I just swam with and photographed my first blue sharks off the south coast of UK. A sublime experience.
Electric blue and gunmetal: the blue shark
These so-called wolfs of the open ocean pick up scent trails quickly. Less than an hour after settling down to drift south of Cornwall, a tell-tale tug against a lightly-tethered bait announced the cautious arrival of our first shark. When it finally showed near the surface, it was a beauty at over 2m long. Images of blue sharks have long inspired me to photograph them, but I was not well prepared for that first look at a really elegant shark with its gunmetal blue back and huge pectoral fins. Stunning!
Frustratingly, she was reluctant to close in. Eventually a more confident smaller shark came to the boat. After taking a few images by hanging my camera over the side, I slipped into the water with mask & snorkel. Straight away she came to check me out. It was quite hard to concentrate on the necessary work to get the images. I just wanted to marvel at the exquisite lines and colours of this gorgeous shark.
An inquisitive juvenile
The visibility was initially quite poor, which made things testy. I occasionally lost sight of her in the gloom and my heart rate would rise as she bounced me unseen from behind and below. Keeping eye contact was difficult. But the images were coming nicely, so I soon had those that I had visualised and, beginning to feel the cold, climbed out. How useless I’ve become in cold water – in the same wet suit that I used a few weeks ago in 31 degrees water off Cuba, 16 degrees in the Atlantic felt icy by comparison.
My new favourite: blue sharks rule!
Soon, more sharks arrived, including a cute juvenile only 1m or so long. In the improving light and visibility, we think that there must have been 7 separate visitors to the boat and I certainly counted 5 all at once in the water. For those interested in the photography, I was experimenting with very high ISO and very low strobe settings to allow high frame rate flash-filled images. I’m quite pleased with the results; it lets me nail peak of the action more reliably, especially as these sharks can move very quickly.
So as much as I love the silky sharks of Cuba, I now have a firm new favourite: blue sharks rule! My thanks to Charles Hood for his patience and persistence to finally get me among these exciting sharks; he runs a superb operation out of Penzance. Watch out for my best images on the competition circuit…
For those interested in underwater photography, I have just opened a new purpose-built classroom in Wiltshire for teaching 1-to-1 and 1-to-2 entry level underwater photography, advanced photographic composition and post-production skills. All courses are tailored to individuals.
With best wishes to you all my dear friends