Daan Verhoeven: Blog https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog en-us (C) Daan Verhoeven (Daan Verhoeven) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:39:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:39:00 GMT https://www.daanverhoeven.com/img/s/v-12/u673676886-o22494601-50.jpg Daan Verhoeven: Blog https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog 120 80 12 months in 12 days: December https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-december beasts-daanverhoeven-GOPR0199-2beasts-daanverhoeven-GOPR0199-2C:\DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0199.GPR The highlight of December has been this. Doing this. Making this website, doing this blog, but more in general: having the time to do this. I have the best job in the world, and it takes up pretty much all my time, so when i'm not in the water shooting, i'm behind my computer editing. To then be able to take a step back, slow down, and do normal things like dog walks, some exercise, a bit of cooking, and a lot of day-dreaming, is such a luxury. Doing what you love without deadlines or obligations is fantastic.

georgina-daanverhoeven-PC172476georgina-daanverhoeven-PC172476OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the beginning i felt a bit uneasy, unproductive, wasteful, to not be shooting and editing the whole time; my brain was so used to it after going months non-stop. But i also recognised that that same brain was slipping into auto-pilot at times, and hadn't come up with new ideas that tickled me. It's funny how that works: ideas often come while i'm working, when you see your buddy do something cool, or a nice light, or a great combination between buddy, light and environment, and you go with it. And some ideas come when you're idle, tottering about walking the dogs, or semi-sleeping in the bath tub. For those ideas you tend to need a very calm, almost empty head, unengaged with anything and open to everything, it seems. It always takes me a while to get there, but December is usually the month for it. So i took my time. The website could've been done in a day but i took a week. The merman video waited patiently as i sifted through songs, storing some for later use. It's a similar trick i use for freediving: to calm down, i slow down, literally. Move very slow and your brain follows, often. And in this lovely slow month, slowly, ideas came again. I almost can't wait to see what they'll become, but i will.


(Daan Verhoeven) freediving ideas photography Underwater https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-december Tue, 31 Dec 2019 16:56:23 GMT
12 months in 12 days: November https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-november georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC07514georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC07514 The highlight of November was especially bright, as it was a highlight within a highlight. Blue Element is one of my top 3 favourite competitions of the year, partially because of the friends who organise it, partially because Dominica is such an incredibly lively island. It's so green and verdant and lush and alive and literally bubbling, so energetic, bursting with energy. It might be the combination of volcano and tropical forrest and waterfalls, but whatever it is, Dominica has a way of recharging you like no other place i've ever been.

georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC08353georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC08353 And the sea is a welcoming 29 degrees of very fish-rich waters, so life continues to surround you in the water, and people thrive in those circumstances. No wonder the place is getting more popular with freedivers, who are beginning to discover that you have all you need there to do amazing dives - everything is optimal, from the stable platform and professional safeties to the fresh groceries and lovely accommodation. This was going to be our third year there, so we came prepared - well, Georgina did. She knew she does well in Dominica, as she'd done PB's there and always feels good, so this year she had worked towards the Blue Element comp. For a long time, she had been stuck with her depth diving, hitting 50's to mid 50's with relative ease, but then suddenly swallowing her air. She knew she had to change something, so she switched to goggles and noseclip last year, and it took her a while to get used to it. In April she was making good progress in Mexico, she braved the cold here in Cornwall during trainings, but she struggled with the thermocline in Cyprus - lots of people have trouble holding the mouthfill when they hit a sudden cold layer. 

georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC05406georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC05406 I had seen her doing the dry training exercises every morning, admired her dedication and perseverance - being stuck at a certain depth for such a long time can be very demotivating. But George has such a good attitude towards diving, so much love for it and the process, that she just kept on trying, slowly adjusting to different ways and other techniques of equalising. I knew she was prepared, we'd discussed hopes for this trip, so every dive she did i felt a bit nervous, hoping all her hard work would pay off. And very steadily, i her own pace, she got to a point where she could ask for a new depth for herself during training: 60 meters. I was so nervous for her, but she smashed it, with air to spare. She did 3 more in training, and was then ready to announce it during the comp, where she did it again. A few days later she announced 62, and got that one as well.

georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC08390georgina-daanverhoeven-DSC08390 A big part of why i love photographing competitions is that it's really exciting to see friends do well. Of course world records are always exciting, but PB's and comeback dives and emotional dives and all the other smaller stories you know behind dives, make for a very rich sentimental experience during a day of competition. So when the person you love the most in the world overcomes some old adversity and does well in something you both love doing, in a place you both love visiting, that just makes your heart sing with joy.


