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 probably wouldn’t even make the highest 500 causes to go to the nation! Nonetheless, for underwater photographers, particularly shark divers, France is likely one of the few locations on the planet the place you’ll be able to 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. The truth is, at first look, you can be forgiven for pondering the porbeagle is a mako or a salmon shark, as they appear fairly comparable. Like the opposite family members, porbeagles are endothermic, that means they’ll preserve a a lot greater physique temperature and survive within the chilly waters of the North Atlantic. With the ability to pump heat blood round their mind, organs and muscle tissue is a large benefit in a chilly water atmosphere. 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 maybe 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 Situations

Places that come to thoughts for shark diving may be the sunny, heat, shallow waters of Tiger Seashore 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 capability to freedive and get right down to shark stage.

In contrast to many shark diving locations, the area of France we visited is susceptible to giant 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 mild and the water was fairly darkish. We went with a analysis workforce and had been forbidden from utilizing strobes with the porbeagles so supplemental mild was a no-go. This meant compromises close to digital camera settings that had been lower than supreme. We had to make use of greater than regular ISOs (1000+ vary), wider than regular apertures, and slower than most well-liked shutter speeds.

As any wildlife photographer is aware of, it doesn’t matter what good belongings you say to your topic nor how laborious 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: Typically we had been diving right down to 35 toes to seize photos. In need of being a world-class freediver and holding your breath for minutes at a time, this fashion 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 intensely fast-paced; they’re the quickest shark within the ocean in any case. Or would the porbeagles behave extra like salmon sharks, that are very shy and much 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 much more inquisitive and curious than I anticipated and much more laid-back than makos, which I’ve spent a variety 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, and so they’ll maintain eye contact for a complete move as they cruise by. It was actually a tremendous and humbling expertise to share that type of second with such a implausible predator.

As with most sharks, paying shut consideration will assist you to choose 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 as a rule, 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 workforce has famous of their time learning 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 depart collectively.


A giant, 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 fee, and they’re listed by the IUCN as “Critically Endangered” within the northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea because of heavy fishing stress. The analysis workforce 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 gradual rise in porbeagle populations has been noticed.

Every day we’d enterprise out, the workforce would take movies and photos to establish as many particular person sharks as doable 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 workforce is looking for solutions to is why the north coast of France is so essential to porbeagles, as up to now 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 actually makes a compelling case for it! Brittany, France


Photographing Porbeagles

I virtually at all times {photograph} sharks with strobes. However, as beforehand talked about, the analysis workforce didn’t permit them. Maybe it might not have mattered a lot anyway. The water was so filled with particulates, any flashed photos 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 doable whereas nonetheless capturing your entire shark in your body. The Tokina on a crop-sensor digital camera additionally supplies 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 essential components of a picture within the corners, the large dome won’t 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 world is residence to numerous 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 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 move up. I think about different hardcore sharkers may 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, stress-free 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.