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“But even a win can cost them money,” said David Pilosof, who has been running the competition for eight years. The cost of equipment and travel all adds up. “They come because they have been bitten by a bug. It is a passion.”
Pictures can be in colour or black-and-white but none can be edited even slightly without incurring disqualification.
Zimbabwe-born Richard Carey has competed for several years and in 2010 won a prize with a picture of two octopi mating.
“There is still the excitement, the adrenalin, the moment you see something special, and you just hope you can get your camera there in time,” he said.
Eilat does not appear in most top-10 lists of must-dive locations in the world, but it is still popular, largely due to its variety of fish and the easy access to its reefs.
Its corals are special for another reason. They can, unlike many others that are turning white and dying, tolerate unusually large rises in temperature, a study published last month found.
The corals that settled thousands of years ago in the northern Red Sea had to pass through a narrow strait to the south that acted as a thermal barrier, ensuring they are more resistant to temperature increases.
“It’s a coral refuge,” said Amatzia Genin, a professor of ecology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who co-published the findings in the journal Global Change Biology. Corals in this area could live for 100 years after others die, he said.
Israeli photographer Johannes Felten said the coral was the perfect background for fashion shoots. He wanted as much help as possible on land - he brought a model and stylist - because underwater currents are disruptive and lighting is elusive.
Also there is the cold. His model wore only a skirt and bikini top.
Felten said he did not care that his equipment cost far more than the winning purse.
“You can’t put a price tag on a hobby like this, on a passion,” he said.