Dusky Whaler Shark

19-May-2012 Back to Image Gallery

Dusky Whaler Shark

A resident group of juvenile dusky whaler sharks have been entertaining our Saturday morning shore divers at Manly and our dive school students every weekend. These streamlined little one metre long sharks have become more confident and make closer passes each month. They have been turning up every summer for about a decade now. Fortunately we are too big and far too intimidating to be suitable prey and the same goes for the hundreds of swimmers who splash about on the surface blithely unaware of the sharks schooling beneath them! Once they area bit larger they will disperse into the open sea where they can survive equally with other large sharks as a predator rather than prey. Dive 2000 Dive Master and photographer David Young was determined to capture some definitive images before they departed. I feel he has succeeded.

Photo Data: GENRE: Wide Angle, Fill Flash. Location: Fairy Bower Beach, Cabbage Tree Bay, Manly, Sydney, NSW. Australia. Photo Data: Nikon D300, Nikkor 12–24mm Zoom lens, Sea & Sea Housing, Dual Sea & Sea YS 200 Strobes, and Manual Exposure Mode. ISO 200, Exposure f8 @ 125th sec. Image by David Young.

Photo Hints: As this is an image that requires use of sunlight for the exposure and strobelight for revealing subject detail the photographer must be adept at managing both forms of light. First establish a correct exposure for the sunlight with some test shots, then adjust the strobe power to a level that will provide just a touch of light on the shark’s body once it’s in range. The risk is overexposure on the shark’s reflective skin with your strobe so it’s better to err on the side of less strobe power than more. As many pelagic sharks are shy you will need to be far less intimidating. Reduce your breathing, your bubbles terrify them! Hide among the kelp or rocks so you appear much smaller. Reduce your numbers, solo diving is ideal if you are qualified! Obviously a rebreather would be fantastic for this type of marine life photography. EQUIPMENT COMMENTS: Use of a wide angle zoom lens is recommended as the wide angle end of the zoom will be ideal if the shark approaches close and a small amount of zoom will reduce the lens field of view if the shark is shy. However, do not use the full range of the zoom to create a tight frame if the shark does not come within range. Shooting through that much water with full zoom will not produce a sharp image. This style of lighting can be done perfectly with just one strobe and often I prefer this as it’s easier to manage, reduces backscatter and is much less intimidating for the subject.

Interesting Facts: Dusky Whaler sharks, Carcharhinus obscures, are born at about 95cm so these little sharks are this year’s babies. They will reach maturity at 280 cm and can grow to 3.5 meters. They are known to prefer sheltered nursery areas as they are preyed upon by larger sharks. Although Australians consume over a thousand tonnes of them per year some may be sustaining their population a little because the large sharks that predate on them have been dramatically reduced by shark meshing. This would certainly be a factor along the Sydney coastline and the Cabbage Tree Bay Marine Reserve would also be contributing to their survival from the shark fishing industry.

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