Great White Shark Photography

Started Jan 16, 2014 | Discussions thread
PepsiCan Contributing Member • Posts: 739
Re: Great White Shark Photography

Chris 88 wrote:

(this is reposted on recommendation from the Nature and Wildlife Forum)

In a few months I will be charting a boat out of Cape Town South Africa to photograph great white sharks. One of the behaviours I hope to capture is the famous breaching where the shark leaps from the sea. In order to induce this a fake seal will be dragged behind the boat.

What I would like is advise on what lens, settings, and techniques I should use with my D7100 (not yet got).

The variables are as follow. The rope with the decoy on is 10-15 meters so that is my distance to the subject. The average great white is 4-5.2m, so that will be the size of the subject. The subject will be moving as approximately 25mph and will be airborne (visible) for 1.2s.

At the moment I'm thinking the Nikon Af-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens. That is probably the most I can push my budget. Part of me thinks if I'm going to get an FX lens I might as well get a D610 to go with it but let me know what you think.

I'd always choose the D7100 over a D610 for this. For one reason only: focus. The 51 point system in the D7100 is a derivative of the D800/D4 focus system, while the D610 sports an FX version of the D7000 auto focus system. Note that the D7100 does have a small buffer so get the Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards for sure. Also, set up your camera to use minimum buffer space. So, shoot JPEG or RAW (not both), turn off lens correction and ADL when shooting RAWS to get the smallest RAWs. You could even switch to 12-bit RAW, although that may lose you image quality (but noticeably....?).

Other settings:

Matrix metering


Use AE/AL button as AF-ON (and move exposure locking to one of the function buttons.

Use 9 or 21 point AF

Shoot M or S mode.

Crank up ISO if needed.

Ensure the boat follows a path that gets you best light. You'll want the sun in your back and not too much refelection in the water where the shark will surface. Morning and afternoon sun gets you best contrast.

Like the other posters, I'd measure things out and use comparable lenses to try out the framing or rent a lens to do so. Also, practise, practise practise.

Will you get an advance warning that a shark is about to bite or will you only know when the shark surfaces? What kind of shots do you want? Close ups? Whole shark? Shark plus surroundings? Do you want a series, i.e. capture the shark throughout its flight path? The answer to these may impact the choice of lens. As you can't reposition yourself easily I would go with a zoom, rather than a prime.

 PepsiCan's gear list:PepsiCan's gear list
Canon PowerShot S95 Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Nikon D7100 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm F1.8G +5 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum PPrevious NNext WNext unread UUpvote SSubscribe RReply QQuote BBookmark MMy threads
Color scheme? Blue / Yellow