Dive into the world of Shark, a new book by award-winning photographer Brian Skerry.
National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry has spent some 10,000 hours underwater over the last three decades, photographing sharks (and other animals) up close in their own habitat. A new collection of his photography, simply titled Shark, shows off 250 images he’s taken of the mysterious creatures that scientists are still only beginning to understand. Through the book, Skerry hopes to dispel some of the myths surrounding the predators, who may be fascinating enough to justify an entire week’s worth of TV, but are still much-feared among landlubbers. Below are nine of the most breathtaking images from the book.
“To make pictures underwater, photographers must enter an alien environment in which life support equipment is required," Skerry writes in Shark. "Unlike a terrestrial photographer, I cannot sit in a camouflaged blind for weeks at a time waiting for an elusive animal to wander past." Not only is air supply a challenge, but even in relatively warm water, temperature will eventually become an issue.
Unlike other kinds of wildlife, sharks can't be photographed from a distance using huge camera lenses. "Even in the clearest of water the ocean acts like a giant blue filter that scatters, refracts, and reflects light, we typically need to be within 3 to 6 feet to produce a decent image," Skerry says. And that means getting up close and personal with the toothy creatures.
The photographer has a deep respect for what he calls sharks' "exquisite anatomy."
When he's diving, "what always strikes me first is the symmetry, the flawless balance that sharks display," Skerry writes. "Each species has evolved to excel within its habitat." This hammerhead, by contrast, has an impressive field of vision thanks to its unusual head shape. "Having spent the majority of my life exploring the ocean," he writes, "I am regularly reminded—on every dive—of just how inadequate and poorly designed I am for life underwater."
Skerry says the sand shark, like this one off the coast of Japan, is “one of the politer species” he’s come in contact with.
"Another reality of underwater photography is that film, media cards, and lenses cannot be changed underwater," Skerry explains in his introduction. "In the days when I was shooting film, I had a previous 36 frames that could be exposed before I had to return to the boat or beach to reload." Now, the memory storage of digital cameras lets him stay underwater longer, but strobe batteries and camera lenses still need to be changed back on the boat.
For his shoots, Skerry usually travels to places he's never been before, so he has to spend some time in the water getting his bearings. "My initial dives are usually spent mostly looking around and watching, trying to make sensed of what I see around me," he describes in one of his essays in the book. "As I am unable to comprehend this alien community, the world before me is often one of commotion, with fish and other animals swirling all around."
Skerry loves to photograph dorsal fins, and says he would happily spend an entire month just focusing on that single part of a shark's anatomy. "My photographic approach, one learned over time, is to focus on one behavior or one scene at a time to make order out of chaos," he says of his technique.
When Skerry went to Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, a popular hangout for tiger sharks (and the tourists who want to see them), he worked with Vincent Canabal (pictured), an ecotourism guide that knows most of the local sharks on sight.
He doesn't always stay underwater, though. For this photo taken at Tiger Beach, he used a blimp tethered to the boat.