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Thanks for the nice comment. This is all shot outdoors. I shot a certain angle such that the background and the foreground brightness is roughly equal. Sometimes I cheat with a bit of shadow recovery. I didn't use flash at all.
Good question. The plastic covers are used for protecting the ears. From http://waterpolo.isport.com/water-polo-guides/essential-water-polo-gear , they are used to "Protect the ears, since an elbow or a water polo ball with enough velocity can burst an eardrum."