Live reports: Wetpixel Whale Sharks 2015

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Wetpixel Whale Sharks 2015 Report: Day 6

Our first day with our second group followed the by now familiar pattern of a later start in order to welcome and brief the group on the regulations involved in viewing the whale sharks, and how the trip will run. Jason Bradley and I were very glad to see some familiar faces in the group, but were also happy to welcome some new participants.

So we were on the jetty for around 7.45, with Jason taking Michael, Bruce, Rene, Bobby, Courtenay and Brian on Lily M, while Caron and I headed out with Jacob and Gabriela on Andrea M.

We had heard reports of large numbers of sharks being around yesterday, and were surprised when David (Andrea M’s skipper) told us that it took them a few hours to find them yesterday. History did not repeat itself today however….

A whale shark in a “botella”, vertical feeding position.

After about 40 minutes steaming generally north, David and Tito spied the sharks. The most unbelievable sight unfolded. There were over 200 sharks feeding in a very small area, their fins reflecting the sunlight.

We all got geared up in haste and were quick to get in the water. It was unbelievable. Sharks in every direction with sometimes 5 or more sharks in view at any one time. The shark traffic was so heavy that Jason got “sandwiched” between two sharks, with no way of getting out the way.

There were mantas around, although in limited numbers, and one turtle who was perhaps lost!

The concentration carried on well into the afternoon, with many sharks still being visible when we left at 2.00.

The shark aggregation is undoubtedly one of the most amazing spectacles to witness and document, and on days like today, it is simply amazing!

I was here in the fabled aggregation of 2013, and can state that there were as many sharks in the water as there were then.

In the evening, the team visited Mininos restaurant on the beach for a group meal and were serenaded by merengue music as the sun went down.

Wetpixel Whale Sharks 2015 Report: Day 7

Our second group of guests are settling in to the routine of early starts! We are set off for the jetty at 6.30, and were ready to leave at 6.45. Jakub had a last minute equipment emergency which entailed a last minute rush to get a port extension, so we were a few minutes late!

As we steamed out it was obvious that the weather had changed. Sea conditions were rougher than they had been so far, with swells and chop.

Jakub seeking sharks!

Pretty soon it became obvious that the sharks were not in the mood for the weather! they proved elusive to find and we searched for just under two hours before there was a sighting some 8 miles west of where they had gathered in such numbers yesterday.

What was also obvious was although there were a lot of sharks, there was also a lot of food (eggs) in the water. This meant that they were very spread out and that we had to swim to get in position to photograph them! Of course, given the amazing day we had yesterday, where the only swimming we had to do was to get out of the way (!), this was a new experience for our group.

I have been shooting with a 20mm Sigma f1.8 with a Seacam Superdome. This is a really nice combination, which I have been trying to use to get splits. There is no doubt that this is easier with a fisheye!

Due to the surface conditions, I spent most of today swimming under whale sharks! This is challenging with the 20mm as you have to get pretty deep to get the whole shark in frame. Of course, you also have to get the sun behind the shark and get the whole lot correctly exposed, before you need to return to the surface to breathe!

There were a few “botellas”, where the sharks go vertical and gulp in particularly rich patches of food. I was able to shoot one with a Canon G7X in a Fantasea housing (review to follow). I hope that Fantasea don’t mind that their housing and camera have been used for whale shark dentistry!

We spent about 3 hours in the water, and although it was less productive than yesterday, we all got some great images.

So day 8 was another amazing day. We left early, but within 40 minutes, we got a call from Ruis, our other skipper saying that there was “mucho tiburones ballena”. We turned back, and within 10 minutes were in an amazing concentration of sharks. There were so many animals, that all of us were run over by them a few times. They were so densely packed that they couldn’t turn, and we couldn’t get out of the way!

I attempted to count the number of sharks, and found 22 in a 15* arc. Multiply this by 12 to give the full circular view, and this should mean that at any one time, we had 266 sharks in view! What is even more astounding is that the sharks were spread out in an area at least 1 mile long!

We spent hours in the water with these amazing animals, Jakub, Gabi and I got in the water at around 8am, and got out at nearly 2pm.

The advantage of such densities is that it allows great flexibility of subject choice. Sun angle, for example, is critical for ambient light images. If sharks approached from the “wrong” side, we were able to simply ignore them and enjoy watching them as they went by!

I was shooting with a Tokina 17mm f3.5 rectilinear with a Seacam Fisheye port for some of the day. The disadvantage of this is that it is often not wide enough to capture the whole shark (or you gave to swim very deep to get a full shark silhouette) I was lucky to find a young, small shark who was actually quite interested in me and hung out, observing my antics for quite some time. Being smaller meant that I was able to get him all in frame.

I was also shooting with the Canon G7X in a Fantasea FG7X housing and filming 4K video with a Panasonic LX100 in a Nauticam housing.

We gathered in the evening for an image review session. The group are capturing some stunning images! While we were doing so, there was a fantastic storm, with wind, thunder and lightning. It will be interesting to see how this affects the sharks tomorrow….