(Daan Verhoeven) competition Dominica freediving Georgina photography Underwater https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-november Mon, 30 Dec 2019 15:30:02 GMT
12 months in 12 days: October https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-october sofia-daanverhoeven-DSC02936sofia-daanverhoeven-DSC02936

The Infinity Depth Games is one of my favourite comps of the year. It has to do with a lot of factors: the waters around Cyprus are some of the clearest in the world, there is that fantastic wreck the Zenobia, the food is amazing, but it's mostly the people who organise it that are responsible for it being such a great event. Nicole, Pavlos and Costas create such a lovely relaxed atmosphere, go beyond what's reasonable to make sure everyone's happy, and have a real talent for surrounding themselves with people are positive, kind, and competent, like themselves. It's no wonder that their competition has grown from a tiny local to a formidable international one. And yet it managed to maintain it's calm, fun character, where both rookies can try PB's and seasoned veterans can go for records.

So many many PB's were reached and many many records were set. One of my favourites was by Alice Hickson - we all knew that Alice has a monster breath hold and incredible dynamics in her, but she'd never really had the chance to go and do something deep in nice blue waters. Soon as i saw her swimming down without fins, and using her feet as natural rudders during freefall to subtly adjust her positioning, i felt the butterflies of excitement of watching real talent blossoming. So when she first did 57, then a few days later 60 meters no fin dives, i was super happy.

Another highlight, a very bright and colourful highlight, was meeting my first merman, Afa Zhang.

afa-daanverhoeven-DSC09308afa-daanverhoeven-DSC09308 I have a soft spot for the merfolk in general, and Afa is such a joyous, funny, fabulous man that you can't help but smile around him. Plus he's a trained dancer, so he moves really well and that works for the camera. And he's actually a good freediver, which he proved by becoming the world's deepest merman (as far as i know) and voguing on the way back up:

And we got to see some other beasts, besides mermen, when Adonis took us to see the turtles

adonis-daanverhoeven-DSC09707adonis-daanverhoeven-DSC09707 and one of the stranger things i've ever seen in my life, when we spotted a silver thing that thoroughly messed with my sense of perspective and proportion, which turned out to be a swordfish

swordfish-daanverhoeven-DSC05540swordfish-daanverhoeven-DSC05540 swordfish-daanverhoeven-DSC05554swordfish-daanverhoeven-DSC05554

(Daan Verhoeven) Alice apnea Cyprus freediving Hickson Infinity photography records swordfish Underwater https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-october Sun, 29 Dec 2019 14:03:40 GMT
12 months in 12 days: September https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-september blueshark-DSC08011-Editblueshark-DSC08011-Edit

Wildlife trips are interesting beasts themselves: like the animals you hope to encounter, they are, well, wild, which is to say, often boring. A lot of the time is just a matter of waiting, innit, and then it's a matter of having good company, and maybe a comfortable place to stay. In September i was invited to go on a blue shark trip with our friends at Porthkerris Dive Centre, so of course i said yes. Blue shark trips can be difficult, as it's a big sea out there and there's a very particular knack to finding sharks, plus spending hours on potentially rough waters can become quite vomit-y, but Porthkerris have a lovely cat, the Celtic Cat, which is very comfortable.

