PetaPixel

This Photographer is Living His Dream of Swimming with and Photographing Great White Sharks

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For photographer George Probst, Shark Week must be like looking through a family photo album. That’s because this photographer’s bucket list item turned passion is swimming with great white sharks and taking pictures that will help smash the ‘Jaws’ stereotype that clings to these majestic (if terrifying) creatures.

As he explains in the Flickr Moment video below, Probst’s underwater adventures began with a breakup. Money that had been set aside for an engagement ring was all of a sudden freed up and so, he decided to cross off a bucket list item and go great white shark diving.

That first experience, documented with a little point-and-shoot and underwater housing, sparked something in Probst that has had him going back over and over ever since. His mission quickly became to eradicate the ‘jaws’ stereotype that these are all ruthless killing machines.

“When they come by looking you in the eye, there’s this connection,” Probst explains in the video. “You just get this completely different understanding, and there’s a level of respect and awe of this huge animal.”

As a result of this goal, many of his images show a calmer, more peaceful side to the not-so-gentle giants. Of course, that doesn’t mean his portfolio doesn’t include some of those open maw shots he says “the general public seems to love.”

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When he first started shooting great whites, he was using a tiny point and shoot:

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He’s since upgraded his gear… just slightly:

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To see more of Probst’s impressive Great White imagery, give his Flickr a visit by clicking here.


Image credits: Photographs by George Probst and used with permission


 
  • jasrockett

    Gorgeous photos. What a beautiful beast

  • Roger Lambert

    “this photographer’s bucket list item turned passion is swimming with
    great white sharks and taking pictures that will help smash the ‘Jaws’
    stereotype that clings to these majestic (if terrifying) creatures.’

    Where is the swimming with sharks part? Is that the part where the photographer is safely inside a shark cage, looking the fish in the eye and …”there’s this connection,”
    Probst explains in the video. “You just get this completely different
    understanding, and there’s a level of respect and awe of this huge
    animal.”

    Isn’t the “understanding” that the fish might well happily bite you in half – sort of like that Jaws stereotype somebody was just talking about somewhere?

    LOL.

    Great shots, btw :)

  • Island In The Sky

    Damn, these are some nice looking shots!

  • thedorsalfin

    Hi Robert,

    These are valid questions. I’ll try to answer them as best I can. Most of this was actually discussed in my interview with Yahoo! Studios, but the interview lasted probably close to 30 minutes and the final cut is about 3 minutes.

    I don’t “swim” per se with the white sharks at Guadalupe, but I do open water swim with sharks elsewhere, and I do get out of the submersible cage at Guadalupe (at least two of the photos above were taken while outside of a cage), but I don’t swim around. Guadalupe is ‘visually bottomless,’ and with white sharks being ambush predators, open water diving puts both divers and sharks at risk. There is the chance that a shark down deep might see a silhouette of a diver and not be able to discern from that of a natural prey item.

    So, yes, there is risk of a diver being bitten there if he/she is open water diving, but the white sharks there are not actively going after divers. Many divers have done open water dives at Guadalupe without incident, but for the reasons above, I simply do not believe it’s a good idea.

    For most of the shots at the surface about 40% of my body is outside of the cage in order to get the shot. In the 100 or so hours I’ve spent in the water with white sharks at Guadalupe, I haven’t had a shark try to bite me in half.

    All that being said, I’ve spent a fair amount of time outside of the cage and looked white sharks in the eye and had that connection, but I had a cage underneath me in order to eliminate the possibility of the ambush attack scenario that I mentioned previously. At eye level, the sharks recognize that you are not a natural prey item. That doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind around them, as they are indeed large wild predatory animals, but they are not actively trying to bite people. Some of them are more curious than others and will come up close to
    give you a better look or even nose your camera. However, in my experience over the past 8 years, that’s been the extent
    of it. If any of these sharks that I’ve looked eye-to-eye with had wanted to eat me, I can assure that they wouldn’t have had much trouble in doing so.

    So, I still stand by my point that these animals are nothing like the way they are portrayed in ‘Jaws,’ which essentially features a serial killer shark who is actively trying to munch on as many people as it can. I think that using ‘Jaws’ as the basis for an opinion of white sharks is essentially the equivalent of using somebody like Hannibal Lecter as a model to base an opinion of humans on.

    Cheers.

    PS Glad you enjoyed the shots! :O)

  • thedorsalfin

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed them.

  • thedorsalfin

    Thanks!

  • thedorsalfin

    Robert, I wrote a detailed response covering your questions, but when I added a picture of me swimming with a shark it got flagged as pending (I guess due to the fact that it had a hyperlink), so hopefully, it will be approved soon. Thanks, for your questions and comments.

  • 1000nunsandorphans

    You have clearly never been to Guadalupe. More than one operator allows for you to leave the cage and observe the sharks in the open with only water between you. It is then that you realize that these animals are smart enough to know what their food is (and isn’t). Now before you try to make a sarcastic comment about how often white sharks attack people, realize that number is extremely low. Toasters kill far more people than white sharks, but shark attacks are more sensational for the media.

  • thedorsalfin

    I think this is why it’s so important to try to educate the general public better about sharks, in general. A vast majority of the media that most people are subjected to when it comes to sharks are centered around shark attacks. You rarely see news stories about divers interacting with sharks without incident.

    Just a few weeks ago, a fairly well-known diver and videographer in Australia had a chance encounter with a white shark, while diving, and I saw multiple comments insisting that the video had to be fake, because the white shark got scared and quickly swam away as the diver approached it.