Donald Miralle: The Making of an Image

 
Photograph/Donald Miralle

Photograph/Donald Miralle

This story was originally published in July 2014.

Donald Miralle

Donald Miralle

There I was, sitting on the bottom of Kailua Bay trying to preserve the air in my tank and keep my camera dry in it’s housing like I have on the first week of October in the years past. To get the underwater mass swim start photo from the Kona Ironman World Championships, I’ve always had to wake up about 4:30am to set up all my hand held and remote cameras well before entering the water with scuba and underwater camera kit to watch fish go by until the cannon blast starts the swimmers at 7am.

But the difference with this year and past years was the fact that large surf a couple days before raceday kicked up sand and mixed up the water making it more cloudy, which didn’t lend to the clearest water with the best visibility for photos. However, these conditions brought larger schools of fish that I hadn’t seen in the past, swimming in the shallows of the bay looking for food.

So as I was sitting there at about 6:59 am, 30 feet on the bottom of the bay, trying to line up schools of fish below schools of man, trying to keep my bubbles from my mouth and regulator out of the frame, and trying to get the correct exposure/focus as well, I noticed from the corner of my eye that the battery was blinking. All I could think was “oh no, my camera is going to die before this start, and I’m going to miss it all!” And right as the worrying set in I could hear the muffled cannon fire, the surfboards holding the line of swimmers open, and the mass of humanity began to swim overhead. Click, click, cli… I got about 2.5 frames in the first second of the race before my camera died. All I could do was swim back to land with my head hanging and pray that I got one usable frame out of all the time and preparation that went into that morning.

Looking back it’s sometimes better to be lucky than good, and I know that someone was looking out for me that morning after the image ran as the magazine cover for the publication I was shooting for and four months later received 1st place at World Press Photo for Sports Action Single. The Kona Mass Start image is one of those images and moments you get once in your lifetime, where all the elements line up, and preparation meets opportunity.

Donald Miralle is one of the most iconic action photographers of our generation. Stressing that even the most high-powered of situations ought to be seen in a different way, he has always chased innovation in whatever genre he has shot. He won the World Press Photo award four times, including in 2012 for the above image.

Tags: Action Photography, Donald Miralle, Underwater Photography, world press photo 2012