Photographing Porbeagle Sharks in France

The porbeagle, a really uncommonly seen or photographed shark, France


When most individuals consider France, the primary issues that come to thoughts may be the Eiffel Tower or croissants. Shark diving doubtless wouldn’t even make the highest 500 causes to go to the nation! Nevertheless, for underwater photographers, particularly shark divers, France is likely one of the few locations on the planet the place you may come nose to nose with a not often seen and much more not often photographed shark. Off the coast of Brittany, photographers can meet the phantom of the North Atlantic—the porbeagle.

Porbeagle sharks are mackerel sharks. They belong to the identical household as the good white, salmon shark, and mako. In actual fact, at first look, you possibly can be forgiven for considering the porbeagle is a mako or a salmon shark, as they give the impression of being fairly comparable. Like the opposite family members, porbeagles are endothermic, which means they’ll keep a a lot greater physique temperature and survive within the chilly waters of the North Atlantic. Having the ability to pump heat blood round their mind, organs and muscle tissue is a big benefit in a chilly water setting. In actual fact, porbeagles have been present in water as chilly as 34°F (1°C)! Their elusivity and choice for darkish, chilly water is probably the explanation they fly beneath the radar of most individuals, even these very invested in sharks.


A freediver strains up a shot on a porbeagle off the coast of Brittany, France


Difficult Diving Circumstances

Places that come to thoughts for shark diving may be the sunny, heat, shallow waters of Tiger Seashore within the Bahamas, or the intense blue Gulf Stream off Florida, or possibly the crystal-clear waters of Tahiti. Chilly-water-loving porbeagles don’t make it fairly really easy. After I visited France in June, my dive laptop learn 55°F (13°C) on the floor. Correct publicity gear is an absolute should. You’ll be able to’t present as much as {photograph} porbeagles in a shortie or 1mm pores and skin. I wore a 5mm open cell freedive swimsuit with Farmer John bottoms. That gave me 10mm protection on my core. A drysuit is an choice however that may all however remove any skill to freedive and get all the way down to shark degree.

In contrast to many shark diving locations, the area of France we visited is susceptible to massive quantities of rainfall. Visibility due to this fact ranges from poor to nonexistent. We obtained comparatively fortunate on our journey and had merely poor visibility, however murky water lets via far much less gentle and the water was fairly darkish. We went with a analysis staff and have been forbidden from utilizing strobes with the porbeagles so supplemental gentle was a no-go. This meant compromises with reference to digital camera settings that have been lower than perfect. We had to make use of greater than regular ISOs (1000+ vary), wider than regular apertures, and slower than most popular shutter speeds.

As any wildlife photographer is aware of, it doesn’t matter what good stuff you say to your topic nor how exhausting you silently implore them to cooperate, it doesn’t at all times work. Porbeagles very not often come all the way in which to the floor: Usually we have been diving all the way down to 35 ft to seize photographs. Wanting being a world-class freediver and holding your breath for minutes at a time, this type of taking pictures severely restricts your photographic alternatives.


A feminine porbeagle cruising by within the murk, Brittany, France



Few individuals have expertise with porbeagles within the water. This made the journey thrilling but additionally meant we arrived in France with no thought how the sharks would truly behave round us. Would it not be like their cousin, the shortfin mako? Makos are notoriously excessive power and intensely fast paced; they’re the quickest shark within the ocean in spite of everything. Or would the porbeagles behave extra like salmon sharks, that are very shy and way more cautious round divers?

Over a five-day span, we encountered a number of porbeagles every day and a few people we noticed on a number of dives. To our nice enjoyment and shock, they turned out to be way more inquisitive and curious than I anticipated and way more laid-back than makos, which I’ve spent a number of time within the water with. Porbeagles have huge eyes and in individual they’re extremely emotive. There isn’t a mistaking when a porbeagle is locking eyes with you, they usually’ll maintain eye contact for a whole go as they cruise by. It was actually a tremendous and humbling expertise to share that kind of second with such a implausible predator.