blueshark-DSC07856-Editblueshark-DSC07856-Edit Plus blue sharks are so gorgeous that even a remote chance of seeing them is worth hours of potential boredom and possible puke. The Cornish sea is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with them, and we've been doing it for a few years now. Every time it strikes me not just how beautiful that blue is, but also how fascinating their behaviour: most sharks are really shy and won't come near divers, and the ones that will approach you are the ones that you have to be quite careful of, like Tiger sharks. Completely possible to swim with, but not for beginners. Blue sharks, however, are almost indifferent to you - as long as there's easy fish in the area, they'll stick around, and you can get quite close without them getting spooked. And i've never seen them show any sign of aggression - they've never spooked me. They don't seem like they feel threatened and they don't pose a threat. Perfect shark to swim with, beautiful and safe.

blue-shark-daanverhoeven-DSC07843blue-shark-daanverhoeven-DSC07843 So it was fine that there were some total beginners with us, who had never seen sharks before. We also had a few photographers there, which made the ride over and the wait all very pleasant and fun. Soon as the first shark was spotted, we got geared up and i figured to let an experienced guy who'd never swum with blues before go in with some beginners first, so i waited a bit, but the shark stuck around, so then it was fine for more people to go into the water as well. I had a few photos in mind, but with wildlife, you shouldn't hold on to plans too tightly. One of the shots i had in mind i knew was a bit folly: i wanted a half above, half below shot of the boat and a shark underneath. Not only would that require the shark to be in the right position (tricky to coordinate as they don't really listen), but also for the sea to be quite flat (similarly tricky to arrange). So i knew i had about a 2% chance of getting that shot, but i wanted to give it a go anyway. The thrill of getting quite close to achieving it alone was worth the attempt, and after 4 attempts, i actually got the shot.

The other shot i was hoping for would require a bit of trust between me and the shark: i wanted to get underneath the shark to get a profile shot from below, shooting up. I'd done a few dives with the beast, and it appeared that it was not perturbed by me, so i timed my next dive so that i would be deeper than it when it got close. The shark didn't deviate from its course and i got a shot - but i'm not entirely happy with it as the focus went a bit wrong and i got mostly particles rather than beast:

blue-shark-daanverhoeven-DSC08013blue-shark-daanverhoeven-DSC08013 Can't win them all. I was running a Gopro and a insta360 camera at the same time, so i was hoping for better results from them, but the framing in the Gopro was a bit off, and the 360 camera was in weird settings, which meant that in post, i couldn't frame it so that you got the right - but i kinda liked what i got there anyway:

Screenshot 2019-09-19 at 20.41.59Screenshot 2019-09-19 at 20.41.59 and despite that i was there for photos, going over the videos i was happy enough with it to make one

I think it's important to show how peaceful and beautiful these encounters can be, as sharks are still maligned, and i think their portrayal in the media contributes to the general apathy people have towards sharks' endangerment. Many species of sharks are in real trouble, due to being by-catch in huge fishing nets, but also being actively hunted for their fins. A cuter fish, or an animal with a friendlier reputation, might get more attention for protection, but sharks are seen as monsters, our enemy. Very few people would want to protect a monster, would think it necessary. Of course, they are not monsters, and very much need our help. Interactions like we had in September, and the pictures we got from it, hopefully help to change the narrative, and raise awareness to the plight of sharks. More information on the conservation of sharks can be found at the Bite Back website.


(Daan Verhoeven) back bite blue conservation Cornwall freediving photography shark sharks Underwater https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-september Sat, 28 Dec 2019 13:48:49 GMT
12 months in 12 days: August https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-august beci-thumb-daanverhoeven-DSC01751-editbeci-thumb-daanverhoeven-DSC01751-edit 'A cup of tea' was an idea that had been floating around in my head for about 5 years. It started with Beci Ryan, a friend who can do remarkable things. We were in a pool in London, must have been 2014, and i think i asked her if she could do a lotus upside down. Normally i don't ask people to go upside down underwater without a mask on, as it floods their sinuses, which is very uncomfortable and makes most people's faces scrunch up. But Beci could not only do a lotus upside down, she could also keep a straight face while doing so, without a mask. Then i started thinking, as i knew she was a trained mime, that we might be able to use these abilities to shoot something quite quirky - an underwater mime video, in which we simply see her drink a cup of tea, but the tea is air. 

