Mike Ball Shark Shooter 2014
“ERROR: CARD FULL!” Usually that’s the last thing you want to see on your camera underwater, but after 90 minutes shooting sharks it meant my camera was full of images. My card was full because I’d gone wild on the trigger, but it wasn’t my fault. Sharks just kept coming, and by that I mean kept coming closer.
The scene was set as the previous day we’d had one of the best shark feeds that I can recall at North Horn. Sharks were wall to wall, almost too many to count. Today though, was a day of attractions; we wouldn’t feed the sharks but simply attract them close with tuna heads in a metal cage. The calmer environment highlights the more natural behavior of the animal and provides a better shooting opportunity in my opinion.
Dive 1 – Admiralty Anchor, a nice sheltered reef system with great coral, sheer walls and undulating topology. Don’t be fooled though, the site is one of Osprey’s best and as we’d later find out can turn on some mega shark action. The morning was all about whitetip reef sharks – close and calm.
Dive 2 – We’re at natural shark cleaning station on North Horn, which was also the site of the shark feed the previous day. Our mere presence draws attention and as we splash into the gin clean water, 20-30 sharks are buzzing around under the boat. In goes my friend “Mr Tuna Head”, now we’re talking 30-40 sharks and the tension mounts. We now had sharks galore, close range encounters and near perfect shooting conditions in terms of shark engagement, water clarity and gorgeous blue mid-morning light.
With our trusty minder Nick watching our backs and keeping safety in check, we had prime position on a coral bommie (mound) that offers 360 degree shooting as sharks circles and approach. For me the key thing is the calm nature of the animals, as opposed to the feed which is impressive, but differs significantly from a shooting perspective. Ultimately today we had time, opportunity and all came out shots with shots we were proud of.
Dive 3 – Another attraction, though the current was flowing into the lagoon at a fairly strong rate. We staked out our prize tuna and waited. What we got this time was the smaller sharks from inside the lagoon, juvenille grey reefs (30-50cm) that seeming don’t know their place in the world. At times erratic, they’re cool too see and eventually make way for bigger sharks to come past. More white tips joined us until we had to go.
Dive 4 – I’d just got out of the water and was told “there’s one tuna head left, we’re doing back to Admiralty Anchor”, which of course always brings a smile to my face. In we went and it didn’t take too long before a 3.5m silvertip made itself known as we poked at this tuna head. Soon enough there were two, then three, and ultimately five silvertips circling the area. An impressive sight anywhere in the world, these animals have a grace that’s hard to describe. Unfortunately with daylight fading it proved challenging to capture them well, but what an exciting dive I had!
At the end of the day I said that it was one of the best days diving I’d done in nearly 20 years. I’d shot over 1600 pictures, had some photos in my camera that were great, and more importantly had a smile on my face from ear to ear. The challenge has been set – a tuna head on every dive for next year’s 2015 Shark Shooter workshop…
More images available here.