Archive for August 2010

Big Fish Photography Expeditions   4 comments

GROWING ELASMODIVER & OUR NEW SHARK DIVING EXPEDITIONS

KEEPING ELASMODIVER GROWING
Last year, more than a million people spent some time clicking through Elasmodiver’s 400+ pages of information and shark images. Hopefully, some of them took away a little more knowledge and respect for our world’s endangered Elasmobranchs.
It is important to me to keep expanding the shark and ray field guide, but as I slowly tick off the few remaining shark and ray species that are relatively easy to dive with and photograph, I find myself planning increasingly more abstract expeditions, often working with researchers and sometimes even commercial fishermen.
There are parts of the world like Southern Africa that I have been purposely avoiding. I could probably find a dozen new species in a week or two of diving around Cape Town but before I take off to such exotic locations, there are a number of elasmos from North America that still need some time in the spotlight. There are a couple of hammerheads from the Pacific slope that are virtually unknown and a number of Central American smoothhound sharks that are heavily targeted by the artisanal shark fishing fleets. Those species come first.

The latest shark species that was added to the Field Guide (a few weeks ago) was the Dusky Smoothhound. Smooth dogfish (as they are called in New England) are very common sharks but they are rarely encountered by divers.
Getting these images involved a trip back to visit my shark diving buddy Joe Romeiro in Rhode Island. Although we did everything we could to try to shoot a dusky smoothhound in the wild, we eventually gave up our fruitless search and found an aquarium that would let us shoot in their tank. A natural encounter would have been better but sometimes, this is the only way to get the shot.
A big thank you to Biomes Marine Biology Center for letting us work in their excellent facility.
dusky smoothhound shark aka smooth dogfish

SHARKFEST 2010
After many months of planning, a boat load of Shark Fanatics finally descended on Morehead City, North Carolina, for our weekend of shark diving, film screenings and good times. The whole event could not have gone better so we are planning to do it all over again next year – with a few very cool changes. Check out some of the great shark photos that came out of Sharkfest 2010 and find out what we have in store for next year: SHARKFEST 2010 TRIP REPORT

BIG FISH DIVING AND PHOTOGRAPHY EXPEDITIONS
If you know your way around Elasmodiver, then you’ll have noticed that there are a lot of new links pointing to Big Fish Photography Expeditions. This is our brand new expedition website that showcases all of the trips that you can join me on to meet the world’s top predators on their own ground.
These are not your average wildlife expeditions. They are one of a kind adventures tailored to adventurous people that want to enjoy up-close, in-water encounters with apex predatory sharks, whales, dolphins and even giant squid.

Our first expedition kicks off in February next year in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Playa has recently become a hot spot for bull shark diving and the Bull Shark Feed that takes place there from November to March is second to none.
I am timing our bull shark diving adventure to overlap with a scientific shark tagging expedition which is being conducted by Dr Mauricio Hoyos who is Mexico’s leading Great White Shark Specialist. Mauricio and I worked on a white shark film together a couple of years ago and he has agreed to do a talk about his white shark research on Guadalupe Island and explain what he hopes to learn about the bull sharks in Playa.
I have some great ideas for creating the perfect shooting environment and if the sharks cooperate I expect that we will return with some amazing images.

In April I will be running a second Tiger Beach Photography Workshop. This year’s trip was a bit hit with scores of lemon sharks and 24/7 tiger shark action, not to mention encounters with reef sharks and nurse sharks too. For some people it was their first introduction to shooting big animals. For others it was a chance to hone their skills. I’m looking forward to getting back there and doing it again in 2011. Next year’s boat is already half full so if you’re interested in joining us please let me know as soon as possible.

I am also running trips to Cat Island in the Bahamas to shoot Oceanic Whitetip Sharks (only one spot left) and an amazing week long adventure, diving and shooting on the reefs of the Sea of Cortez which will include encounters with whales and giant humboldt squid dives
I guess that’s more than enough bragging about expeditions. The ones we have scheduled so far are all listed on the Big Fish Photography Expeditions website. I’ll update you on new expeditions that I intend to run, as soon as they come together.

shark diving trip

WHATS BUBBLING…
This year is quickly getting away from me. Fortunately, late summer is the time when things start to get interesting here on Vancouver Island so I am dedicating the next month to the Pacific North West Elasmo Hunt.
Next weekend I will start by working on the wild west coast in an area called Barkley Sound which is a great place to track down sixgill sharks. I already have some sixgill shots but I’m hoping to improve them and get a much better variety that really capture the bluntnose sixgill’s enigmatic personality. We have our bait crates ready to go and a boat rented for this very purpose. If any local divers want to join us on the hunt, there may be a few spots up for grabs.
Late summer is also when deepwater skates start making their way into the shallows to feed on crustaceans and other benthic invertebrates, so I’ll probably be spending a fair bit of this month swimming around in muddy featureless bays, hoping to encounter a skate or two. Wish me luck!

