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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)

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SHARKFEST, PREDATORS IN PERIL REBORN AND A RHODE ISLAND DEEP ELASMO SHOOT   1 comment


Predators in Peril Expedition Reborn
First the bad news… Our 2010 Central American Predators in Peril Expedition got turned down for funding. I’m not sure why but rather than dwell on the time wasted in drawing up funding proposals, I’m happy to move on and look for creative ways for us to fund the expedition on our own.
Through a combination of revenue sources including Photography Workshops, Sharkfest, a pending photography exhibition and some good old fashioned hard work (at the Winter Olympics) we think we can pull off a modified PIP Central American Expedition that incorporates almost as much as the original plan.
The new plan is to turn the proposed epic road journey into a series of fly in – fly out satellite trips. This ultimately works better because we can work on other projects in between shoots, we will have better opportunities to keep the world updated on our successes and we can avoid the rainy seasons much more easily by heading to the right places at exactly the right times.


Sharkfest!
About a month ago I was looking at places around North America where I could run a cheap fun filled shark diving weekend. Moorhead City in North Carolina was the obvious place because it is easily accessible, warm enough to be popular and full of extremely photogenic sandtiger sharks.
Olympus Dive Center (which is the premiere dive center in the region) was keen to host the trip so we started hashing out the details. Shark diving trips with Olympus are always fun because they can cater to big groups and their store and staging area are set up well for apres dive entertainment.
Rather than just a dive party I wanted to create an event that shark fanatics would really enjoy. The result is Sharkfest – a shark diving weekend and mini film festival just for shark people.
As soon as I mentioned the idea to people they started getting excited. Information about Sharkfest only went online just over a week ago and the first boat is half full already so I think it is going to be very popular. The good thing is that Olympus has two big boats so we could get a record number of sharky people in one place at the same time which is bound to be memorable.
Attracting film makers to submit their short films will probably be the hardest part to organize but we have two films on the way already and screening times will be limited to the evenings. I hope I don’t have to reject submissions – that would be tough. If you’re interested in submitting a short but you’re not sure if your shark footage is up to scratch don’t worry about it. Sharkfest isn’t Sundance or Cannes and you won’t find a more appreciative audience anywhere!
H2O Photo Pros in California has kindly offered to sponsor the festival with prize money and I am having a really special trophy made called an ELASMO for the crowd favorite. More on that when its done and I have a picture to show you.
I hope some of you can make it out for the whole event and come diving. Anyone that can’t get there during the day but wants to show up in the evenings to talk sharks with us is more than welcome. More info here: SHARKFEST


Rhode Island Expedition
Right now we are at Olympic Village in Whistler BC. I am helping with some of the organizational nightmares of this monstrous event. As soon as the Paralympics finish in late March I am flying to Providence to dive with Film Maker Joe Romeiro. Joe has a friend in the commercial fishing world who is keeping an eye out for deep water species of sharks and skates for us. If he finds some while I am there we are going to do a captive release photo shoot. If any of you remember the ‘walking the dog’ blog that I posted during the shark tour this will be the same kind of shoot. We’ll release the deep water species in one of the bays and try to get some i.d. shots before they head for the hills. Its a pretty hokey way to shoot elasmobranchs but its the only way some species will ever be photographed unless I strike it rich and buy my own deep water submersible. I’m still working on that.


Sharks in a Fading Light
I have a local gallery interested in a shark photography exhibition. Dates have yet to be arranged but we’re past the hand shake stage. The exhibition will be in two parts. The first series of images focus on the traditional view of sharks, portraying them as majestic apex predators. The second series of images looks at the change that is starting to take place in the public’s perception and the plight that sharks now collectively face. It contains enough ‘pretty pictures’ to make it appealing but also depicts sharks on long-lines and other unpleasant realities.
I initially wanted to avoid any toothy shots that would paint sharks as aggressive animals but I’ve had a change of heart on this subject lately. Instilling fear into people is obviously detrimental to sharks but painting them as teddy bears is also foolish. Sharks are not monsters but they are formidable creatures. Hopefully my images will convey that sentiment.

For the sharks,
Andy Murch

Summer of the Sharks – The Movie   Leave a comment

Two summers ago I left on a road trip with Eli (the Editor of Shark Diver Magazine), Rafa Flores (rancher, shark diving fan, driver and part time videographer) and Rusty Armstrong (Film Editor, topside Camera wielder and eventually Director). The plan was to document a typical summer season for us on the road chasing sharks. It began with a three week road trip in Rafa’s RV followed by a series of flights that took us to both coasts of the US with side trips to Mexico and the Caribbean. The trip was a great adventure for all of us. Rusty (fresh out of film school) got his first chance to put a full length feature together, Eli got to fulfill his dream of producing the first movie about shark diving and I got to spend almost a whole summer photographing sharks.

Rusty documented almost every aspect of our lives as the story unfolded and originally it looked as though the footage was destined to become a TV series. In fact the first few episodes of ‘Chasing Sharks’ actually made it into the can but for a bunch of reasons the show finally morphed into a full length movie.

I got my hands on a copy a few weeks ago and chose to watch it while Eli was showing it for the first time on the big screen in Texas to a few hundred friends and acquaintances. I was nervous because it was the first time that any of us except Rusty had been involved in the movie industry and I was expecting to wince at the quality of the footage. I was thrilled with the result. It was obviously shot on a budget but the footage was awesome and more importantly it summed up the whole shark diving lifestyle that we have immersed ourselves in.

I guess it is hard to be unbiased about a movie that I am so much a part of but I think it is a landmark movie in the diving world. A little rough around the edges but it stands as the quintessential movie about shark divers. It has plenty of action, a strong conservation message and… its funny!

