A fish tale well told

Awesome photos, great deep sea yarns at Cay-man’s Underwater Film Festival

There
are very few people in the world who can say they have made it through
being bitten by a shark without suffering serious injury.

There
are even fewer who can say they intentionally put themselves into a
position where sharks could bite them and made it through alive.

Valerie
Taylor of Australia
may be the only living person who can lay claim to both, and in any case she is
believed to be the first person to try it out.

And
she has the video to prove it.

A condensed
version of Shadow of the Shark filmed mostly by Valerie’s husband, Ron,
was among the four films shown during last weekend’s International Underwater
Film Festival at George Town’s Harquail Theatre.

“Nobody
knew what would happen,” Valerie said as the film showed a younger version
of her descending on a dive encased in what was essentially a makeshift
suit of chain mail armour. The film displayed her holding a fish as sharks
started to swarm around her and actually bite her arms!

“I
was very nervous about the first bite,” Valerie intoned. “I was waiting
for the blood, the pain. But I realised there was no blood, there was no pain.
It was just chewing away and not getting through.”

“It
was fascinating.”

Ron
and Valerie’s story, a near 40-plus year tale of champion spear-fishers who
gave up their underwater weapons for film cameras, and who brought back some of
the most intriguing and informative photographic research on sharks that has
ever been compiled, topped the list of films shown at this year’s event.

Other
fascinating films included Carl Ross and Leslie Leaney’s exploration of the Red Sea. The film depicts diver Hans Haas’s
“discovery” of that particular sea’s potential for underwater adventure.
The documentary – Under the Red Sea – depicts coral formations that cannot be
found anywhere else in the world.

Kirk
Krack presented his film on performance free diving in the Cayman Islands, and
environmental artist Wyland documented his efforts to paint the globe on top of
a Long Beach, California sports stadium in less than 48
hours for Earth Day.

Some
of the most fascinating images from the film festival came from still camera
photographers here in the Cayman Islands.

A
number of underwater shutterbugs won honourable mentions, third and second
place awards in four separate categories. All the photos can be viewed on our
website here.

The
first place winners in each category were: Simon Dixon (macro), Ellary Wray
(landscape), and Jay Easterbrook (creative).

The
grand prize photo for the competition also went to Ellary Wray, who captured a
stringray rising out of a sand bed.

Second
place winners in each category included Michael Johnston (creative), and Rutger
Geerling (landscape and macro).

Taking
third place in the photo competition were: Gary Redfern (macro), Andrea Lee
(landscape), and Rutger Geerling (creative).

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This macro lens photo won first prize.
Simon Dixon