This is a re-print of the article I wrote for Nikon Rumors.com, which they posted on their website on Jan. 11, 2013. You can see that version here: http://nikonrumors.com/2014/01/11/guest-post-shark-photography.aspx/
Shark photography….really???? I know that’s what you’re asking at this very moment. Let me come back to that question.
My interest in photography and scuba diving was engrained in me early by my father. In the 1960’s he was scuba diving on shipwrecks in the Great Lakes during the infancy of recreational scuba diving, as we know it today. He also worked as a professional photographer his entire life, so I grew up surrounded by these activities and his passions were passed onto me. Over the last twenty-five years I’ve completed hundreds of dives in all different environments (lakes, quarries, cenotes, rivers, ice, oceans, wrecks, deep dives, reefs, drift diving, big animals, exotic locations, etc.) in over 20 countries and taken tons of photos. I started taking my photography seriously about six years ago. No big shock that I decided to combine my hobbies and purchased an Ikelite underwater housing and strobes for my Nikon D90. Since then, I’ve upgraded my main camera to a Nikon D800 and focused my photography on three areas (HDR Landscapes, HDR Architecture, and underwater images). I use the D800 for the above-water work and continue to use my Nikon D90 setup for the underwater work.
Photographing sharks in their native environment is one of the things I love most. So back to the question about “shark photography…really?” Yes really!! Now I realize that scuba diving isn’t for everyone. And scuba diving with some of the most dangerous animals on earth really isn’t for everyone. I’ve had countless people ask me why? Why risk it? Why would I even want to be that close? Why get in the water with these animals? In the end, the answer is the same….. I love seeing these beautiful animals up close and for those brief encounters trying to just experience the moment. I don’t find them scary and have never been threatened by them for a second. I honestly don’t think they see humans as anything other then something odd in their world. In the past I’ve dove with Great Whites, Tiger Sharks, Lemon Sharks, Reef Sharks, etc…. So when we were planning our last trip and decided on the Playa del Carmen area of Mexico, I knew it was an opportunity to dive with and photograph Bull Sharks.
So I booked my dives in advance with Phocea Mexico (http://www.phoceamexico.com/). I must say they were the friendliest, most well organized, and greatest value of any dive operator I’ve encountered in all my travels. During the months of November through March, they do a daily Bull Shark dive about a quarter of a mile out from the main swimming beach in Playa del Carmen Mexico. Earlier in the day, I completed two reef dives with them and saw Bull Sharks in the distance during those dives. On all of my past shark dives, the crew used chum to get the sharks to come in close to us. Not here!!!! We literally took the boat out from the beach, went over the side and quickly dropped to the sandy bottom at about 60 feet deep and waited. Within minutes the sharks found us and came in close for a peek at the visitors in their territory. After about ten minutes the numerous sharks got bored of us and moved off…..I thought. Later when we started to swim back up to the boat, one of them followed us right up to the surface. Nothing like looking down and finding a 10-foot Bull Shark right below your feet…. I loved every minute.
On the Bull Shark dive, I photographed them using my Nikon D90 in the Ikelite housing with two Ikelite strobes. I had the camera set in Manual mode at f8, ISO 100, and 120th of a second, RAW format with the shark about 10 feet away. Top side, I used Photomatix Pro to tone map the image and convert it into a black and white (B/W) image in Photoshop CS6. I felt converting it into a B/W helped make the shark pop out of the image. The original picture was very blue since there isn’t much light to distinguish colors below 30 feet. The color image was a little flat.