t’s a Saturday summer afternoon and I’m sitting on the sand in my beach shorts with a friend and the wind is kicking up water and sand in my lenses—not just the ones I’m wearing on my face, but the ones on my camera. It’s actually my day off, but as a photographer in Limassol that always makes sure to have my camera and at least one lens in my car at all times, more often than not I find myself taking a busman’s holiday: a holiday that inadvertently involves doing the same work one usually does but on a day off!
Me and my friend have come down to Softades beach—home of Kahuna Surfhouse—to try our hand our kite-surfing, only to find out that the surfhouse is currently busy hosting the annual kite-surfing championships. As we’ve already made the drive down, we decide to make the most of the day: my friend dashes to the bar to get us some drinks, while I head back to the car to grab my camera. So in this blog post, I take you behind the scenes of this heart-pounding event, capturing the essence of kitesurfing in all its glory and the technical challenges one faces while working as a sports photographer in Limassol.
The Cyprus Kite Surfing Championships | A Limassol photographer's story
The surfhouse, which lies between the shores of Larnaca and Limassol, is hard to miss. As you approach the beach, the skyline becomes filled with all sorts of coloured kites moving in the wind that, from a distance, resemble some kind of giant butterfly dance. The location itself is also a kite-surfer’s dream: ideal winds, no aquatic predators and warm waters.
Although today is Sunday, we find out shortly after our arrival that the event has already been going on since Friday, and that we have made it just in time for the most anticipated events of all: the freestyle and Big Air finals. Judging these events is former world champion Christophe Tack, who must take into consideration all the elements that go into kite-surfing mastery, including loops, spins, handle grabs and other adrenaline-packed moves. Here's some shots of what those looked like:
We find out after the event that the tournament, now in its tenth year, has developed into a significant turning point for the kitesurfing community in Cyprus, which was originally started by Elias Mantovanis. The current surfhouse grew out of Mazotos, which lies closer to Limassol, and was eventually relocated down the road to Kiti. It’s been operating since 2011 when Elias first obtained his licence to teach kite-surfing. The current beach is an ideal setting, complete with its big waves and consistent breeze, creating not only the ideal environment for the ultimate competition in kite mastery, but also a fantastic opportunity for Limassol photographers to enhance their portfolios with some high-action photos—no wonder then so many spectators have turned up with their cameras!
The rather competitive atmosphere is offset by the various pop-up stands dotted around the surf house, where spectators can easily buy food and beverages to keep themselves nourished and hydrated throughout the hot summer day, and a continuous hum of music and live commentary on the surf house sound system provides for thorough entertainment both during and in between the events.
Technical Challenges for Limassol photographers: Capturing the Unpredictable
Capturing this event is no easy feat. As mentioned earlier in this post, I only have one lens on me: my 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 Sony G Master. It’s a great lens and particularly versatile when it comes to Limassol sports photography, although I soon find out that my range is slightly lacking, and I would have benefited from bringing my x2 converter or my 600mm lens. There is one competitor, however, who is making my life much easier: Marios Adamou. The 4-time Cyprus Kite Surfing Champion is the only competitor who is consistently performing his manoeuvres at a much closer distance to the shore, bringing out gasps from the crowd but also making up for my lack of range! Here's some shots of his dare-devil moves:
Despite Marios making my job much easier, I still have to navigate and contend with the elements. The water and sand is consistently kicking up towards my lens, while the bright mid-day sun provides extreme contrast conditions, pushing the dynamic range of the camera to its limit. I therefore have to make a difficult decision: do I fit my lens hood to protect the lens from the mist and sand, or do I throw on my polariser to block out the sun and take my risk with the elements? It’s a difficult dilemma any Limassol photographer would have to face, and unfortunately I cannot have both. Thankfully, I have some alcohol wipes packed in my camera bag, so I decide that I will first try capturing some shots with my polariser and, if I find myself competing too often with the elements, I’ll clean the filter with the wipe and switch it out for my lens hood. As it would later prove, this was the wrong decision! A couple of competitors lost control of their kites, with some falling on the beach a bit too close to comfort, kicking up a tonne of sand and water towards the camera. Although the body is water-resistant, the filter is starting to look like my car window on a cold winter morning, so I therefore decide to swap out the filter for the hood.
Now that I have my set-up dialled in, I now need to focus on my camera settings. Kite-surfing is a fast moving sport. I therefore know that I am unlikely to get away with a low shutter speed. Shutter speed, as the name suggests, is the time which the camera shutter remains open—exposing the sensor to light—when taking a shot. For example, a 1/50 shutter speed would indicate that the shutter is only open for 1/50th of a second. Judging from experience, I know I’m not going to get away with anything less than 1/800, and to allow some margin for error I should probably be shooting at a minimum of 1/1000. A few shots in and I find that the sharpness, which is partially determined by the shutter speed, is acceptable. What I now need to do is dial in my autofocus settings. Thankfully, Sony cameras have fantastic autofocus systems, but even the best of cameras can sometimes miss the perfect shot. For this reason, the first thing I do is set the camera to high-burst mode, which allows me to fire off 12 shots per second. The second thing I do is set the autofocus mode to tracking and wide. This tells the camera to focus and lock on to anything that is fast moving in its general field of view—as opposed to anything just in the centre. Finally, I increase my aperture to around F6 to give myself a bit more depth and margin for error.
Now that the settings are dialled in, all that’s left is my own input, which is needed to make the most of the camera settings but also achieve a good composition. The ever-changing conditions of wind and waves make it essential to anticipate the moments kite-surfers elect to make their jumps, maintaining therefore a nimble approach when it comes to getting the perfect shot. The speed and unpredictability of kitesurfers demands Limassol photographers to have quick reflexes, precise timing, and an eye for detail. Needless to say, there’s a lot of trial and error involved in sports photography, and for every good shot there’s about 3 average ones and 5 bad ones. For this reason, I later end up culling my 3,000 shots to about 150 that I am happy with. The final, and in some respects, the most important element of capturing the perfect high-octane shot, has to do with the subject itself. Capturing the expression of a fast-moving subject is not something in our control as Limassol photographers. Our only hope, therefore, is to fire off as many photos as possible in the hope that we will capture the facial and body expression of our subject in such a way that tells its own compelling story. In this sense, sports photography in Limassol does also have an element of luck, but like many other things, you often make your own luck. With that said, here's some final shots from the event:
Conclusion: A Limassol photographer’s view
The King of Kite 2023 marks a milestone in the history of kitesurfing in Limassol and Cyprus, as it continues to push boundaries, inspire enthusiasts, and solidify the island's position on the global kitesurfing map. The event stands as a testament to the growing popularity of kitesurfing, attracting world-class athletes and sparking interest among spectators and thrill-seekers alike. As the sun sets on Softades Beach, me and my friend bid farewell to an unforgettable experience, eagerly awaiting our return for some kite-surfing lessons!
As a photographer in Limassol, my goal is to not only capture moments but tell a story. If you are looking for a photographer in Limassol to tell your brand story or showcase your business in its best light, do not hesitate to contact me.