As i discussed it with Beci, the idea grew a bit; something with a picnic basket, maybe the teapot could float up. All the ideas were about how inverting yourself underwater could help us mess with gravity. But we would need access to a pool for a bit longer than an hour - i figured a few days with a few hours each day might do - so we put it on a back burner. Every once in a while we'd discuss it, and i would go back to the idea to see how i would do it; there was something about it that tickled not just my funny bone, but also my inner technician - it would be a tricky shoot.

Then luck came around and nudged us closer: the dive centre that we operate our school out of, Porthkerris Divers, had built a pool. 5 minutes from where we live, with a shallow end and a fairly deep end, and the minute i swim in it and slide down the transition between shallow and deep, i know - this is where we can shoot 'a cup of tea'. And it turns out Beci can take some time off to visit in August. So i go online and start collecting all the props; i find a wicker basket, a picnic blanket, and together with Beci we pick a dress, and i find a teapot and cup that matches the dress. It all starts coming in and my excitement grows; i'm getting those nice nerves.

Beci comes down and we agree: it's going to be a difficult shoot, so let's just try, have fun and allow it to fail. So many of the shots i have in mind are going to be hard, so many of the things Beci will have to do will be insanely difficult, and she'll have to make it seem effortless - and that's just the problems we can foresee. During the shoot other stuff will pop up, we know. But as it turns out, the hardest thing to do was to have the blanket straight on the surface - it behaved beautifully at the bottom, but we needed it at the surface too and that was a bitch and a half to accomplish. Beci was utterly brilliant: she only struggled with the slide in the beginning, but after a few tries she nailed it, and everything else she tried, she usually didn't need more than one or two takes. Even the shot i thought was going to be almost impossible, where i turn the camera with her as she rotates 180 degrees, we got in 2 takes! In the end, we shot over 3 days, 2 sessions per day, as the pool isn't super warm and poor Bec started shivering after about an hour in there, so about 6 hours total.

In retrospect, i should have gone with artificial light rather than natural, as it would have made for a more even colour palette in post (damn that was a hard thing to grade! I couldn't quite get it right in the end), and maybe another day to shoot with an additional lens would have been nice, but overall, i'm very happy with the film. It's quirkier than anything i'd done, and i was a bit hesitant to put out something so different from my usual work, but it still makes me giggle - especially when Beci spreads the blanket and it flows up.

Plus it shows the potential of that pool as a studio - we had moments there when the light came through that were just magic. I'm planning to do a lot more there - hopefully also with Beci, soon as her sinuses have forgiven me.


(Daan Verhoeven) a Beci cup Divers freediving of photography pool Porthkerris Ryan tea Underwater https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-august Fri, 27 Dec 2019 12:53:47 GMT
12 months in 12 days: July, Sayuri https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-july-sayuri sayuri-4100009sayuri-4100009OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On July 12th i woke up to messages from 2 friends in Japan, telling me Sayuri has had an accident. She's in the hospital after having fallen, it's serious, but they don't know how bad it is. They're going to Okinawa to be with her. Over the next few days, it gradually becomes clear that she will not survive - the damage from the fall is too extensive. On July 15th, surrounded by family and friends, Sayuri passes.

japanese team sushjapanese team sush I must have met her in Belgrade in 2013, where she was part of the Japanese team, but to be honest, i don't really remember it - it was a busy event and we didn't get to hang out much. I got to know her a bit more in Sardinia in 2014, when we figured out we were both just big kids and jumped from bed to bed in the hotel, and at Vertical Blue in 2014, where she surprised me by speaking a bit of Dutch. That's also the year i started noticing how well she moved in water, and how well that translated to photos. Whenever Sayuri was around, i was more likely to run out of space on the card in my camera, she was so photogenic and playful. So over the next 5 years, i shot a lot of her. When she wrote a book about her freediving and her first world record, i was fortunate to contribute a few of the photos.

