Jul 162012

White tip reef shark

About the site

The two photos in this post were taken at different dive sites, both dived during my stay at Lissenung Island Resort. A week on a tropical island in PNG as prize for winning the Freshwater category of the Underwater Festival gave me lots of time to check out the sites in the area. As well as having great fun with the WWII plane wrecks and critters that I’ve shown you, I was also keen to catch some of the bigger animals on camera.

The white tip reef shark above was one of many hanging out at the Nusa Blowholes. While the coral at the blowholes is less colourful than on the dropoffs on the other side of the island group, the shark population is great. Drifting gently along where the reef meets the sand made it easy to spot the reef sharks relaxing on the bottom. Of course, sneaking up on them was another thing altogether.

Shark in a cloud of fish

About the dive

Despite their reputation as the fierce predators of the sea, divers quickly find that getting close enough to sharks underwater for a good look is tricky. Sharks are much better designed for the ocean than we are and can swim a lot faster as they scoot out of camera range. They’re also not too keen on bubbles. With my wide angle lens on I needed to get close. I spent this dive drifting rather than swimming to reduce my breathing rate and increase the time between wildlife-scaring exhalations as I closed in on my victims subjects.

Towards the end of the dive, the reef folds in to form a valley with this overhang and cave at the end. Once I’d investigated the cave for photogenic inhabitants I was returning to the wall. As I swam along under this ledge, this little guy approached me. With my bubbles safely contained by the roof he was prepared to get closer than his friends. I managed to snap this shot before his good sense overcame his curiosity.

About the shot

I like this shot in part for the leading lines of the reef, drawing the eye to the subject. Given the skittish behaviour I clearly wasn’t going to get close enough for toothy shark portraits. The advantage of wide shots is the opportunity to show these animals in their natural reef environment, rather than against blue water. In addition, I like the way the shark is turning towards the camera as he tries to work out who’s hiding in the darkness under the ledge.

The second shot was taken at Matrix, a site that drops off the edge of the shelf into the depths of the ocean. As we drifted along the top of the reef in about 20m of water, sharks circled out in the blue. Coming around close enough to check me out didn’t mean they were coming close enough for great shots, and I was hampered a bit by the visibility. But the second photo here is one of my favourites from the trip, partly because it brings back memories of floating weightless in warm water, watching ancient animals swim easily in a place where they belong.

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