(Video Clip Enclosed)
Photo of the Week
A common gray reef shark or Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos, from 'Shark Pass', Truk Lagoon, FSM. Taken with an Olympus 5050 (5MP) point & shoot camera with a wide angle wetmate lens. © Copyright 2006
Just a Few Words First
After returning from a fantastic week of skiing in the beautiful mountains of Montana, I have had to motivate myself to remove my head out of the mountain clouds and back in to the world of underwater photography. Living sea side in high humidity and moderate climate is the polar opposite of living at 8,000 feet of altitude in the snowy cold dry air of the mountains, but enjoyable all the same. The scenery from both is stunning and skiing lifestyle for me is as appealing as diving. One day I hope to be able to share equal time in both regions doing the things I love to do most in life. Diversity, after all, is "the spice of life". Meanwhile, I wait with anticipation, here in Beaufort, NC for the dive season to begin for me in April. Yes, I will be returning as captain of the 'Midnight Express' with Olympus Dive Center for the 2012 season. I look forward to seeing you all here for some world class wreck diving.
In this weeks Blog I continue on with my Top Ten Dives of all time with Truk Lagoon's Shark Pass taking the No. 8 spot. Shark Pass is located on the outer reef and is visited only on special occasions to see up and close the gray reefs, black tips and silver tip sharks that dwell there.
Photo Tip of the Week
Information is a powerful commodity. In this weeks Photo Tip of the Week, find out one way to obtain information that will most certainly improve your photography. It's not rocket science, but I am amazed at how few utilize this resource. Please scroll to the bottom to learn more.
Old but important news:
If you haven't already, please sign up for my Dive & Photo Newsletter here. I should have a new edition out this week. Within the newsletter you will find stories and current events in diving and marine conservation and updates on what is happening in my part of the dive world. Here is a copy of the last edition.
Just a reminder to all of you who are planning on attending the Beneath the Sea Dive Expo in New Jersey this March, I will be presenting and conducting a photo workshop titled, Wreck Photography Techniques: Wide Angle to Macro. I will also be conducting presentations on my documentary film, "The Wrecks of Truk Lagoon" and one on "Wreck Diving with Sand Tiger Sharks of NC". Click here for more details or check out the newsletter above.
Happy Diving and Skiing!
Mike's Top Ten Dives
Shark Pass - Outer Reef, Truk Lagoon
|A gray reef shark commonly seen at |
Shark Pass in Truk Lagoon.
First off, this No. 8 top dive in actuality is not just a single dive experience, but the sum of all my dive experiences from this dive site. Nearly every one of the dives done there was as exciting as the others. So how do I pick just one? I don't. It's my list so I get to make the rules.
While working in Truk Lagoon from 2003 until 2008 on board the Truk Aggressor II as a second captain, we took divers to a small reef within the lagoon known for an abundant shark population, named Shark Shoal Maru. Most were eager to take a break from wrecks and get their taste of what reef diving was like in Truk. This was a great dive site, but not as dramatic as the one we did from my next liveaboard job in Truk. Years later, working as captain of the M/V Odyssey, we took divers to an isolated part of the outer reef for their shark experience. This place was nicknamed, Shark Pass. In order to get to it I would have to take a 133' vessel through a narrow and shallow pass through the barrier reef in to the Pacific Ocean and anchor up close to the reef atop a sheer wall that plunged several thousand feet down. When the wind was blowing in the correct direction our stern would hang over the wall 60 feet below, but if it were blowing the wrong direction the stern was precariously close to the reef in only a few feet of water. Needless to say, this dive was strictly weather dependent.
|The smaller black tip sharks were regular participants|
in the melee, but rarely won any of the spoils.
