the images he will submit to the competition, he was still a little bit drunk due to the great celebration all photographers had the night before, after completing their dives. A moment before he burned his chosen images and submitted them, a few of his colleagues, including myself, asked to take a look at his work. The first three images were absolutely remarkable, but as he kept on, we found out that two of his selected images are photos of an air gauge of an empty tank. Amazed by his bizarre decision, we immediately assumed that he didn’t have any better images to submit and therefore compromised for these two. However, when Patrick browsed through his other images, just to make sure that there are no better ones than the wonderful shot he got of an empty air gauge, we discovered that the rest of his images are STUNNING by all means and that Patrick is simply too drunk to make such fateful decisions right now. I can only say that choosing 5 winning images out of his great database was so amazingly easy and he deserved the prize he got by all means.

Next was the Best Singular Entry, also named “Life on the Zenobia”. Though most of us interpreted this title as a good shot of a fish or a coral on the Zenobia, Paula Faiferman from Argenita, the winner of this category, had other plans for it. She took a wonderful image of a diver silhouette sitting on the Zenobia’s rescue boat, as if he is about to jump outside of it. This image was impressive not only due to its photography technique, but also because of the idea that in the past 29 years, humans have not been part of the life on the Zenobia, and Paula still found a way to perpetuate them on the wreck again.

Then we got to the Environmental Conservation Advertising Campaign, in which Ronny Fogelman from Israel got the first prize. Or perhaps I should say- finally got the first prize… In the past few years, I have attended many competitions in which Ronny participated, and for a while it seemed like every time again, something happens which stands in his way to the prize. Whether it was equipment malfunction, flight delays or lack of air, Ronny always seemed to only almost get there (which did not stop him, of course, from arriving at the beginning of each competition and screaming out loud “Ok, guys, you can all leave now as I’m here and I’m about to take the prize!! Don’t bother wasting your time!”). This time, Ronny made it to the first prize with a lovely campaign of an underwater demonstration, protesting against environmental violations. Although his campaign was beautiful and creative, Ronny was still surprised when he was announced as the winner, and ended up crying for 30 long minutes after getting off the stage. Now here’s a dream come true!!

The video clip category consisted of two first place winners, as it was difficult to decide which produced a better video- Addie Reiss from Israel or Edward Snijders from Netherlands. Addie’s video was a breathtaking film, telling a story and making use of many cinematography techniques. On the other hand, Edward’s video consisted of more promotional elements and was more attractive as a marketing campaign, which was part of the standards defined ahead in this category. Therefore, the two talented videographers had to split the prize among them, thus increasing the number of total winners in the competition.

Last was the Fashion & Nudity category, in which I took part in. This is not the right place for my personal story, but to make a long story short, about a month before the competition, I found out that Anatoly Beloshchin from Russia, a professional and worshiped underwater fashion photographer, was planning to attend this competition as well, and this discovery pretty much lowered my expectations of winning to zero. Although my model, Hagar Cohen, and I decided that this time we are here to win and not just here for the experience (as we cautiously stated on previous competitions), and although we have both worked extremely hard during the days of the competition, as well as during the month before, due to my admiration of Anatoly’s work, I was afraid to await the prize. The moment in which my name was announced as the winner of this category was one I will surely cherish for life. As I grabbed the hand of Hagar, my model, and we both went up on stage together, I forgot my promise to myself and let the tears trickle.

After the ceremony, all of us, judges, producers, photographers, losers and winners, went out to celebrate. No matter if you lost in the competition, won it or simply came to witness it, the great week we had all shared together was a good enough reason to raise a toast (or fifteen toasts…) to celebrate this unique experience, hoping that we will get the chance to meet again next year in the same place, at the same time, on the Zenobia’s 30th birthday!