My big break Ge­orge Kar­bus

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia - Keith Wil­son

Born and raised in the Czech Repub­lic, Ge­orge Kar­bus moved to the west coast of Ire­land in 2004. One of Europe’s lead­ing un­der­wa­ter and ad­ven­ture pho­tog­ra­phers, his work has been widely pub­lished, and has won nu­mer­ous awards. To see more of his work visit www.georgekar­bus­pho­tog­ra­phy.com

March might be the first month of spring, but near the Arc­tic Cir­cle on the Rus­sian coast, win­ter main­tains an icy grip on both land and sea at this time of year. Five years ago, un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher Ge­orge Kar­bus and his girl­friend Kate, an ex­pert free diver, caught a train due north from Moscow. Their des­ti­na­tion was the White Sea, the stretch of ocean ad­ja­cent to Rus­sian La­p­land and the Kola Penin­sula.

“It was a spec­tac­u­lar trip,” re­mem­bers Ge­orge. “We took a sleeper train straight up to the Arc­tic from Moscow. We just went through the wilder­ness, stop­ping at those crazy train sta­tions where grannies were sell­ing cans of beer and fish.”

Two days on the train was fol­lowed by a three­hour road trip to the dive cen­tre where the sea was cov­ered by a thick layer of ice. The cou­ple planned to dive be­neath the ice, some­thing they had never done be­fore, but first two div­ing holes had to be cut. “It was re­ally thick, so it was quite an ef­fort to cut a hole,” says Ge­orge. “We started div­ing on a rope and then, as we got more con­fi­dent, we went down with­out rope, just ba­si­cally climb­ing the ice up­side down, far­ther and far­ther from the hole. The wa­ter was just about zero, and out­side it was about -10ºC.”

It may have been freez­ing, but the light was strong enough to pen­e­trate the ice. With lung­fuls of air drawn through her snorkel above the ice hole, Kate dived to join Ge­orge, who was us­ing his Nikon D700 and fish­eye lens in a wa­ter­proof Suba hous­ing.

As she swam be­tween the two ice holes, Ge­orge framed the scene: “I didn’t tell her to do this. We just dived and it came out like that. She was just play­ing, so I took the shot. She’s like a stick un­der the ice.”

Green light

Ge­orge ex­posed for the light com­ing through the frozen sur­face to ren­der Kate as a sil­hou­ette; the green colour cast is caused by the al­gae in the White Sea, although at the time some pub­li­ca­tions sug­gested an­other rea­son. “When I first pub­lished this pic­ture some peo­ple said it was taken un­der the North­ern Lights, but it wasn’t. It’s im­pos­si­ble to pho­to­graph the North­ern Lights from un­der­wa­ter.”

Although Ge­orge was rel­a­tively un­known at the time, this pic­ture was widely pub­lished, and was used for sev­eral magazine cov­ers. “For a while,” he says, “ev­ery time I sub­mit­ted a pic­ture I won some­thing, but I was a lit­tle bit spoiled. These days it’s much more com­pet­i­tive. Ev­ery year it’s harder to suc­ceed. This year I’m a fi­nal­ist in Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year, so we’ll see.”

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