The day she passed, my friends in Japan asked me if i could send some material for the memorial service, some photos and maybe a video. It was to be held on the 18th, and her family would like to show her freediving, doing what she loved. So over the next 2 days i filtered through this mountain of material i had of her. I'm not sure if i was dealing with the shock of her death this way, or pushing it away by staying very active, but all i knew was that i wanted to make something decent for her family. I knew that it wouldn't help them with their grief at that moment, but maybe one day it might, a little, and maybe i had some material that showed a fraction of the grace and playfulness of their daughter. So i worked in a daze, feeling horribly sad and very inadequate, as the material i had didn't seem to really do her justice and i would never have another chance to see her again. But it would have to make do. It wasn't till i found the right song that i broke down for a minute - it was all very unreal still. I sent the video to Japan, and it was played at the memorial service. The next day i was asked if it could be put online, so i added some words to it, for people who didn't know her as well, and put it on youtube:

The real process of grief would start after that, i knew. I suspected it wouldn't really hit me till i'd get into an environment i'd shared with her, a sea i'd shared with her. She had planned to come visit us in September and play with the seals, but she had never been here. And yet, on a few training sessions out in the sea the next couple of weeks, she was very much on my mind. Every hang i did, she came to my mind, even if there was very little to associate with her on the surface or below. We did hang out a lot in Cyprus the year before, so i had expected this year's trip there to have strong associations with her, and that was true. Especially when her boyfriend David gave me a package: i opened it and saw a thoroughly used, faded orange noseclip. It took me a second to clock it, but then i recognised it as hers, and tears instantly welled. It hangs behind me as i write this, next to her book.

 It hit me hardest in Dominica, where her absence was felt the most amongst all those fish we played with the year before

sayuri-DaanVerhoeven03511sayuri-DaanVerhoeven03511 And i don't know how it's going to be in 2020; Mexico without her, Vertical Blue without her. It was such an alien pain to not be with my friends at the world championships this year to grieve together, it all felt so surreal. Hopefully it won't be quite as sharp next year, when time has blunted the edges of the hole her absence has created. I'm experienced enough now to know that'll probably be the case, and maybe even mature enough to accept the inevitability that below is the last photo i took of her, but i'd much rather be immature and crack fart jokes and jump on beds with her.


(Daan Verhoeven) Kinoshita Sayuri https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-july-sayuri Thu, 26 Dec 2019 17:47:23 GMT
12 months in 12 days: June https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-june group-DaanVerhoeven3950group-DaanVerhoeven3950DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR3950.JPG June was all about friends. Freediving is a team sport and photography is a collaboration, so it's always about friends anyway, and this June emphasised that. First i had consecutive jobs in Barcelona and Ibiza, which meant i got to visit my friends Louisa, Lynn and Gary from Freedive Ibiza and play in one of the most amazing caves in the world


Then our friend Helena came to visit from Austria, and i'd asked her to bring the traditional dress, a dirndl, to play in in our new studio:

helena-DaanVerhoeven07865-2helena-DaanVerhoeven07865-2 and we got to make friends with a seal - that's always such an honour. They are wild and not used to interactions with humans, so quite shy, but we made sure that we didn't approach them, but let them instigate contact, which they did after a while. I remember feeling so happy we got to visit them, so in awe of their environment and their beauty - and then one of them felt comfortable enough around me to pose for this picture:

seal-DaanVerhoeven08476seal-DaanVerhoeven08476 I was so happy with that - also because after this happened, the seal swam up with me and nibbled my fin. Check out the video:

And then my main Dane Stig Pryds came to visit, so we talked a lot and trained a little, and i asked him to do some upside down underwater yoga, you know, because

stig-DaanVerhoeven09488stig-DaanVerhoeven09488 What a brilliant month that was.

(Daan Verhoeven) cornwall freediving photography pool seals Underwater https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-june Thu, 26 Dec 2019 14:32:26 GMT
12 months in 12 days: May https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-may beasts-DaanVerhoeven06586beasts-DaanVerhoeven06586 The highlight of May was staying at home with my girl and playing with the beasts - they are an endless source of joy, plus walking them gets me away from the computer. I spend much of May editing the films and photos i shot in Mexico in April, and the beasts were there to remind me to take in the beauty of the Cornish coast that time of year.

