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My first Tiger

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#1 Steve Williams

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:01 PM

She came straight in toward me at 65 ft. A wild tiger as Jim calls them, one he hasn't seen before. At around 10 ft long she is not large by Tiger shark standards but she was impressing the heck out of me. We had planned to do a nice easy dive here at a spot called Hammer Time with some reef and lemon sharks after three days of chasing dolphins. The idea was to get all our gear checked out, the cameras dialed in and us used to diving with sharks before the larger Tigers that were planned for the next day. This one didn't get the memo and showed up a day early. An unbelievably magnificent animal, I had seen her twice crossing out at the limit of the vis, checking us out. First just a glimpse, that had me believing I was seeing things, then about ten minutes later, a little closer this time. Now I was sure, I turned to let the others in the group know we had a visitor and they had all completed their dives and headed up. Brian, the Shear Water's co-captain was hanging on the drop line waiting for me to head up. I quickly gave him the signal for Tiger and he looked at me like "well yeah." He'd been watching her for five minutes. So much for my eagle eye. It was my fourth dive of the afternoon and I was down to about 700psi, time to go. That's when our wild tiger decided to stop fooling around and come straight in. Pictures in books and images on Wetpixel hadn't prepared me for how stunningly beautiful they are. The image of that gorgeous shark with her blunt white nose gliding straight at you is a glorious combination of anxiety and elation. I had done all the work and put myself in position to capture these images so I really want her to keep coming, on the other hand I hadn't planned on being alone in open water for my first encounter. As I watched thru the viewfinder she kept coming. At around five feet I hit the shutter (premature shutterfication) and the strobes fire and she turns off and circles back out of our vis. I'm down to less than 500 psi by now so I head up the line passing Brian on the way. At my 15 ft. safety stop I have a birds eye view of her next pass. This time she comes straight in and noses Brian's dome port before turning away. I will see many other Tiger Sharks on this trip but you know what they say, you will always remember your first time.

A crappy shot, but your first time doesn't have to be great to be memorable;

Posted Image

Jim Abernethy is a force of nature. I'm a pretty self confident guy and I rarely meet anyone I consider a better man but Jim clearly qualifies on a whole bunch of levels. Let's take this little afternoon dive as an example. My job was to try and make some great images of sharks and get myself and my camera back on the boat safely and have some fun. This was my limited but difficult goal. Jim's job is to position the boat correctly, organize his crew and the "guests". Make sure all the divers are safe and happy. In short to do all the things that make a JASA trip so special, and make some great images and have some fun. In the middle of all this his friend Emma the fourteen foot pregnant Tiger Shark shows up unannounced on a reef he hasn't seen her on. I was right beside him and got to see a man in his element. Fending off the magnificent supermodel shark with one hand, taking pictures with the other and all the while scanning his divers and the ocean for the tiger that we might miss. You know what really impressed me? I'll bet he had the best images on the boat. This is my first trip with Jim and I had read all the old posts with various opinions of him and his operation. The one piece of the Abernethy puzzle I had not picked up on was how much fun he is having. In the end I thinks that's why he does all the hard work to run his unique operation. If you are a competent diver and have the experience under your belt to be able to pay attention to what Jim tells you, you will have a trip of a lifetime. I know of nowhere else in the world where you are given so many opportunities to make great images. This is not like the sharks dives where your lined up in a row and watch sharks come in and get fed. This is entirely different and nothing like the other "shark dives" I've been on in my forty some years of diving.

The 14 ft super model Emma; Posted Image

I had the luxury of being on the Backscatter trip with some very experienced first rate U/W photographers. Everyone knew what to do, It was a real joy to be able to tag along with a group like this. We ended the trip with a day at Tiger Beach. Unhappily there were no Tigers on this day. I had really wanted to see a 14 foot shark in 15 feet of water. We had to "make do" with 6 Lemon sharks doing figure eights on the sand.