|A shark tamer readying for the show.|
What proceeded each and every time the fish entered the water was a perfect demonstration of apex predators at work. Immediately, a shark would latch on to the tuna and start shaking violently back and forth while it's rows of razor sharp teeth sawed through the frozen carcass. Once a piece had broken off another shark would come in swiftly to pick up where his predecessor left off. This often happened in rapid fire sequence with not all of the sharks getting a piece of dinner. In the mean while, hundreds of smaller fish swarmed about the feed area picking out the small scraps from the water column. Nothing went to waste. Frequently, majestic silver tip sharks would show up to the frenzy. At sometimes ten feet in length these sharks dwarfed even the largest of the gray reef sharks. For reasons I do not understand, these larger sharks tended to circle around the perimeter of the excitement using more caution before approaching the bait. Most often they were not successful at landing a meal, but every once in a while they would succeed putting to shame the bitty gray reef sharks. Watch the video link below for a prime example of what I am saying.
|One of my earliest photos from 2006 at the|
Truk Aggressor II dive site, Shark Shoal Maru.
After repeating the process a second time within 15 minutes the feed would be over and all were left to explore the outer reef and the wall beneath them. I usually returned to the boat to unload my video camera from the housing to capture the excitement of the divers as they returned from the dive. Rarely did a diver return to the boat and not display signs of an adrenaline rush. Wreck diving has it's own form of excitement, but it is most definitely on a different level than being in the middle of three dozen ravenous sharks going ape on a dead fish. These wreck diving aficionados had just found out that Truk Lagoon is certainly much more than just a wreck diving destination.
"Seeing is believing."
Here is a video montage of some of my best
Shark Pass moments at Truk Lagoon.
©Copyright 2011; Mike Gerken; www.evolutionunderwater.com
After leaving Truk Lagoon in 2008, I am not aware if any of the dive operators are offering shark diving on a regular basis. I would recommend contacting the operator directly to inquire first before visiting.
Photo Tip of the Week
If you want to know the where, what and when's of photographic subject matter on a dive site, I highly recommend you listen to the dive briefing if you don't already. Listening to the guys and gals who know the dive sites like the back of their hand is a sure fire way to find out what is hot and what is not. Most often the person briefing (that would be me in this case) is a keen photographer or videographer who is willing to share some of their secrets with you. Even if the person is not a photographer they will have enough knowledge to assist you in finding what you seek. It is also imperative to ask as many questions as the dive leader or person doing the briefing will answer. ie Where is the best place to find sharks? Is the wreck intact? What is the most photogenic part of the wreck? etc etc. Don't be afraid to find out the important details that will benefit you photography and maximize your bottom time. I know for one that I will share what I know in the name of photography.
Over the years, I am astonished at how few questions photographers on my boats ask me about subject matter and how to find it. I once volunteered information unsolicited, but stopped doing so when most were not interested. This isn't always the case though. Surprisingly, it is usually the most accomplished professional photographers who seek local knowledge of a dive site from me. These photographers have learned over the years that it is the locals who can steer you in the right direction towards award winning publishing quality images. The same goes for me as well.
When I dived the Maldives in 2008, it was a local dive guide and photographer, Moosa, who worked on board the liveaboard dive vessel, Manthiri, who was invaluable to me in obtaining some great images. I picked his brain as much as I could during the week long stay on board. I knew this guy had a strong knowledge of the region and I wanted a piece of it. "What lens should I shoot on this dive?", I would ask Moosa beforehand. He would say, "use your 16mm fisheye. There is a large Napolean Wrasse down there that loves having his photo taken". Sure enough I had a field day shooting 'George' a tame wrasse the size of a Toyota Prius. One of the photos that I took landed on the cover of Sport Diver Magazine in Aug of 2010. If I had brought my 60mm or even my 10.5mm fisheye I may not have gotten the shot I wanted. Thanks Moosa!
|The cover of Sport Diver Magazine.|
Aug 2010 Edition.
In short, do your homework, learn a dive site before you get there, read books, talk to other photographers and most of all listen to the dive briefings and ask lots of questions. Besides, the briefings are not just for dive information, but have lots of important safety advice as well. I may regret ever posting this piece since I may get inundated with questions now, but that's ok since I love talking shop. One word of warning though, once you get me rambling on about photography you may have a hard time getting me to shut up.
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to peruse his portfolio of underwater photography, view his video excerpts from his documentary films and purchase fine art prints from his online gallery.
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