bear-beansbear-beans beast-DaanVerhoeven4494beast-DaanVerhoeven4494

(Daan Verhoeven) Cornwall dogs home https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-may Tue, 24 Dec 2019 16:18:24 GMT
12 months in 12 days: April https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-april Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven

April was a dream come true - or dreams come true. Mexico had been high on my bucket list for a long time, and in April we'd finally go there. It was a rare occasion where i wouldn't be there to photograph a competition, so i would have time to work on other projects. I was dreaming big, but keeping my hopes small - i knew i'd be very satisfied with just the experience itself, a nice burrito, and maybe one of those shots of a person in a light ray. The dream scenario would be to come away with 3 movies and a bunch of photos, but i knew that would be a bit over-ambitious. Especially since what i had in my head - 3 very different movies with 3 very different freedivers - wasn't going to be that easy to film to begin with.

But then again, i have amazing friends. Anna Von Boetticher was coming with us, and we had been talking about making something atmospheric. Anna and i work very well together, as she understands the camera and edits quite well, and she can do amazing things without needing many takes. So i figured we'd have a decent chance of making something good. And Sofía Gómez Uribe would join us a few days later, with whom i would do a follow up to our 'Sofia rocks' video, which was going to be more of an action flick - think underwater parkour. We didn't know what we'd encounter, so they'd be hard shots to plan, but we're both fine with improvising on the spot. Plus we'd get Camila Jaber visiting us in her home country, and with her i wanted to film something more about the ecology and unique beauty of the environment. I'd worked with Cami before and knew how well she'd embody the spirit of the cenotes. And with my girl Georgina there, and Matt and Kiki providing logistical support and safety, there was a small chance it could actually all work.

Turned out i came back with 4 movies, and more photos then i could have hoped for. The cenotes exceeded my highest hopes, they were so brilliantly beautiful and diverse, that after 2 days i started getting butterflies every time we went to visit a new one. I was completely in love with their magic, with how unpredictable their beauty was; you could not tell from the surface what you were going to experience underwater. It was thrilling to have these surprises, Like on one of the first days, when we went to Angelita, and a baby alligator took a shine to Anna:

Of course that wasn't planned, but when it happens, you just giggle and feel grateful, and roll camera.

In that very same cenote, Anna and i filmed some of the most misty gorgeous footage i've ever shot. Anna wanted to do a piece where she'd come out of the halocline at 26 meters deep, swim around the tree, and return back into the halocline (as you do). I was a bit nervous about that, as i always am when i am going to film deep, also because it would mean i'd have to film something i couldn't see: Anna would pop up somewhere from the 'mist', and it was not possible to predict where. But it worked:

Every cenote we visited, Sofia and i scouted for stuff to jump from, run past, hang from. We always checked with local guides what was ok to touch and what wasn't, since some of these environments are quite fragile. Others have been dived and snorkeled for years without problem, so we listened to the experts. There was one sequence, though, somewhere in the middle of our trip, we knew we had the In the ending of our movie, and that we were onto something. i had more footage than i knew what to do with, and it was a tricky film to edit, but i love how energetic it turned out:

We met Camila outside of Cenote Maravilla - which turned out to be my favourite (i love them all, but if you were to twist my hand i'd scream "maravilla" within a second or 2). She had a few days with us, then had to go back to college to be very smart, then came and joined us for a few days again. We had discussed this idea i had, of her being Cenote, showing her in all these different cenotes, to show that they're all connected, and then showing her in trouble. Camila had brought a traditional Mexican dress with her, which was just perfect, and soon as we filmed the first scene (also the first scene in the movie), i knew we had something special. Camila did beautiful work, and even brought the tape we used in the last scene. When it came to the ending, i wasn't sure how to do that last scene, but then Anna said: "She's been coming up in all the sequences so far, right? Why doesn't she sink out of frame in this one?" Simply perfect, and that's what we shot.

