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Photographer of the Week – Thomas Vignaud
By Daniel Norwood, May 9, 2019 @ 06:00 AM (EST)

A shot of baitfish from a cave gatecrashed by a passing blacktip shark
 

Having lived on a sailboat as a child, this week’s featured photographer Thomas Vignaud spent most of his time snorkeling or fishing, and encountered his first shark in the water when he was only eight years old. Being so young, he was fortunate to have not been influenced by the media and their portrayal of sharks as dangerous man-eaters, and instead thought they were one of the most beautiful and graceful things he had ever seen.

This instant attraction eventually led Thomas to study for a PhD on sharks while simultaneously training to become a dive instructor and commercial diver. After earning his doctorate, he traveled to Fiji and spent months establishing the Awakening Shark Dive at the Barefoot Kuata Resort. From scratch, he managed to set up a successful shark ecotourism company, and it is now possible to safely encounter bull sharks and other species in a sustainable way in the Yasawa Islands.

I had the pleasure of diving with Thomas and his sharks in 2016, and completely agree with his belief that shark tourism can be good for sharks, the environment, and for the local communities where the activity takes place.

Having spent so many hours in the water with the same individuals, it is unsurprising that Thomas’ portfolio contains plenty of great shark photos, but as you can see below, he has captured stellar images of many other types of marine life, too. His selection contains both excellent macro and wide-angle shots, as well as an obligatory shark selfie, and continues our recent theme of featuring scientists and experts on marine life who also take excellent underwater photographs.

In July this year, Thomas will conduct a liveaboard trip in the Philippines in association with Seadoors, where guests can dive with thresher sharks and other species while also attending informative shark seminars. As a team member of the Serenity Project, he hopes to continue to make positive changes and contribute to shark conservation in the future.
 

Groupers come face to face moments before a spawning aggregation in Fakarava, French Polynesia
 

Freediving means you don’t need to worry about bubbles interfering with the shot when shooting upwards
 

An abstract image taken with a Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens with custom-made port
 

A blacktip shark cruises into the evening sun on a coral reef in French Polynesia
 

Thomas received more bites from this blenny than he ever did from sharks!
 

Motion blur slow-shutter image of salmon in Alaska
 

This green turtle and his reflection won top prize in the International Underwater Festival, Antibes, 2008
 

Black mantas provide special encounters in a remote part of Tuvalu
 

Getting chased by sea snakes at Chesterfield Reef, New Caledonia
 

An abundance of life and color on a coral reef in the Red Sea
 

An action sequence of grouper spawning in Fakavara, French Polynesia
 

Thomas and one of the locals—Scylla the bull shark—at the Awakening Shark Dive
 

See more of Thomas’ awesome images on his website, www.thomasvignaud.com, or follow him on Instagram or Facebook.

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