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 could be 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 without doubt one of the few locations on the planet the place you possibly can come head to head with a hardly ever seen and much more hardly ever 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. The truth is, at first look, you might be forgiven for considering the porbeagle is a mako or a salmon shark, as they appear fairly comparable. Like the opposite family members, porbeagles are endothermic, which means they’ll keep a a lot larger physique temperature and survive within the chilly waters of the North Atlantic. Having the ability to pump heat blood round their mind, organs and muscular tissues is a large benefit in a chilly water setting. The truth is, porbeagles have been present in water as chilly as 34°F (1°C)! Their elusivity and choice for darkish, chilly water is probably the rationale 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 Situations

Places that come to thoughts for shark diving could be the sunny, heat, shallow waters of Tiger Seashore within the Bahamas, or the intense blue Gulf Stream off Florida, or perhaps 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 possibly can’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 possibility however that can 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 subsequently ranges from poor to nonexistent. We bought comparatively fortunate on our journey and had merely poor visibility, however murky water lets by way of far much less gentle and the water was fairly darkish. We went with a analysis crew and had been forbidden from utilizing strobes with the porbeagles so supplemental gentle was a no-go. This meant compromises close to digital camera settings that had been lower than superb. We had to make use of larger 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 arduous you silently implore them to cooperate, it doesn’t all the time work. Porbeagles very hardly ever come all the way in which 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 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 in addition meant we arrived in France with no thought how the sharks would really 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 loads of time within the water with. Porbeagles have large eyes and in particular person they’re extremely emotive. There isn’t any mistaking when a porbeagle is locking eyes with you, they usually’ll maintain eye contact for a complete cross as they cruise by. It was really an incredible and humbling expertise to share that form of second with such a implausible predator.

As with most sharks, paying shut consideration will help you 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 approach: 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 as a rule, 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 crew has famous of their time finding out the sharks—and we witnessed it ourselves—that in contrast to most mackerel sharks, which are usually loners, porbeagles are sometimes seen touring collectively. The truth is, each single time a number of sharks confirmed up on a dive, they’d arrive collectively and go away collectively.


An enormous, battle-scarred porbeagle eyeballs the digital camera as she passes by, Brittany, France



Over earlier a long time, porbeagle shark populations had been declining at an alarming price, and they’re listed by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered” within the northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea as a consequence of heavy fishing stress. The analysis crew 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 few years, a gradual rise in porbeagle populations has been noticed.

Every day we’d enterprise out, the crew would take movies and photos to determine as many particular person sharks as attainable by way of patterns, scars, and so forth. Laser measurements had been taken of every shark to find out measurement precisely and infrequently they had been capable of take pores and skin samples to do DNA testing. A query the crew is looking for solutions to is why the north coast of France is so vital 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? 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 all the time {photograph} sharks with strobes. However, as beforehand talked about, the analysis crew didn’t enable them. Maybe it will not have mattered a lot anyway. The water was so stuffed with particulates, any flashed pictures might need seemed 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 help you stand up shut and private to your topic and remove as a lot murky water as attainable whereas nonetheless capturing your entire 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 vital parts of a picture within the corners, the large dome is not going to present a lot of a picture high quality benefit anyway.


A porbeagle makes a pinpoint flip, Brittany, France


Last Ideas

Whereas porbeagles had been the entire level of our journey, the realm is house to a number of different attention-grabbing 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 perhaps, simply perhaps, it’s price taking a visit. The possibility to {photograph} the “phantom of the North Atlantic” was too good for me to cross up. I think about different hardcore sharkers would possibly really feel the identical.


France isn’t solely about porbeagle sharks. Diminutive noticed catsharks might 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.