My new friend Sterling and a Lemon; Posted Image

One other quick note, if you've been on the Shear Water in the past, I've got great news. Mike has come aboard to be the new chef. No more microwave lunches. This young man can cook! We had hot lunches every day, breakfast was what ever you wanted and dinner was great every night. We had two vegetarians on the boat and some other folks who didn't eat beef. He took it all in stride and everyone was happily accommodated. He also knows more jokes than Jim which is saying something. Now happily I have a new place I can go, if only in my mind when I need a break from the everyday. In the end that may be the most valuable thing we take away from a trip like this. We all have mental images we take away from trips. On Jim's boat you have great chance of matching them up with the ones you actually capture.

Posted Image

Cheers all,

Edited by Steve Williams, 28 June 2009 - 10:15 PM.

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#2 Timmoranuk


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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:10 PM

Another tour de force from the Williams stable... Keep 'em coming buddy!
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#3 mshohman


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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:14 PM

Wonderful recap Steve, and some cool images! You certainly have sold me on a Jim Abernathy trip... Now, if i could only find the time and money...

Hey, and I think your first shot is great! I think it takes a lot of guts to sit there and still shoot as that tiger is coming in for the first time.. I worry what I would do... :)

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#4 Hani Amir

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 10:38 PM

Whoa dude! That last shot is just incredible! Definitely my fav from the bunch.

#5 diggy


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Posted 29 June 2009 - 12:25 AM

OK Steve, Sitting here in India you made my day...some fantastic images and a great write up!!! Now if only i could drive down and take that Liveaboard!!!!

Great Images - keep em coming mate.


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#6 tdpriest


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Posted 29 June 2009 - 01:36 AM

... I have a new place I can go, if only in my mind when I need a break from the everyday...

Thanks for a wonderful story: I really do have to try to get on Shearwater next year...



#7 loftus


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Posted 29 June 2009 - 03:00 AM

Great review Steve; you hit the nail on the head about his exuberance. Always wonderful to see Emma.
At least you were eased in to your first Tiger experience. :)
My first day at Tiger Beach a few years ago. Jim came out of the water after being down with the first group, yelling at me excitedly to get in already because there were 8 Tigers in the water. You can imagine my brown trail in the clear blue waters of the Bahamas.
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#8 Nakedwithoutcamera


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Posted 29 June 2009 - 04:35 AM

Way cool!!
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Posted 29 June 2009 - 05:31 AM

Super write up and pics Steve!
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#10 DiveMasterMark


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Posted 29 June 2009 - 06:29 AM

What a great trip, Steve. Thanks for the commentary and sharing your opinions of Shearwater & Jim, too.

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#11 Rothi


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Posted 29 June 2009 - 10:09 AM

Thanks Steve!

Really cool pictures!

Maybe weŽll have to go on such a trip next year.

After this years Lembeh and Raja Ampat trip, weŽll need some big fish!

Cheers Markus
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#12 Canuck


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Posted 29 June 2009 - 10:44 AM

Great shot of Emma. Big BIG tummy! Sounds like you had a fantastic time.

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#13 Mike L

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 11:49 PM

Great pics Steve. I need to get out there with Jimmy again, its been a few years!
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#14 Travy


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Posted 30 June 2009 - 12:08 AM

Lovely pics Steve,Emma is gorgeous. :)

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#15 scott_nielsen


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Posted 30 June 2009 - 04:16 AM

Great pics! sounds like quite the adventure, would love to go sometime. Lucky you!
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#16 bmyates


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Posted 30 June 2009 - 06:59 AM

I hate to sound redundant, but great report and photos, Steve! I, too, love that last shot - the negative space makes the shot! :)

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#17 stewsmith


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Posted 30 June 2009 - 10:13 AM

Excellent photos and report Steve. You must have had some look on your face when you see the tiger for the first time. :) What a great way to see your first one. I am sure you wont ever forget that moment, and if you do in your older life years, you will still have some excellent images to look at to keep reminding yourself.

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#18 ce4jesus


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Posted 30 June 2009 - 11:37 AM

I've said it before and I'll say it again, that last shot is cover worthy stuff. 3 subjects and as point out nice use of negative space. Oh and a wild tiger to cut your teeth on...we all thoroughly hate you :)
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