Selection of April 2024: Abyss I by Brigitte Bourger

Abyss I by Brigitte Bourger

There are so many ways to do aerial photography: helicopters, planes, drones, but it was in an ultralight aircraft (ULM) that I had the opportunity to photograph the reef in my hometown of Papara.

This particular reef is fascinating due to its underwater topography, which causes large waves to form when swells break over the reef, generating a lot of foam. The ULM was a homemade flying boat with a motor and wings to propel it. This required perfect flying conditions—not too much wind, not too much rain, and therefore, inevitably, plenty of sunshine, which isn't ideal for creating atmosphere in a photograph.

These relatively low-altitude flights allowed me to precisely select specific areas of the reef and lagoon that interested me, ensuring the best compositions. The drawback was having to deal with changes in the orientation of the aircraft and consequently changes in exposure. In aerial photography, one must constantly check settings; avoiding overexposure of whites was particularly challenging.  

The flying boat safely landed in the water without harm to the passengers, fortunately, but I deeply regret not being able to use it anymore. However, over a few sessions, I managed to capture a series of photographs that exceeded all my expectations. "Abyss I" has garnered numerous awards, including first prize in the nature category at PX3 Paris, and the series itself has received some awards. I knew instantly upon capturing the image that it would be good. The movement of the wave on the reef was particularly compelling, somewhat isolated from the rest of the image.

The very graphic and minimalist aspect of the photograph catches the eye first; from afar, one doesn't immediately see what the subject is. Details emerge later: the white foam is like a collection of diamonds set in a bed of blue-green velvet.  

Of course, I had to make adjustments in post-production. The square framing was an obvious choice to balance the photograph and emphasize the foam erupting from the wave. I increased the color contrast, which was already present at the time of shooting, and paid particular attention to preserving details in the slightly overexposed foam. I absolutely wanted to highlight the strength, energy, and power of the wave through this strong composition, thus compelling the viewer to focus on the details. It's an invitation to observe nature in its brutality and at the same time in its great gentleness. Every movement, every wave that the sea creates can be a metaphor for life in its complexity, in its ups and downs. It is in this duality that the beauty of this photography lies, in the infinite possibility of interpretations, reflections, and emotions that emerge from this tumultuous scenery, yet imbued with poetry.

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