Close encounter with a great hammerhead shark

During my first shark expedition back in June of 2002, I watched from underwater as a 10' great hammerhead shark dropped its pectoral fins and charged a diver only moments after she slipped nto the water. It turned away long before it reached her, but it was still a pretty scary moment (she never saw the shark, despite our regulator screams). In February of 2003, I joined the Dive Magazine guys on a special trip to the Bahamas to photograph great hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran), tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas). It was my first winter shark trip, and my second shark trip ever.

On February 21, we had an 11' great hammerhead swimming calmly around the boat for hours. I had already been in the water a few times, but upon the third or fourth time entering the water, the shark turned quickly, dropped its pectoral fins, and swam at me with a burst of speed. I didn't have much time to react, but I did manage to take a couple of photos:


A great hammerhead shark charges at me as I hit the water.
I had no time to focus or compose -- I just snapped the shutter button when I saw it coming.


In this frame, the shark is curved around me and had already bumped me once.
I am holding my camera sideways and pushing the shark away.
Hitting the shutter button was an added bonus. :)

I'm glad I found these photos. For years, I thought I had lost them, but they turned up during my recent attempts to use Aperture to manage my library.

Anyway, the point of this post is to encourage divers to have their camera ready to go before they enter the water. I had my exposure set properly, but I not prepared to focus!

A second point to consider: for shark photography, larger cameras are better than smaller ones. I love that my camera is large enough so that when I plant it between me and a shark, I feel relatively safe. :)