San Diego, USA-based photographer Mike Lewis was among the "pool photo" of accredited media capturing the action. A competitive swimmer since age 10, Lewis says water has had a huge influence on his life - and how views life from behind the photo lens. 

"Regardless of the shot, I strive to see rather than look for the shot," says Lewis. "I view my work as a collaboration between me and those on the other side of the lens."

With nearly a lifetime spent in the water, we caught up with the photographer just after the most gruelling event of these world championships - the 25km open water. Before packing up and heading back to Southern California, Lewis shared his five favourite images - and the story that went into capturing them - from the four days of open water action from Lupa Lake. 

"Sometimes you just have feeling before things get underway.  As I was making my way down the dock for what I thought was the shot I was after, I realized looking across the mixed zone (the area where the swimmers talk to the media following their races) that there was a point where the swimmers paused just prior to their introduction.  

"Seeing Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy as he began his walk to the starting position I thought, “We could be in for something special today.”  He had a sense of calm about him - and following his win in the 1500 (the second-fastest time in history that set the European record) he could be only the second person to win gold in both the pool and open water at the same FINA World Championships (a feat Florian Wellbrock of Germany accomplished in 2019).  It was a hard-fought race, but in the end, Paltrinieri did prevail and took home his second individual gold medal."

"The start of the Women’s 5km:  I truly enjoy, and respect, being in the water.  A few photographers were granted access to in-water shooting during the open water events at Lupa Lake and I decided to kick out a bit from the dock with hopes of capturing both the symmetry and the light on the top of the swimmers as they entered the water.  This image of Anna Auld (USA) in the foreground worked out as I had hoped."  

"You don’t necessarily need to be fast of the dock in open water.  Katie Grimes (USA), after a very successful series of races in the pool events the week prior where she captured two silver medals, opted to let the field hit the water before her at the start of the 10K.  Grimes reasoned it she could have a bit of clean water at the beginning of the six-lap race to settle into her groove. Grimes lead at points during the race and ultimately placed 5th overall.  She’d go on to say she learned a lot and it will be exciting to see her progression in both the pool and open water."

"Although I enjoy in-water photography, I’ll admit I did have a bit of an ulterior motive during the men’s 10K.  With outside temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30’s, I was also excited to work in a cooler environment.  I hoped to capture the frenetic nature of the feeding station as I positioned myself just below the feeding sticks.  This image of Tiago Campos (POR) gives good insight into the precision needed to grab the fluid on the feeds.  Not every swimmer was able to get their feed perfectly every time, but Campos had a clear path to his feeding stick and nailed the feed and was quickly back out onto the course."

"Being able to capture the emotion following a victory is a very special opportunity for which I am in awe.  As Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA) made her way up the dock she was greeted by her coach Fernando Possenti.  In this image we see the a special moment where the athlete and coach are able to truly realize the fruits of their shared labour.  It takes a team to get to the top of the podium and I felt privileged to document this acknowledgement following Cuhna’s win in the 5km."