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Sharks of Beqa lagoon part 1: Tiger sharks

Sharks of Beqa lagoon part 1: Tiger sharks

Large female tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, known locally as Scarface, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000479.

Large female tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, known locally as Scarface, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000479.

Large female tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, known locally as Scarface, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000479. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
Beqa Lagoon is often described as the World’s best shark diving location and I, for one, would not dispute that. I dived here with Rusi, Papa, Andrew and the team from Beqa Action Divers. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these guys, I couldn’t have asked for a more conservation-orientated team with a great laid back attitide. At the same time the whole operation was extremely professional, making the diving run as smooth as clockwork. Above water the location is simply stunning; lush forest and magrove bordering the Navua River which empties into the sheltered lagoon. These are not, however,the crystal clear waters of , say, the Bahamas. In Fiji it rains a lot. A lot! River waters pour in to the lagoon; rarely seriously reducing visibility but just enough to reduce light levels and create slightly gloomy effect at depth. In my opinion this rather adds to the atmosphere of the place; a big tiger or bull shark appearing out of the gloom is somehow more impressive than one cruising across a bright sunlight seabed. The key location for bull sharks and tigers is near the outer edge of the lagoon, where it meets the open ocean, dropping into very deep water indeed. This has the advantage that you are furthest from the freshwater inputs, so the water is much clearer. Bulls and Tigers patrol the lower part of the reef slope, rising up to the ledge at about 30 metres (100 feet) at which the deepest part of the dive is conducted. I was generously allowed to position myself directly behind Tubee, who had the unenviable task of hand-feeding feeding the sharks with large chunks of tuna. I thus had a perfect view as they cruised in, then swept past overhead (sometimes requiring a slight nudge to help them clear me).
Close up of a large female Tiger Shark  known as;Scarface; swimming at around 30 metres depth, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji.  Image MBI000474.

Close up of a large female Tiger Shark known as 'Scarface' swimming at around 30 metres depth, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000474.

Close up of a large female Tiger Shark known as Scarface; swimming at around 30 metres depth, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000474. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
The tiger shark in these photographs is a lady known as scarface, due to the long scar running down from the right side of her jaw (the result of a fish hook). She is probably about 4-4.5 metres long (14-15 feet), so is a pretty big fish. She has been returning to the lagoon for several years, so is well known to the divers there. The first sign of her imminent appearance was the moving away of the bulls as they became aware of her presence; she then glided in to view, making a couple of circles to inspect the scene before deciding to head for the food. Although she has an impressive sense of smell her eyesight is not great; so provided you don’t move too much like food, or smell like food (slightly tricky when the water is full of tuna flakes) then you’re pretty much okay.
Large tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, swimming towards diver, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000486.

Large tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, swimming towards diver, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000486.

Large tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, swimming towards diver, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000486. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
Large female Tiger Shark, Scarface, swimming at around 30 metres depth, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000476.

Large female Tiger Shark 'Scarface' swimming at around 30 metres depth, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000476.

Large female Tiger Shark, Scarface, swimming at around 30 metres depth, Beqa Lagoon, Fiji. Image MBI000476. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.
I took these shots on film, my last serious trip underwater with a film camera. The plus side is they produced huge images (20+megapixel images). The down side was I only had 100iso film and so was really struggling with light; even with a fast, wide prime lens (20mm) I was still down at 15th of a second shutter speed thus had to be pretty steady to get useable shots. Just to add to my problems, the auto-manual focus switch on my housing stopped working, leaving me stuck in autofocus. In such low light, low contrast conditions the autofocus was hunting like crazy. After losing a couple of perfect shots due to the camera failing to focus in time I resorted to the technique of waiting until a shark was approaching, deciding on the distance I was going to take the pic, then turning and pointing the camera at some coral rubble by my side that was about the same distance, locking focus, then with shutter half depressed turning and shooting once the shark was close enough. Needless to say this drew some curious looks from my Fijian friends; why on earth was I staring at a lump of rock to the side of me when a big shark was heading straight towards me, but hey! It worked.
A large female tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, cruising near the seabed, beqa lagoon, Fiji. Image No. MBI000484

A large female tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, cruising near the seabed, beqa lagoon, Fiji. Image No. MBI000484


I plan to follow this up with a couple more blogs on other shark species found at Beqa. Watch this space.

Reflections on water

Reflections on water

Yachts silhouetted just before dawn, San Diego harbour. Image MBI000899.

Yachts silhouetted just before dawn, San Diego harbour. Image MBI000899.

San Diego Harbour just before dawn. San Diego, California, USA. Image No. MBI000889. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image.