When it came to editing 'I am Cenote', i was struggling to find the right music, but as luck would have it, on that very day (!) i get an e-mail from a fellow freediver, who is also a composer, looking for material to write a piece to that he'll graduate with. Iván Rodríguez Expósito turns out to be a fantastic composer, and his rough draft is pure beauty. What's even better, as this will be his final piece for his degree, he'll get to record it with lve instruments in a professional studio, one of the best in Europe. The score is magnificent, and Camila manages to also get studio time in Mexico to record her voice over, which Iván then mixes into his track. The end result is more than i could have ever hoped for - much like the trip to Mexico has been. All thanks to really good friends - and really good burritos. 

(Daan Verhoeven) Anna Boetticher Camila Cenotes freediving Gomez Jaber Mexico Sofia underwater Von https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-april Mon, 23 Dec 2019 17:41:49 GMT
12 months in 12 days: March https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-march Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven

This was the month of the Bristol Freediving comp, and i love doing local comps, as you see so many friends and get to meet all the new local freedivers. And the pool in Bristol is brilliant, very clear and well lit. And since my friend and colleague Neil Wood was there to cover it as well, i again had the freedom to go a bit nuts with settings.

A highlight within that comp was to see Alice Hickson do a national record again - she'd been struggling a bit during comps, and it was really nice to see her kick fin/ass again.

Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven

(Daan Verhoeven) Bristol competition freediving photography pool Underwater https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-march Mon, 23 Dec 2019 14:48:32 GMT
12 months in 12 days: february https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-february Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven One of the highlights of February was Riga - it's one of the best pool competitions of the year, and it's also a great city with fantastic architecture and very nice restaurants. What i like best about it, though, is that most athletes stay together in the hotel where the 25 meter and static pool also are. It creates a real nice little community and a very friendly atmosphere. 

Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven From a professional point of view, it was also great to have my friend and colleague Dasha Muzykantova there; i love collaborating with other photographers, and it allows me to go a little off beat with my settings.

Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven

(Daan Verhoeven) competition freediving pool Riga https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-february Sat, 21 Dec 2019 13:35:01 GMT
12 months in 12 days: January https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-january Copyright Daan VerhoevenCopyright Daan Verhoeven There was no real solid idea, except for a vague thing gnawing somewhere in the back of my mind. Stig and i had made a few things already in Nemo33, the deep pool in Brussel, and they all did very well on the Red Bull platform, so we knew there was potential. The years before i'd had a pretty clear concept of what i wanted to film - heart rate dropping, deepest lotus - and going in there without anything really defined seemed strange - and oddly liberating. We booked Nemo for 2 sessions, one at night, one the next morning, and during the night session i just kinda played. The session is 2 hours, and the gnawing thing in the back of my head was beginning to make its way forward.

One of the vague ideas i had was to put a shit ton of weight on me, let myself drop down to the bottom while holding the camera above me, and then play it backwards, so it would look like i just jumped up 33 meters. I tried it, and it was quite fun - but i figured it had more potential than to just be fun. The other thing that was tickling me was how the boxy, 10 by 10 by 10 meter part of the pool, could be a visual analogy for feeling boxed in. I had been talking a lot with Stig, how he was feeling trapped by his situation with his insurance company, and i kept having this visual of him standing in that big 10 by 10 by 10 box. By the end of the first session, things came together; in my mind the idea had been about being stuck in a box, getting out through a dark tunnel, and then taking a leap of faith, all being visually represented quite literally by Nemo's architecture, and if i combined that with the idea of the reverse jump, i might have a good ending to the film.

Luckily, Stig was up for it. It would be quite a personal thing, and i knew it would require a voice over, and i knew i was getting dangerously close to sappy, plus i'd have to film him at 33 meters deep - all things that made me nervous. But that good kind of nervous, the kind of nervous you get when you might be on to something. And we only had one session to film it all: 2 hours. And a group of 12 other freedivers around us, all training and playing. Not ideal, but Stig is very good, and i can work quick. We timed it so that it looked like no one else was there, we got special permission to film in the dark tunnel, Stig nailed every take, i managed to get all the shots we needed that day. There were a few shots in there that gave me chills as i was filming them - always a good sign.

