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Basking sharks in Scotland

IN IN IN! That was the signal to jump in the water, given by our Scottish captain, Cam. With water in my ears, his accent was even harder to understand, but eventually, we got to talk quite a bit. IN!!! I was sitting on the side of the boat fully prepared. Dressed up in a warm wetsuit, flippers, diving mask, snorkel and my photo gear in underwater housing, ready to shoot some sharks!

I just got back from a week in Scotland, photographing Basking sharks (well, just the dorsal fin that is …) around the islands of Mull and Coll. Every day we went out on a little boat and within the hour we spotted sharks. It was amazing to see these huge creatures from the boat, hanging in the water. They were fighting the current while feeding on the plankton. To think I was here to shoot them underwater! When I got the signal from Cam, I didn’t really know what awaited me under the water surface …

Up close with the sharks

My first thought when I looked underwater, was: SHIT, bad visibility! In late summer, plankton is blooming. That’s why the sharks are here. So I had to get close to these giants to get a better view through the thick clouds of plankton. Easier said than done of course, but sometimes it’s good to have a crazy plan! The technique is to get in line with a shark and follow its fin above the water surface. You let the shark come closer by itself, and dive once it does. Often, you could only notice the sharks once they got really close. And what a kick it is when they appear out of the blue! Gigantic and friendly, which was a new combination for me as a wildlife photographer! Basking sharks even let you follow them if you can fight the tide and current.

It was great fun to swim with these wonderful animals, a project that had been on my bucket list for 20 years. My big thanks goes out to the great people of the Basking Shark team in Scotland. It was a great pleasure to meet such motivated people and swim with them amongst the sharks! So many thanks to you Eszter, Kate, Luke, Shane and Cam! See you next year, aye!

The finest gear

All pictures are taken with a Nikon D810 and 14-24mm F2.8 lens in a Hugyfot housing. A few words about this housing: it’s plastic POM (polyoxymethylene) with the same functionalities as the aluminium version, but much lighter and cheaper. They both have the same domes. They are rated for a depth of 15 meters, which is less than the aluminium version, but if you use the camera for snorkelling in natural light, this is no issue at all. I’ve been working with it since January (first try-out was swimming with the killer whales in Norway) and I have nothing but praise for it. For me, it’s the best and most professional compromise between quality and price. You want to be safe, but you don’t want to spend a fortune either, as cameras change all the time so you’ll need to change housings too. They are made in Belgium, so as soon as the Nikon D5 hits the shops, we will probably place a collective order.

Do you have any questions? Just send me an email!


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