Thank you so much for checking out my blog and following me. Occasionally you’ll find me posting about travels that my wife and I take for photography purposes.
Today we are talking underwater photography. Sharks to be specific.
i have always loved the water, the ocean, and especially sharks. They are the apex predators of the ocean and arguably one of the most important species in that eco system. One of my bucket list items has been to cage dive with sharks and get some photos of these amazing animals.
A couple of months ago my wife and I decided to do a quick trip to Florida in February. Partly to get away for some photos, but also to escape the cold weather a bit and act as a recharge to get us to spring.
As I was planning the trip I decided to check out what kind of diving options there were in the area. While there are many options throughout Florida I found the little company in Jupiter, FL that offered shark cage diving. I was on it!!! Trip booked!
Fast forward to mid February and we are getting in the boat to head out. The weather is perfect, mid 70s and bright blue skies with a few clouds.
We headed out bouncing the swells for quite a few miles, I think we were close to 5 miles out. During the ride out our guide was telling us that Jupiter is different than anywhere on the east coast of Florida because the underwater shelf that drops off drastically is the closest to the coastline. It’s easier to get out to it and that is ideal for diving. That’s where we were headed because we were going for Bull Sharks and they like to stay along that ridge and come up, where more shallow water Lemons would be found closer to the coast.
We also got some good “training” on swimming with sharks on the way out. Wait, what? Where does the cage come into play. We found out very quickly that the cage was staying on the boat and we were free diving with the sharks. Okay, was hoping to start in the cage and then venture out, but it looks like I was going to speed that up. 😊 I’m game.
The guide started telling us about the sharks and what to expect. He said that sharks are not looking to kill everything in the water. He compared them to dogs, where they are more inquisitive to find out what we are. He said that the Bull sharks would stay deep and occasionally come up to grab the bait in the water and maybe check us out. Whereas the Lemon sharks stay shallow and do a lot more “bumping” into everything to find out what it is. We were instructed to not reach out and touch the sharks but if we need to guide them around us then feel free to lightly push them to the side.
Finally, we arrived. All wetsuits were on, masks and snorkels ready to go, and fins handed out. The guide takes a fin and smacks the water really really hard to make a loud SNAP. Then the chum and the bait hit the water. We were told that the smacking sound is loud and the sharks will come to check out what is going on, where they find the bait and stay. I am sure the sharks have realized some reward coming with that sound as well because within 5 minutes we had 7 or 8 Bull sharks below us. Time to hit the water.
Obviously I am about taking photos, so I had two setups going in the water with me.
I had my backup camera, my sony a6300 ready to go in an underwater housing. I was shooting in manual mode and had set my settings to what I thought was a good start. I knew there would be motion, but probably not too fast. 1/400 of a second for shutter speed should be fine, but I could adjust. For my aperture, I wanted to make sure that I had a deep enough depth of field to have most things in focus. I went with f8 to start with. Now ISO was a bit tougher as I had not seen the lighting conditions. I knew I may want to put some shots in a larger format, so a I wanted to keep it as low as possible. I decided to start with 400 ISO.
My secondary camera, which I was using as a backup as well, was my goPro Hero Black 7. This was mounted on my mask and I decided to do 4K video the entire time because I probably could get still shots from it if needed.
It’s time for me to hit the water. I was ready. GoPro started, Sony attached to wrist, away I go jumping in with sharks. I hit the water and immediately my underwater housing for my Sony starts alerting me to a water leak. Wasting no time, I come up and turn back to the boat. I unstrap the camera from my wrist and hand it to my wife. I figured I acted fast enough that it was hopefully okay, but I had sharks to swim with. It was now GoPro only. I turned away from the boat and headed out to sea. Sharks were everywhere and they were beautiful.
For the next 30 minutes I swam with Bull and Lemon sharks. Some as close as 1 foot to me. I can guarantee you that it was an amazing experience and not one time did I feel in danger or that they wanted to bite me. These creatures are sleek and stealthy, disappearing in the deep and then suddenly another one appearing somewhere else. Absolutely unbelievable to witness first hand.
I ended up getting 26 minutes of 4K video and happily got some shots for stills. I was so happy that we went out in the afternoon because they sun was directly at my back as I swam. This caused this amazing looking in the photos from my shadow and the sun rays.
After it was all said and done I made a few mistakes. I should have jumped in the water and then had them hand me my camera (there was only a drop or two in the housing, camera is fine). Secondly, I need to learn which angle is better for my GoPro on my mask. I found that i had it tilted down a bit so when I looked at something it actually was shooting lower than i thought. My field of view on the camera was wide enough so i was fine, but I can do better. This was also my first time diving with this mask and a GoPro, so i learn something ever time out. I will do it again, so i will be back to get even better shots.
I hope you enjoy the video and shots, and enjoyed reading this post. Please feel free to share with your friends and follow me on social media. Please understand that sharks are not enemies to us. They are very important to the earth’s oceans and are some of the most amazing animals on it. I know that Hollywood likes to make them out to be massive killers like in the movies Jaws and The Meg. They paint sharks in a horribly incorrect light, it’s truly not how they are or how they work. Hopefully this post will help some people understand that.
Have a great day, and thanks for reading!