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 is perhaps the Eiffel Tower or croissants. Shark diving possible wouldn’t even make the highest 500 causes to go to the nation! Nevertheless, for underwater photographers, particularly shark divers, France is among the few locations on the planet the place you possibly can come head to head 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 nice white, salmon shark, and mako. In reality, at first look, you might be forgiven for considering the porbeagle is a mako or a salmon shark, as they appear fairly related. Like the opposite family members, porbeagles are endothermic, which means they will keep a a lot increased physique temperature and survive within the chilly waters of the North Atlantic. With the ability to pump heat blood round their mind, organs and muscular tissues is a big benefit in a chilly water atmosphere. In reality, porbeagles have been present in water as chilly as 34°F (1°C)! Their elusivity and desire for darkish, chilly water is probably the explanation they fly beneath the radar of most individuals, even these very invested in sharks.


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


Difficult Diving Circumstances

Areas that come to thoughts for shark diving is perhaps the sunny, heat, shallow waters of Tiger Seaside within the Bahamas, or the brilliant 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 pc 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 go well with with Farmer John bottoms. That gave me 10mm protection on my core. A drysuit is an choice however that may all however get rid of any means to freedive and get all the way down to shark degree.

Not like 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 bought comparatively fortunate on our journey and had merely poor visibility, however murky water lets by means of far much less mild and the water was fairly darkish. We went with a analysis group and had been forbidden from utilizing strobes with the porbeagles so supplemental mild was a no-go. This meant compromises with reference to digital camera settings that had been lower than ideally suited. We had to make use of increased 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 belongings 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 best way to the floor: Usually we had been diving all the way down to 35 ft to seize pictures. In need of being a world-class freediver and holding your breath for minutes at a time, this model of capturing severely restricts your photographic alternatives.


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



Few folks have expertise with porbeagles within the water. This made the journey thrilling but additionally meant we arrived in France with no concept how the sharks would truly behave round us. Would it not be like their cousin, the shortfin mako? Makos are notoriously excessive vitality and very 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 lots of time within the water with. Porbeagles have huge eyes and in individual they’re extremely emotive. There is no such thing as a mistaking when a porbeagle is locking eyes with you, and so they’ll maintain eye contact for a whole move as they cruise by. It was really an incredible and humbling expertise to share that form of second with such a unbelievable predator.

As with most sharks, paying shut consideration will assist 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 discovered every particular person porbeagle, we had been capable of have extra profitable freedive periods. I discovered a weirdly profitable method: I’d dive down, stay in place, and shake my digital camera, pushing and pulling it quickly ahead and again. For no matter cause, it piqued their curiosity and most of the time, I’d come head to head with a shark because it got here as much as examine what the wacky bubble breather was as much as.

The analysis group 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 reality, 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 because of heavy fishing strain. The analysis group we used for our journey has labored with IUCN and really managed to get the porbeagle fishery within the area closed. Not coincidentally, over the previous few years, a sluggish rise in porbeagle populations has been noticed.

Every day we’d enterprise out, the group would take movies and footage to establish as many particular person sharks as potential by means of patterns, scars, and so forth. Laser measurements had been taken of every shark to find out dimension precisely and infrequently they had been capable of take pores and skin samples to do DNA testing. A query the group is looking for solutions to is why the north coast of France is so necessary to porbeagles, as thus far there isn’t a actual concept as to why it’s a hotspot for these sharks. Maybe a pupping floor? Apparently, there have been no males noticed within the area, simply females.


Can a shark be cute? This porbeagle actually 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 group didn’t permit them. Maybe it will not have mattered a lot anyway. The water was so filled with particulates, any flashed pictures 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 assist you to rise up shut and private to your topic and get rid of as a lot murky water as potential whereas nonetheless capturing all the shark in your body. The Tokina on a crop-sensor digital camera additionally gives simply that little little bit of zoom vary if the sharks aren’t fairly shut sufficient for the complete 180 levels.

For freediving-specific shark journeys, I typically discover the 4-inch mini-dome to be the most suitable 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


Ultimate Ideas

Whereas porbeagles had been the entire level of our journey, the realm is house to a lot of different fascinating marine life. Every day, we did a scuba dive at a marine sanctuary and had 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 record earlier than however possibly, simply possibly, it’s price taking a visit. The prospect to {photograph} the “phantom of the North Atlantic” was too good for me to move up. I think about different hardcore sharkers would possibly really feel the identical.


France isn’t solely about porbeagle sharks. Diminutive noticed catsharks could 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 try extra of Josh’s superior big-animal work, particularly his shark imagery, please go to his Instagram page.