Often the most difficult part of a movie is the music. Sound is what makes the pictures coherent. I knew we'd do a voice over, and i knew Stig has a good voice for that, but i did need a good piece of music as well. I knew it would need certain changes in the score, when Stig goes from one place to another, when he jumps down, when he jumps back up. I wasn't sure i could find such a piece, but it didn't really take me that long. I use a site for music called Artlist, and you can use several filters to get to the kind of music you'd like. They have a visual representation of the piece as well, so you can see the calm bits and where beats drop etc, so i was looking for the kind of profile that would roughly fit. I was sifting through the selection when i see a profile that could work, a song called 'Don't leave me' by Philip Logan. I usually skim through a song, see if i like it, and this one seemed good. So the next step is to listen with my eyes closed, to hear if what i see in my head matches with the sound. And i get chills again - it seems perfect. I do a bit of a rough cut, and it lines up; this could work.

That leaves the scary bit, the voice over. Voice overs are scary because of 2 main reasons: the first is that they are sound, and i'm not an expert on sound, nor very good with it, and the second is that they require writing. My dad was a writer, a very good writer - he won the most prestigious price for writing you can win in the Netherlands - and it skewered my perception of what writing should be. I am burdened with just enough knowledge and feel to recognise good writing, but not quite enough skills to reach those standards - i've set the bar too high for myself. So whenever something requires serious writing (which excludes this blog), i shy away from it, and postpone till the problem goes away. But i couldn't with this one - it was obvious from the rough cut that it needed a voice over. So i talked with Stig, sent him the rough cut and asked him to just talk over it, to help me find the words. Of course i knew roughly what i wanted him to say, but i wanted him to say it in his own words. He sent me a few audio files that i listened to, but i kept postponing writing the damn thing until i had a trip in February, an 8 hour flight with nothing to do, and i'd told myself i better have a first draft done by the end of that flight. I'd given myself a deadline. 

It wasn't nearly as dreadful as i'd feared. It never really is, i just have to get over myself and that takes a bit of a run-up. But looking at the images, listening to the music and Stig's voice, i found the words, wrote them down, and had something i was happy enough with. I even did a rough voice over myself on that plane, using the mic of my headphones - it was kind of embarrassing, but i figured why not check? Then i did another voice over in the hotel and sent that to Stig, so he could hear roughly what i had in mind. He liked it and made a version in his voice, and during my spare hours in that hotel and on the flight back, i made the film. When i was putting in the end credits, i had an urge to write 'Screw the box' at the end. I figured i'd probably delete it, but i didn't. Instead, it kept growing on me, and it became the title.

'Screw the box' was published March 1st, 2019, and did well on its first day: 20,000 views, much better than average. I was very glad, as it was such a personal movie for both Stig and me, and a real departure from what i usually did. The next days, the view count teetered off a bit, as you'd expect, and then it teetered some more, but just as i was about to really miss the success and exposure of the Red Bull platform, something strange happened: after 4 days, the view count went up. In 5 days, we'd surpassed 100,000 views. in 6 days, over 300,000. In the first week, over 600,000, then 1.2 million in 8 days, and then it really exploded. I was traveling to Bristol at the time, to photograph a pool comp. When we set off, the video was at 1.2 million views. By the time we'd gotten to Bristol, it was over 2 million. After 2 days of competition and a drive back, the number had climbed to 5 million. It was the first time a video had gone viral like that on my own youtube channel, and it was very exciting. For my channel, it meant a huge boost in subscriptions - to date youtube tells me it has brought me over 50,000 new subscribers. 

The best thing, though, was the response the video got. The comments were lovely, much nicer than what normally happens on youtube, but more so the way people approached me at competitions after, and told me how it touched them. I was hoping that Stig's story was relatable on a more universal level, and apparently it was - we've all faced times where we had to take that leap. That, in turn, helped me make the leap to more story-telling filmmaking.  I still love the occasional cool clip with music underneath it approach to youtube, but now i also feel free to make more personal things, tell more of a story. All thanks to Screw the box - what a great way to start the year.

(Daan Verhoeven) Daan film freediving photography Pryds Stig Underwater Verhoeven https://www.daanverhoeven.com/blog/2019/12/12-months-in-12-days-january Fri, 20 Dec 2019 12:27:44 GMT