Picture Power: Race for the cross

Bulgarians dive into the icy waters in Sofia as part of Epiphany Day celebrations Image copyright DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP

At the start of each year, the picture wires are always full of various events around the world marking the calendar change. One event held in Bulgaria each year to mark Epiphany was captured by Agence France Presse photographer Dimitar Dilkoff. Here, he offers his thoughts on the image.

"I've been shooting Epiphany celebrations in Bulgaria since 1993 with very few exceptions and I almost always shoot the plunge at this lake in Sofia.

"Depending on the weather, the event attracts between several hundred and several thousand people and the jumpers usually number between 15 and 30. The crowd is so dense, you can't find a position to shoot if you're close.

"There is also a bunch of professional photographers and many more amateurs fighting for the same spot as you. So the only option is to find a shooting position further away and use a long lens. For this picture, I used a 400mm lens.

"The other challenge is the extremely short time the event takes. The cross is thrown and retrieved from the water within 10 seconds and you have to be quick to get it flying in the air. One last tiny little trick is that the weather conditions play a huge part in the picture, if the lake is not frozen, the flying crucifix will not be visible."


This close-up shows the scramble from those about to dive in to the water, the belief being that the first man to grab the cross, thrown into the water by an Eastern Orthodox priest (below), will be healthy throughout the year.


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