Underwater photographer swims with sharks for the perfect capture

© Tanya Houppermans


Rows of jagged teeth make sand tiger sharks look vicious, but they’re actually quite docile, says underwater and outdoor photographer Tanya Houppermans. She captured this image of a sand tiger shark 15 miles off the coast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina as it swam slowly through a massive school of tiny fish. “To get this image, I swam on my back underneath the shark only a few feet away. As I swam with her, the fish parted way, giving me a clear shot of the shark.”

“The most difficult part about getting this shot was selecting the power and placement of my strobes to ensure even lighting without blowing out the highlights on the tiny fish, which is very easy to do because their skin is so reflective,” says Houppermans. To prevent this from happening, she placed strobes 12 inches away from her camera housing on each side and set them to about one-third power. “I also used a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the shark and all the fish, which also brings out more details in the image.”

Equipment: Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens, Nauticam NA-EM1 housing, Zen DP-170 170mm Optical Glass Dome Port, i-Divesite Symbiosis SS-2 strobes

Exposure: 1/250 second at f/3.5, ISO 320

Amanda Arnold is associate editor of Professional Photographer.