Eli and Rusty have submitted it to many upcoming film festivals. Hopefully it will be well received and stand up to the scathing cynicism of the professional critics.

Ultimately the movie is destined for DVD release sometime in 2009 so I hope that many of you will pick up a copy. If you’re crazy enough about sharks to be reading this shark blog then you’ll probably enjoy it.

For press releases and further info about ‘Summer of the Sharks’ follow this link: http://summerofthesharks.com

Today I loaded some more images of Porbeagles onto Elasmodiver. Some of the images are of a dead and bloody carcass of a Porbeagle Shark. They are quite gory and I am expecting some negative feedback. The dead shark was presented to the researchers that I was working with by a fisherman that found it wrapped up in a line. The images while provocative show the stark reality of life in the ocean especially when sharks come in contact with humanity.

There are still plenty of images that need to be cleaned up and loaded onto the site but I have been very low on time lately with the refit of the ship that I am working on. Next month we sail for Baja and then I will hopefully have a little more time to dedicate to shark photography. There are many species of sharks and rays in Baja that I have yet to shoot so I am looking forward to a very sharky year or two.

For the sharks,

Andy Murch

Summer of the Sharks / Submersibles   Leave a comment

My relaxing summer on Vancouver Island lasted just over a week. I fly to Italy tomorrow to pilot a submersible for two weeks for a prominant VIP. It will be great to get back in a submersible again.

After that I get one day back in BC and then I’m off to eastern Canada to run a couple of Shark Diver Magazine trips. Eli (Editor of SDM) was supposed to lead the trips but he was asked to co-host a shark show on Animal Planet and fame got the better of him. So, I get to go chase Greenland Sharks again and then continue to the Bay of Fundy to join one of the world’s great underwater shooters in search of Porbeagle Sharks. It will be a great adventure. Incidentally, if anyone wants to come dive with me on either trip there is still room. Send me an email if you’re interested.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time you will probably remember the TV series that we were shooting way back in 2006. Well, after many changes it has finally morphed into a shark diving documentary that will hit the film festival circuit this summer. You can view a trailer for the show here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8aZw0n-KcY

After the Greenland Sharks and Porbeagles I am heading back to BC for some down time but Seamagine Hydrospace is already talking about sending me back to Europe to pilot again so we’ll see. Then at the end of August I get a week with my boys in Ontario and then fly on to West Palm Beach to jump on a boat to the Bahamas. I’ll be diving with Eli, Paul Speilvogel, and a bunch of shark nuts that want to go look for Oceanic Whitetip Sharks. It should be an awesome trip.

While all this is happening my girlfriend Claire will be in Vancouver supervising the refit of a large motor yacht that is owned by a good friend of ours. Once that is done we will take it down to San Diego and wait for hurricane season to finish in Baja. Then on to Cabo where we will moor the boat and look after it for the owner.

Of course while we are there we will be taking advantage of all the shark and ray action around the Sea of Cortez. I have a friend who has promised to put me in the water with Mexican Bullhead Sharks and possibly Pacific Sharpnose Sharks – new shark pictures for Elasmodiver.com!

Life is looking pretty exciting right now.

For the sharks

Andy Murch

Summer of the Sharks   Leave a comment

2001 was the year when starvation gave way to feeding frenzy. The media (who were starved for a headline) began feeding on the plight of shark attack victims. What statistically was turning out to be a normal year for shark attacks along the Florida coast was hyped out of proportion to feed the sensationalizing news hounds. This led to a shift in public opinion which ultimately resulted in a complete (and pointless) ban on shark feeding in Florida State waters. Following is a press release of the movie that we are working on that will hopefully capture the publics interest and shed a different light on Americas coastal sharks:

Five years after what the media dubbed ‘the summer of the sharks’, a film crew from Shark Diver Magazine are hitting the road to create their own ‘Summer of the Sharks’ a movie/documentary in which the team (led by editor Eli Martinez) plans to hunt for sharks all along the eastern seaboard.
The road trip begins in Galveston, Texas where silky, hammerhead, and blacktip sharks are frequently reported by fishermen. Using bait to bring the sharks up to the boat Andy Murch (SDM Photographer and host of Elasmodiver) will attempt to get close up images of the sharks while Eli and Rafa Flores (underwater Director of Photography) capture the action on film.
The 2nd stop on the tour is the treacherous waters of North Carolina where deep offshore wrecks are inhabited by ferocious looking Sandtiger sharks. The team hopes to capture some extremely close up images by using rebreathers that don’t allow bubbles to spook the sharks. “It’s funny” says Andy “that people are absolutely petrified of sharks but most of the time the sharks are so timid that merely blowing bubbles is enough to scare them away”.
Taking the ‘Shark Bus’ down to Louisiana the team then plans to chum for aggressive makos before flying out to St Maarten in an effort to find and photograph the rarely seen blacknose shark.
Andy’s take on Summer of the Sharks: “The movie isn’t about sharks, its about the dream we have to share the sea with these incredible creatures. Call it an obsession if you like but its what we do, and this is a chance for people to see into our world. The camera will always be rolling so the fear and adrenalin will be pretty obvious”.
Summer of the Sharks will introduce the new TV series Shark Divers, in which the team will head to a different location each week looking for close up encounters with the world’s deadliest and most elusive predators.

For further information contact;
Shark Diver Magazine
956-782-7969
SharkDiverMag.com

For the sharks,

Andy Murch
Andy is the Staff Photographer at Shark Diver Magazine and the host of Elasmodiver.com which is one of the largest sources of information about sharks and rays on the internet.