For the sharks,
Andy Murch

Sharkfest 2010   Leave a comment



SHARKFEST 2010 TRIP REPORT
I must admit that I was a little nervous about putting together a shark diving / film screening event like Sharkfest but it worked out better than I could have imagined. For a while it was looking as though Tropical Storm Colin would upset our plans to dive the sharkiest wrecks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina but Colin fizzled out just in time. Our first day out was delayed by a few hours because of fierce offshore winds that were punishing any vessels crazy enough to head to sea but by the afternoon the gale had calmed down to a gentle breeze so we set sail for a couple of inshore wrecks – The Titan and The Indra.
I was dubious about our chances of shark action so close to the mainland but the shark gods smiled on us. Both wrecks had unusually good visibility and more importantly they had enough sandtiger sharks for us to play with all afternoon. In fact, the Indra had such friendly sharks that I was able to swim around with them to my heart’s content:

That night, while our images downloaded, we set up a projector in Olynmpus’ Dive Lodge and screened our collection of short shark movie submissions. The standard of the films was truly world class and I am flattered that so many well known film makers went to the effort of submitting their work.
After the screenings we talked about shark diving into the early hours and after little more than a nap, dragged ourselves back to the dive boat for another day of shark diving.
With clear skies and flat seas we made straight for the wreck of The Spar which lays in 110ft of water about 1.5 hours from shore. The Spar is famous for the amount of sharks that frequent its decks and I could see the first enormous sandtigers hovering above the conning tower of the 200ft long wreck as I over-armed down the mooring line.
Although it was a little dark down on the sand, the visibility above the thermocline was excellent and we spent two glorious dives framing image after image of sandtigers doing what sandtigers do best; swimming slowly around defying gravity and looking far more menacing than they really are. I tried to capture as many diver / shark interactions as possible and the images below tell the tale of great encounters with approachable sharks:

Once back on terra firma we grabbed a bite and settled in to try to get through as many more shark movie submissions as we could. After a long sun-swept day at sea I was surprised that so many people stayed up to watch them all. Thank you to everyone that attended and helped to turn an idea into a real mini film festival.

After much deliberation the crowd favorite turned out to be Requiem by Joe Romeiro and Bill Fisher / 333 Productions.

closely followed by Lesley Rochat’s excellent, award winning shark conservation film Sharks in Deep Trouble.
Joe and Bill will receive a girt cert from H2O Photo Pros who sponsored the event.

The next morning we returned to The Spar and enjoyed two more dives with many extremely cooperative and tolerant sandtiger sharks. The weather remained perfect and the sharks posed in just about every angle:


After the diving, a few Sharkfesters were forced to take off back to the real world but the rest of us threw together a BBQ on Olympus Dive Center’s dock and talked about exotic shark locations and our crazy shark diving expeditions long into the night. As we said our farewells the next morning the inevitable question was raised: Will there be a Sharkfest 2011?
It was a lot of work to put Sharkfest together but we had such a good time that I have decided to do it again. So, save a little space in your shark diving calendars next August. Sharkfest 2011 is going to be bigger and even more fun than 2010.

Thank you again to everyone that attended, thank you to Olympus Dive Center for hosting the event and thank you to everyone that submitted their short films!

This year’s Sharkfest submisions (in no particular order):

The Great White Shark Song – Andy Brandy Casagrande
Death of a Deity – Joe Romeiro & Bill Fisher / 333 Productions
Elegance in Black and White – Richard Theiss / RTSea Productions
Friends Found – David Ulloa
The Way It Used to Be – David Vik
A lateral Line – Joe Romeiro & Bill Fisher / 333 Productions
Who Patrols These Waters – Barbara Lloyd / Stella Luna Productions
Sharks in Deep Trouble – Lesley Rochet
Big Fish Utila – Johannes Leichtle & Dan Cain
The Shark Con – Rusty Armstrong / Endless Perseverance.
Island Of the Great White Sharks – Richard Theiss / RTSea Productions
Shark Divers – Danny Mauro / Sport Diver TV
Walter and the Tigers – Jason Perryman
Requiem – Joe Romeiro & Bill Fisher / 333 Productions
Shark Business – Danny Mauro / Sport Diver TV

SIGN UP FOR SHARKFEST 2011
(Dates in August 2011 to be arranged)