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The great white shark !!

 Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
• PT-EP14 • PPO-E04 • 2 x UFL-3

On my second trip to Guadeloupe I wanted to capture the behaviour of the great white shark in my pictures. With the help of my results as well as the information provided by the scientists who work with these animals, I wanted to explain or rather express the importance that these special animals have in the ecosystem and show what is being done to protect them.

Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO • MC-14

The great white shark is an alpha predator that is at the top of the food chain and that, in theory, should not be at risk because it has barely any natural predators. Unfortunately, the great white shark is still on the red list of the worldwide endangered species due to direct or accidental catches in fishing nets, the constant pollution of the seas and the warming or narrowing of their natural habitat. This makes us humans their main predator.

Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
• PT-EP14 • PPO-E04 • 2 x UFL-3

The great white shark has 6 very developed senses:

  • Taste: The taste makes it possible to differentiate the flavours between pleasant and unpleasant.
  • Hearing: The shark’s ear can hear sounds up to 10 Hz, an imperceptible frequency even for cats.
  • Sight: Its sight is perfect, although the shark can only see in green colour due to the internal configuration of its eye
  • Smell: The great white shark has the most accurate smell of all sharks because its olfactory lobes represent 18% of its brain.
  • Lorenzini's ampules: These are electro receptors located from the nose to the eye that allow the shark to detect its prey outside of its visual range. 
    With this sense it can detect anything from the heartbeat of any creature around up to the magnetic fields of the earth, which grants additional orientation.
  • Lateral line: These are pores throughout the shark’s body that send information about all the fixed and mobile objects that are around it. This helps the animal to locate possible preys even if it does not see them or if they are static.
    The great white shark has between 4 and 6 rows of teeth that are constantly changing, throughout its life, as it feeds. The jaws are not attached to the skull, so at the time of an attack they can be dropped to make its bite have a larger diameter . Thanks to the power of them, around 1.8 tons per square cm, it can ingest up to 14 kg of meat within a single bite.

Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
• PT-EP14 • PPO-E04 • 2 x UFL-3

It is estimated that there are 550 shark species being fundamental pieces in the balance of the marine ecosystem. They eat weak, old, injured animals, the slowest or sickest and, of course, dead corpses. When sharks disappear from an area or their population decreases substantially, it affects each and every one of the levels of the food chain. Tuna, for example, is a fast and voracious predator that eats other fish, many of them herbivores. When the population of herbivores decreases, the algae that cover the seabed proliferates rapidly, suffocating the life in the bottom. Another example is that rays proliferate exponentially annihilating the population of molluscs. There are coastal localities that live exclusively from the collection and sale of the same, so their source of income disappears. These two examples teach us that each species fulfills its purpose and that nothing is random, every creature has its place and will be where it needs to be.

Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
• PT-EP14 • PPO-E04 • 2 x UFL-3

In contrast to what happens when you see a whale or a dolphin trying to return to the sea when they are in shallow waters near the beaches, the sighting of a shark puts a whole procedure in motion to give chase and "eliminate "the potential danger. To a large extent, the film industry has been the culprit of the popular image of the great white shark as a killer and man-eater and which couldn’t be further from reality. Statistically, sharks kill 5 people a year all over the planet and those same statistics determine that there are 22 human deaths due to the interaction with cows, 20 with horses, 25 with dogs, 23 with ants, 2.900 with hippos and 725.000 with mosquito bites. If we take into account the number of people that go into the water every day worldwide, and that there are sharks in all seas although we do not see them, we will see that these statistics show that we do not interest them, that we are not part of their diet and that the attacks that occur, mostly to surfers, are accidents in which the shark confuses the board with a seal or sea lion, a very important part in their diet.

There is increasing awareness and there are more public and private organizations working in the direction of protection and awareness of the importance of preserving sharks for the balance of the ocean and its function within it. In Guadeloupe, there is a scientific team that works in two different fields, shark marking and tissue extraction for analysis. The marking is done by acoustic telemetry in which the shark carries micro-antennas on the fins that provide information on depth, water temperature, speed and other behavioural habits. Satellite telemetry provides fundamental information on how and where the sharks move. The biopsies, which are done with a Hawaiian spear modified at its end to extract piles and muscle, try to establish, among other parameters, the levels of contamination to which great white sharks are exposed to. In the samples, pesticides have been detected, traces of lead and even DDT pesticide used decades ago, totally prohibited at present, but that remains in the waters of the seas and oceans as it is not biodegradable.

Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 PRO 

From the purely photographic point of view, my travels have changed substantially since I stopped working with DSLR and started using Olympus mirrorless. Now I have less than half the weight and volume I had before and some benefits, at the time of capturing, above what I had with the DSLR.

For this work I had the following equipment in my photo backpack:
To work in water: Olympus OM-D E M1 Mark II with M..Zuiko 7-14mm F 2.8 PRO, 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lenses inside the Olympus PT-EP14 waterproof case as well as an Olympus TG-5 with its corresponding PT-058 waterproof case.
For ground work another body of OM-D E M1 Mark II with M. Zuiko objectives 12-100mm F4.0 PRO and 40-150mm F2.8 PRO with duplicator.
The action on the surface occurs when the shark tries to capture the bait that is tied to a line and a buoy so that it doesn’t sink.

 Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 PRO 

This action (impossible to foresee because in this case, the great white shark attacks from the bottom and very quickly) was the right situation to test the Olympus Pro Capture in action. It’s a shooting mode that allows you, without releasing the pre-focus of the camera, to capture a series of photos, up to 85 RAW, with a single shot. I programmed the camera to 10 frames so that the recording on the memory card was fast. I set the ISO to 1000 because it was already late in the afternoon and I wanted high shutter speed. I was waiting for some shark to come close and take the body out of the water and, on the third attempt (the first two times I neither liked the framing nor the angle of my capture), I achieved the pursued picture: The shark appeared diagonally, almost completely out of the water. I had mounted the M. Zuiko 12-100mm F4 PRO and shot in 24mm at 1/1500 and f8.

Juan José Saéz • OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 PRO 

In the water, the visibility is about 40 meters and natural light makes photography a pleasure because you only have to take care of measuring light, frame and shoot. There are boats where they still use flashes but they recommend you not to do so as to not disturb the sharks and I evidently did not use my flashes. Both the 12-40mm and the 7-14mm lenses are very bright lenses with a high purity in the lenses, allowing to capture high quality photos in the water, but the small TG-5 is not far behind. Using the P mode that allows us to set the ISO we need and compensating the exposure if necessary, you can make very correct photos. The submarine modes can also be used but as the ISO is automatic, you can easily get a lot of noise in your photos in the event that the light falls. 

Guadeloupe is, without any doubt, the best destination to see and photograph the great white shark. When you have been in front of it, observing an animal so powerful and so valuable to the ecosystem while still so utterly vulnerable, a thought will form in your head : "We must be aware that sharks are essential in the oceans and that the only danger they represent for humans is their disappearance."


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