Those of you with way too much time on their hands may have noticed that reflections on water is a recurring theme in my images. I know its a cliche, but hey! Cliche images only become so because they work. The images I’ve uploaded span a good few years; although most were taken in the past four, the Loch Ness image pre-dates that by quite some time. Consequently the pictures include both digital and film originated images. I’ve also chosen pictures from around the World: from San Diego’s bay-side to rural Devon,Southwest England, through to the Navua River creek at the southern tip of Fiji’s largest island Viti Levu, and back to the northern hemisphere to the shores of Loch Ness, northern Scotland during a particularly hard winter. You won’t find a great many bright summer days amongst my pictures. Not that I don’t enjoy the sun as much as anyone else, but it’s rarely dramatic. I much prefer the low light of dusk and dawn or winter days when the sun bobbles along the horizon, creating light and shadow that I can play with. Although I cut my teeth working underwater with a purely mechanical camera devoid of even a light meter, I’m not really a purist and will use Photoshop or whatever tools are at my disposal to enhance an image. To me it is not that different from dodging and burning photographic paper. However, you don’t great create a good image from a mediocre one straight out of the camera. For me at least, what I see through the lens in 95% of the final image and getting that image on to the camera’s sensor is 95% of the work. Everything after that is dressing. Two of the photographs were taken in the 30 minutes or so before dawn. For me that’s a magical time; very still, the World haven not fully woken. A not-so-magical time is when my alarm goes off at 4:30a.m., but if I do force myself out of bed it is often well worth the effort. The final image of Exeter historic quay was actually an evening shot, around 9p.m. on a warm evening in early June. The sun had just set, leaving a dramatic sky but with most of the quayside in deep shadow. To bring out this detail I created an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image as a composite from four seperate images covering (if memory serves me correctly) six full stops. The images were then processed using Photomatix and Photoshop. The hardest part of compilations like these are what to leave out. Thus reflections is a theme I will no doubt return to, with a ‘Reflections’ gallery up soon. All feedback, including reports of any gliches, most welcome.
Colin

The Turf Locks Pub, Turf Lock, Exeter Canal, Devon, England. Image No MBI000900

The Turf Locks Pub, Turf Lock, Exeter Canal, Devon, England. Image No MBI000900


The Turf Locks Pub, Turf Lock, Exeter Canal, Devon, England. Image No MBI000900. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to licence use of this image.
Yachts reflected on the calm waters of Exeter Canal on a winter's day. Image MBI000775.

Yachts reflected on the calm waters of Exeter Canal on a winter's day. Image MBI000775.


Yachts reflected on the calm waters of Exeter Canal on a winter’s day Image No. MBI000775. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to licence use of this image.
Sunrise over the Navua river near the mouth at Beqa Lagoon, Viti Levu, Fiji. Image MBI000583.

Sunrise over the Navua river near the mouth at Beqa Lagoon, Viti Levu, Fiji. Image MBI000583.


. Sunrise over the Navua River, Viti Levu, Fiji. Image No. MBI000583. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to licence use of this image.
Frozen birch trees and snow-capped mountains reflected on the waters of Loch Ness, Scotland,. Image MBI000124

Frozen birch trees and snow-capped mountains reflected on the waters of Loch Ness, Scotland,. Image MBI000124


Frozen birch trees and snow-capped mountains reflected on the waters of Loch Ness, Scotland. Image No. MBI000124. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to licence use of this image.
Exeter quayside at night. Exeter's historic quayside. Devon, England.

Exeter quayside at night. Exeter's historic quayside. Devon, England.


.Exeter quayside at night. Exeter’s historic quayside. Devon, England . Image No. MBI000890. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to licence use of this image.

Sunrise, Navua River, Viti Levu, Fiji

Sunrise, Navua River, Viti Levu, Fiji
Sunrise over the Navua river near the mouth at Beqa Lagoon, Viti Levu, Fiji.  Image MBI000583

Sunrise over the Navua river near the mouth at Beqa Lagoon, Viti Levu, Fiji. Image MBI000583

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to spend a little time on the islands of Fiji. This included a couple of days on the Navua river. I was there mostly to photograph bull and tiger sharks in Beqa Lagoon but the sheer beauty of the area was a real bonus. These shots were taken around 5am, just as the horizon began to lighten. It’s an incredibly tranquil place; the only sounds were the waking calls of a few parakeets and birds I did not recognise, plus the occasional ‘plop’ as a startled mudskipper dropped off a low hanging branch. I’ll be adding some of the Fiji landscapes to the prints for sale section of my website soon. if interested just email me.
As always my images are available to license. If you’d like to use one of my images please contact me

Sunrise and reflections, Navua river near the mouth at Beqa Lagoon, Viti Levu, Fiji.MBI000584

Sunrise and reflections, Navua river near the mouth at Beqa Lagoon, Viti Levu, Fiji.MBI000584