As with most sharks, paying shut consideration will permit you to decide up on patterns (they’re creatures of behavior), and this lets you anticipate the place and when a shark goes to be. As soon as we found out every particular person porbeagle, we have been in a position to have extra profitable freedive classes. I discovered a weirdly profitable approach: I’d dive down, stay in place, and shake my digital camera, pushing and pulling it quickly ahead and again. For no matter purpose, it piqued their curiosity and most of the time, I’d come nose to nose with a shark because it got here as much as examine what the wacky bubble breather was as much as.

The analysis staff has famous of their time learning the sharks—and we witnessed it ourselves—that not like most mackerel sharks, which are typically loners, porbeagles are sometimes seen touring collectively. In actual fact, each single time a number of sharks confirmed up on a dive, they might arrive collectively and go away collectively.


A giant, battle-scarred porbeagle eyeballs the digital camera as she passes by, Brittany, France



Over earlier many years, porbeagle shark populations had been declining at an alarming fee, and they’re listed by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered” within the northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea as a consequence of heavy fishing strain. The analysis staff we used for our journey has labored with IUCN and truly managed to get the porbeagle fishery within the area closed. Not coincidentally, over the previous couple of years, a sluggish rise in porbeagle populations has been noticed.

Every day we’d enterprise out, the staff would take movies and photos to establish as many particular person sharks as doable via patterns, scars, and so forth. Laser measurements have been taken of every shark to find out dimension precisely and infrequently they have been in a position to take pores and skin samples to do DNA testing. A query the staff is looking for solutions to is why the north coast of France is so necessary to porbeagles, as to date there isn’t any actual principle as to why it’s a hotspot for these sharks. Maybe a pupping floor? Curiously, there have been no males noticed within the area, simply females.


Can a shark be cute? This porbeagle definitely makes a compelling case for it! Brittany, France


Photographing Porbeagles

I nearly at all times {photograph} sharks with strobes. However, as beforehand talked about, the analysis staff didn’t enable them. Maybe it could not have mattered a lot anyway. The water was so filled with particulates, any flashed photographs might need regarded like a shark in a snowstorm.

My go-to setup for almost any shark tour is the Tokina 10–17mm on my trusty Nikon D500 in a Nauticam housing. Fisheyes permit you to stand up shut and private to your topic and remove as a lot murky water as doable whereas nonetheless capturing the whole shark in your body. The Tokina on a crop-sensor digital camera additionally offers simply that little little bit of zoom vary if the sharks aren’t fairly shut sufficient for the total 180 levels.

For freediving-specific shark journeys, I usually discover the 4-inch mini-dome to be the best choice, because it makes maneuvering within the water and freediving to depths a much more nice expertise than dragging round a 9-inch glass dome. Particularly in open water, with out necessary components of a picture within the corners, the massive dome won’t present a lot of a picture high quality benefit anyway.


A porbeagle makes a pinpoint flip, Brittany, France


Remaining Ideas

Whereas porbeagles have been the entire level of our journey, the world is dwelling to a lot of different attention-grabbing marine life. Every day, we did a scuba dive at a marine sanctuary and have been fortunate sufficient to come across a number of noticed catsharks, a diminutive bottom-dwelling species, in addition to marbled torpedo rays, and grey seals.

Maybe France wasn’t in your diving want listing earlier than however possibly, simply possibly, it’s value taking a visit. The possibility to {photograph} the “phantom of the North Atlantic” was too good for me to go up. I think about different hardcore sharkers would possibly really feel the identical.


France isn’t solely about porbeagle sharks. Diminutive noticed catsharks will be discovered on scuba dives in Brittany, France


A playful grey seal, enjoyable within the kelp, Brittany, France


Marbled torpedo ray, camouflaged on the ocean flooring, Brittany, France


The take a look at extra of Josh’s superior big-animal work, particularly his shark imagery, please go to his Instagram page.