wednesday, August 31th, 2022

REWIND: Red Sea Mayhem

We couldn't be more excited earlier this summer before heading to Israel on our first photojournalism assignment for Getty Images.

Little did we know back then that this assignment was going to be ANYTHING but
a walk in the park...
On the 3rd of July 2022, we went scuba diving in our home waters outside Kullaberg. We wanted to do some final testing of the underwater camera equipment before our next assignment, which was about to start in three days. We were almost bursting with anticipation to head to Israel on an inspiring mission for Getty Images. We would be behind the camera(s) this time together.

At this point, we had no idea what was waiting in store for us in Israel. However, we knew we would face a challenge cause with this trip, we were heading in a new direction in our profession. Changing our perspectives from a primarily commercial approach to photojournalism is one thing. But, at the same time, we were also transferring our skills from being purely land-based to going underneath the surface. And not just down to the regular maximum depths of 18 or 30 meters, but doing decompression dives down to 50 meters while documenting scientists at work was gonna be a new experience for us.
And let me be clear, this was not a holiday, drinking piña coladas and snapping photos here and there while sleeping in a comfy bed at a fancy hotel. But, honestly, it turned out to be one of the most frustrating and challenging assignments we've ever been on, and for all the wrong reasons. The major one was that once we made it to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, only 2 out of 4 bags found their way out onto the conveyor belt. And so began the BIG HUNT for the lost luggage…

And what was in those bags, you might wonder. Well, to begin with, one of our cameras, the big underwater housing + underwater lights, and some of Lukasz's diving equipment. So it was time to face reality and get into action mode on how to get a hold of the gear we were in desperate need of.

And as many of you know, travelling this summer has been chaotic, to say the least. With thousands and thousands of lost bags at airports worldwide, delayed and cancelled flights and complete chaos at security checks with hour-long queues being the new norm.

Over five days, we went three times to the airport, driving from Eilat (an 8-hour round trip) to see if there was any news about our bags. But nothing. And every time, the mountains of bags piled up in the airport's arrivals area just grew bigger and bigger. It was insane.
In those first few days, we went through sleepless nights, and lots of uncertainty, with our brains fried operating in 40+ degrees Celsius daily.
Predicting how your brain and body will react to these unforeseen challenges is difficult. However, we are used to making risk assessments and worrying in advance cause that's what makes us better prepared for when the shit hits the fan. Without underwater housing and lights, we almost certainly had to cancel everything and fly back home, leaving us utterly useless as photographers and human beings.

But we didn't want to give up this easily and decided to go for a dive to test the small underwater housing we had brought as a behind-the-scenes set-up. Thanks to the clear blue water of the Red Sea, the Canon Powershot G16 did a decent job. Not in any way near what we got used to using the Canon R5 but with some creativity and a lot of stubbornness, we thought we could get pretty OK results. With an OK from our editors, we finally could get to work.
During our time in Israel, we were lucky to have the best safety diver in the area. Ofir was a rock! A very experienced tech diver with a big heart, a contagious smile, one leg and lots of knowledge about life underneath the surface. He went above and beyond to make us feel safe and happy in the water. In addition, as a former dive safety supervisor at IUI, his connections within the institute made things smoother for us.
Being on assignment is always, more or less, draining. The need for a Plan B, Plan C and sometimes even a Plan D can make you feel highly stressed or relaxed, depending on the circumstances. And underwater photography requires you to be focused not only on the story and on your safety. You also have to pay close attention to how you move so you avoid causing any damage to the delicate creatures in the sea. As a result, there were not that many minutes of relaxation. Still, when they occasionally arrived, it was such a reward just to be able to enjoy the moment, feel weightless and be surrounded by the sea.
So what happened in the end with our luggage then? Well, to some extent, this is a true Hollywood love story in one way. We managed to get our luggage back on the day of our departure, only 20 minutes before we were about to check in for our flight back home on the 19th of July. We were highly relieved and so happy we could cry. We've been told that the courier company planned delivery of the luggage to Eilat on the 26th of July. Meaning one week after our scheduled departure back home. We have no idea what they were thinking, and in the end, it's probably best we don't know.

But does the story end there? Oh no…
After some delay on our route back to Copenhagen Airport, via Brussels, the airline lost ALL OUR FOUR BAGS!!! We kid you not. Totally true. After arriving at midnight at Copenhagen Airport, we stood in line for 5 hours to report our missing luggage. (As you can see in the image above of Ulrika, she didn't think this was funny at 5am in the morning…). We could hardly believe it ourselves. Still, we went home without our luggage and had to wait nine days for it to be delivered to our home address.

If this was a holiday, it would have been easy to buy a new bikini, some new t-shirts and another bottle of sun cream. But being on a work trip with all this hassle makes the whole experience much more stressful. Despite all this, we managed to relax a little once we returned from our last dive on the assignment. At this point, we realised we had done EVERYTHING in our power. We had squeezed out all we could from the small camera, which actually saved us on this trip.

We had high expectations going to Israel, and we felt the pressure to deliver on our first assignment for Getty. Still, sometimes, you must let your worry go and enjoy the moment. (Even if it's just for 5 minutes…)
Oh, what was the assignment all about? Good question.

Check out our "Red Sea's 'Super Corals' Prove Resistant Amid Rising Ocean Temperatures"- page with a proper report from the shoot. It's worth it. We promise!

We want to send a HUGE thank you to Jessica Bellworthy and everyone connected with the IUI. Without them, the world would know A LOT less about the corals in the Red Sea. We also want to send our warmest greetings to Waterproof
and AQOR, who's been providing us with reliable scuba diving gear.
PHOTO CREDIT - Ulrika Larsson and Lukasz Larsson Warzecha
WORDS: Ulrika Larsson
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