Grab your wetsuit and your camera, and become a voice for sharks
Long before the dinosaurs ruled the Earth, sharks swam in the oceans. Over 450 million years ago, as history tells us, sharks were created with the means and ability to survive extinctions throughout time. Flash-forward to the present day, and the future of these resilient and majestic prehistoric creatures is in great peril. Sharks are now facing the reality of their own extinction—an extinction being brought upon them at the hands of the human race.
Over 100 million sharks per year are slaughtered and finned, or are victims of by-catch. If this decimation continues, it will inevitably lead to the collapse of the delicate balance that is our ocean’s ecosystem. In order to alter this course, people need to be educated about these creatures. Unfortunately, many people still see sharks as nothing more that mindless killers, calculating and vengeful. It is a stereotype that is completely inaccurate and one that Hollywood has been instrumental in helping to create over the years.
Creating positive images of sharks is vital if we’re going to change people’s perceptions
Interaction such as diving with sharks has now become an adventurous sport activity, but more importantly it has become a powerful way to change the way people think about sharks. Up until recent years, the relationships between sharks and humans have mostly been limited to those forged by researchers, scientists and professional shark divers. However, the new trend of everyday certified divers diving alongside the professionals has enabled more people to personally encounter these majestic creatures.
More divers, more underwater photography, more underwater video, more sharing of the stories that go along with those images on social media outlets—all of these elements are powerful tools that can help promote a more accurate and enlightened view of sharks.
Include contextual elements to add interest to your shark scene
Shark Photography Tips
- Choose the right site to dive: There are many locations where divers can travel with a chance to photograph sharks. Once you have decided upon a location, be sure to study and learn everything you can about that particular spot. There is a lot of detailed information available via social media, from fellow divers and photographers, and from online resources like DPG.
Tiger Beach in the Bahamas is a unique spot to encounter lots of tiger, lemon, Caribbean reef and nurse sharks
A reputable operator will have the experience and know-how to ensure your shark dive is completely safe
- Select the proper lens: When photographing sharks, wide angle and fisheye lenses work best. The best images will be obtained by photographing your underwater subjects up close. Shooting with a wide angle or fisheye lens will enable you to fit your entire subject within the frame. Utilization of a wide-angle lens provides the ability to capture a large scene when strobes don’t provide enough light.
- For DSLR users, the Tokina 10–17mm is an excellent choice, while compact users will get their best images using a wide-angle wet lens attachment to expand the field of view of the in-built lens. As a side note, I also find that use of these lenses enables me to get my shots without always needing to use my camera’s viewfinder.
A fisheye lens provides an exaggerated perspective that can work effectively with sharks
- Light it right: There are different ways to use light when photographing sharks. Whether from a natural source, from a strobe, or from a continuous LED beam, how you use light will set your images apart. Using only natural light is fun and allows the photographer to create a different look. Images that produce a silhouette of a shark, and images with sunbursts in the background and sharks in the foreground are created by facing the sun.
- When photographing sharks at a distance, strobes should be set at their widest position. When photographing sharks up close, the positioning of the strobes should be closer to the camera. Generally speaking, these are good guidelines for setting strobes. However, it’s just as important that you remember to adjust your camera and strobe settings to what works best for you, and for the shot you are trying to capture. For example, you may need to adjust your strobes and settings when photographing the white underbelly of a shark, as too much light on a white focal point will result in an overexposed image.
Care should be taken not to overexpose the white underbelly of the shark
- Watch your buoyancy: Buoyancy is a very important factor in shark photography for two reasons. First, it will help prevent unwanted backscatter in your shots. Second, and perhaps most important, proper buoyancy will help reduce extra movement that could deter a shark from coming in close for that perfect shot.
- Finding the sweet spot: For me, the sweet spot means finding the best position to set up my shot. Once I reach the reef, I evaluate where I am in relation to the ocean current and the sun. Positioning in a spot on the reef that provides a pathway for sharks will always increase your chances of capturing good shark images. Sharks on a baited dive always swim up current, following the scent of oil produced by the chum. Find that sweet spot and start shooting!
Shooting using only ambient light can produce some more creative images
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