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 seemingly wouldn’t even make the highest 500 causes to go to the nation! Nevertheless, for underwater photographers, particularly shark divers, France is among 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 good white, salmon shark, and mako. Actually, at first look, you might be forgiven for pondering the porbeagle is a mako or a salmon shark, as they give the impression of being fairly related. Like the opposite family members, porbeagles are endothermic, which means they’ll preserve 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 muscle groups is a big benefit in a chilly water atmosphere. Actually, 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 below 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 could be the sunny, heat, shallow waters of Tiger Seashore within the Bahamas, or the intense blue Gulf Stream off Florida, or possibly the crystal-clear waters of Tahiti. Chilly-water-loving porbeagles don’t make it fairly really easy. Once I visited France in June, my dive laptop learn 55°F (13°C) on the floor. Correct publicity gear is an absolute should. You may’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 possibility however that may all however remove 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 liable 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 means of far much less mild and the water was fairly darkish. We went with a analysis workforce and have been forbidden from utilizing strobes with the porbeagles so supplemental mild was a no-go. This meant compromises close to digicam settings that have been lower than ideally suited. We had to make use of larger 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 stuff you say to your topic nor how arduous you silently implore them to cooperate, it doesn’t at all times work. Porbeagles very hardly ever come all the way in which to the floor: Typically we have been diving right down to 35 ft to seize photos. In need of being a world-class freediver and holding your breath for minutes at a time, this model of taking pictures severely restricts your photographic alternatives.


A feminine porbeagle cruising by within the murk, Brittany, France



Few folks have expertise with porbeagles within the water. This made the journey thrilling but additionally 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 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 plenty of time within the water with. Porbeagles have large eyes and in individual 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 whole move as they cruise by. It was really a tremendous and humbling expertise to share that form of second with such a implausible predator.

As with most sharks, paying shut consideration will can 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 have been capable of have extra profitable freedive periods. I discovered a weirdly profitable method: I’d dive down, stay in place, and shake my digicam, 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 workforce has famous of their time learning the sharks—and we witnessed it ourselves—that not like most mackerel sharks, which are usually loners, porbeagles are sometimes seen touring collectively. Actually, 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 digicam 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 attributable to heavy fishing strain. 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 few years, a sluggish rise in porbeagle populations has been noticed.

Every day we’d enterprise out, the workforce would take movies and footage to establish as many particular person sharks as doable by means of patterns, scars, and so forth. Laser measurements have been taken of every shark to find out dimension precisely and sometimes they have 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 necessary to porbeagles, as up to now there is no such thing as a actual idea as to why it’s a hotspot for these sharks. Maybe a pupping floor? Apparently, 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 at all times {photograph} sharks with strobes. However, as beforehand talked about, the analysis workforce didn’t enable them. Maybe it will 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 can help you stand up shut and private to your topic and remove as a lot murky water as doable whereas nonetheless capturing the complete shark in your body. The Tokina on a crop-sensor digicam additionally gives simply that little little bit of zoom vary if the sharks aren’t fairly shut sufficient for the complete 180 levels.

For freediving-specific shark journeys, I usually discover the 4-inch mini-dome to be the most suitable 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 necessary parts 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


Remaining Ideas

Whereas porbeagles have been the entire level of our journey, the world is dwelling to a number of different fascinating marine life. Every day, we did a scuba dive at a marine sanctuary and have 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 listing earlier than however possibly, simply possibly, it’s value taking a visit. The prospect to {photograph} the “phantom of the North Atlantic” was too good for me to move 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, stress-free within the kelp, Brittany, France


Marbled torpedo ray, camouflaged on the ocean ground, 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.