Sharks – Nailing the shot!
By Colin Lee
So your bags are packed, you’ve travelled across the globe to the hot spot dive destination, you’re excited, maybe nervous, maybe scared, maybe all of the above.
Despite all this you have been waiting to dive with sharks for a long time and you want to go home with a few keepers in your image library, so how do you do it?
– Generally speaking, despite all the media hype, some sharks can be scared of human interaction so don’t go chasing the shark in case you scare it away.
– Check with the local dive operator to ascertain any special rules that need to be adhered too such as no strobes. Strobes are banned on the thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus) dives with some dive operators in Malapascua (Philippines).
– Observe proximity limits imposed by authorities when diving with some species such as whale sharks (Rhincodon typus).
– Conversely, some species, for example, lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) at certain dive sites are very comfortable with human interaction and will happily come to nudge you. A gentle nudge back normally works to give you some more space.
– Some sharks such as tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) can move in a slow and deliberate manner. They demand the utmost respect and are known at some places to come really close (read: nudging your dome port!) so it’s crucial to keep a visual lookout all around once in a while instead of just burying your head in the viewfinder for the entire dive.
– Some sharks are very big! Adding a diver or other visual references into the shot with a whale shark for example, will create a sense of perspective.
– When you’re blessed with a dive location such as Tiger Beach (Bahamas) where you can rest on the sandy bottom, “shoot from the hip” for a different perspective – a common photojournalist technique that can provide some interesting compositions.
– Tiger sharks, sometimes known as “the ocean’s dustbin”, can be partial to a bit of shiny metal (read: your shiny and expensive housing!). So it’s a good idea not to attach your housing to you or your BCD. This way you can let go easily if the sharks decide that your housing is on today’s buffet menu.
– Studies have shown that brightly coloured clothing may draw additional attention to you as a diver. Therefore it may be advisable to leave your multi-coloured diving apparel at home and stick with black whether it’s in vogue or not.
– Since you’re dressed in black anyway, give yourself the full ninja treatment – yes hoods and gloves are necessary. Better not to cause the sharks to debate whether your hands, etc. are tasty eatables or not.
– Although you’re there to capture some great shots, don’t forget to put the camera down for a bit and savour the moment of interaction between you and the shark.
– The “go-to” lens is definitely the fisheye (e.g., 16mm / 10-17mm) – it’s perfect especially when the action gets really close.
– Try something with a slightly longer reach (e.g., 17-35mm) if the sharks are a little shy.
– Put on the macro lens for a slightly different perspective!
– You will probably be shooting upward much of the time and sometimes against bright sunlight, so strobes are useful to add some fill-light.