Diving with sharks. Everybody has their favorite critters. For some people it’s dolphins, for others its turtles; many people love the tiniest of shrimp that only the most expensive of macro lenses can even see. Me? I like sharks. The power, the grace, the beauty, the steely-eyed gaze. And I love having a Paralenz to film them with.
Diving with sharks at Rasdhoo Madivaru
As a traveling dive instructor, I’ve had many shark encounters over the years. One that stands out, in particular, was the first time I met a great hammerhead. My dive buddy and I were drift-diving in a ridiculously powerful current along the Great Barrier Reef. Suddenly this monstrous shape appeared in front of us. My buddy made a very nervous sound through her regulator. It was a fully-grown great hammerhead, pushing six meters in length. Its massive cephalofoil swiveled in our direction. Then, with a movement that almost appeared like a shrug, with one lazy wave of its tail, it disappeared.
The current was so fast that no human being could have ever fought against it. The shark, however, moved as if there was no current at all. It was the first demonstration of the sheer power of these animals that I had witnessed. The only photograph I have of that encounter is of a hazy shape in the distance. Looking back now, how I wish that the Paralenz had been invented back in 2008!
On a recent Carpe Diem liveaboard in the Maldives, we visited the dive site of Rasdhoo Madivaru at Rasdhoo Atoll. The dive itself was lovely, and I spotted a couple of small whitetip reef sharks just over the edge of the reef. One of the dive guides gave me the signal for sharks’ and waved somewhere in the distance. I pointed out that there were two swimming almost next to me. He waved towards the distance again.
Rounding a small outcropping of coral, I see all the divers hooked into the reef before me. I don’t really like reef hooks so I hovered low against the reef to shelter from the current and see what everybody was staring at.
A grey reef shark passed just two meters in front of my face. When I looked out into the blue, I realized it wasn’t the only one. As I fumbled for my underwater camera, I realized something worse – I didn’t have my Paralenz! I had loaned it to another diver who had taken an interest in trying it out. For a moment, I felt like people do when they leave their phone at home.
Finding her further along the reef, I saw the Paralenz dangling uselessly from her BCD clip as she user her own compact camera! I tapped her on the shoulder and waved at the Paralenz. She gave it back and I twiddled the selector ring, switched it on, turned it to video mode and began filming.
For the next 30 minutes, I hovered along the reef edge trying to capture as many sharks on video as possible. It wasn’t hard, they were everywhere, finning lazily in circles between the edges of the reef. It felt strangely like a zoo in reverse. The sharks would pass by for a close inspection, swim away and then pass by again for another look. I wasn’t nervous – I’ve seen hundreds of sharks during my dive career and they have all completely failed to eat me. This was, however, the first time that I have seen so many at the same time and for so long.
I’m still learning the art of photography (with a stills camera) and although I’ve managed to take some pretty good images, they require a lot of post-processing. Even then, they look okay at a distance but closer inspection reveals them to be not so great. With the Paralenz, however, I really enjoy being able to see freshly-made videos full of color.
The footage in this article was taken under fairly cloudy skies down at 18m, and the vis was far from perfect. Still, you can see the color of the golden anthias in the foreground and get an idea of the color of the coral. You can even see the whites of the eyes of the sharks as they pass by. The only limitation is the person holding the camera – me!
I’ve had a succession of underwater cameras since around 2005, most of the ‘point-and-shoot’ variety. Many amateur photographers know the disappointment that comes from thinking you have made a great shot, only to find it’s a bluefish against a blue background. I have recently invested in some more up-market kit. It’s at the lower end of the market in terms of price, but if you add together the price of the camera, housing, lenses, and strobes it works out at around four times the cost of a Paralenz.
This is one of the reasons I love the Paralenz. You get great pictures and great footage at a great price point. You don’t have to worry about flooding, because the camera comes with an anti-flood guarantee. The DCC (depth color correction) feature removes the disappointment of always seeing blue fish against a blue background.
I love diving with sharks. I will never forget that encounter with the great hammerhead, but I really wish I’d had a Paralenz to film it with!
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