When trip leader Terry Steeley asked to run a photography workshop with shallow reefs, warm water, lots of bottom time and an abundant supply of sharks; Tiger Beach was the obvious destination. The Bahamians claim #itsbetterinthebahamas and it’s difficult to disagree! From the moment we dropped anchor, we enjoyed sharks from dawn to dusk; tiger sharks, countless carribean reef & lemon sharks, bull sharks, the über cute nurse sharks and an occasional cameo appearance from a shy great hammerhead. Did I mention the warm water Winter temperature was 26˚C/78.8F?
Check out dive
Our check out dive was at the anchor, home of the original Tiger Beach shark encounters. Lemon sharks are virtually guaranteed here and it’s the perfect location for divers unfamiliar with sharks to get acquainted, adjust dive weight and ensure that camera issues are identified and resolved. We had hoped to shoot some ‘lemon snaps’ at sunset from the back of the boat, but the ocean was too lumpy for the largest of domes, so we conceded defeat and vowed to try again later in the week. To moor overnight away from the wind, we retreated to a sheltered spot 40 minutes away.
Following the excitement of day 1 diving with lemon sharks, it was hugely disheartening to discover that bad weather had blown in overnight reducing the water clarity. This meant that we needed to hide from the wind for day 2 and all diving activities would be suspended. The unwelcome change in the weather proved to be a great opportunity to sit down with the guests and enjoy a day of learning. Discussing the principles of creating the ‘wow factor’ in our images, we also had the freedom to get ahead with post-processing, exploring the benefits of Adobe Bridge CC and Adobe Lightroom Classic.
The following morning delivered favorable diving conditions and we moved to Fish Tales, the ‘go-to-spot’ for reliable encounters with tiger sharks. Surprisingly, none of the guests had ever successfully dived with tiger sharks, and the crew were feeling the pressure to deliver a positive experience. Thankfully, the first feed of the day ticked the ‘bucket-list’ tiger shark box. Our luck continued throughout the day and the week, as we shared the ocean with as many as 8 tiger sharks on many of our dives.
It’s not just about the Tigers
Large numbers of tiger sharks are clearly the star of the show, but it would be a crime to miss out on the other fabulous encounters that the Bahamas can offer. Caribbean reef sharks remain a firm favorite amongst the group. Their sleek torpedo shaped bodies and rapid turn of speed establish them as an iconic shark and a real crowd pleaser.
Lemon sharks are everywhere and can often be found hanging around the bait crates for a cheap meal. They’re super relaxed and gracefully meander around under the boat. The biggest challenge with the lemons is capturing the opportune moment to photograph one in isolation. Patience is key and for those prepared to wait, the money shot will often be the reward.
Nurse sharks are plentiful on almost every dive. They’re an unassuming shark and frequently seen lying motionless on the seabed. However, due to their docile nature and tendency to hang around divers looking for a free meal, they’ve been labelled the ‘puppy dogs’ of the ocean. Their distinctive sucking sound is a huge giveaway when they’re searching for prey in the sand or attempting to vacuum fish heads out of the crates.
And, there’s more …
You can always find a friendly black grouper at Fish Tales.
After the weather hiccup of day 2, we enjoyed wonderful shark dives every day for the remainder of the trip. During the evenings, whenever the conditions were favourable we attempted to shoot ‘lemon snaps’. With two wranglers on the back deck, we were able to get 4 photographers at a time hunting for the elusive shot. The ocean wasn’t always as kind or as flat as we would have liked, but a few of the guests were lucky and bagged some terrific half and half shots. Persistence is the key for great split shots.
Once again the crew of the Dolphin Dream and the Bahamian sharks delivered us a great week. We can easily forget a single bad weather day after so many incredible shark encounters. A truly spectacular week of diving, photography and learning. We may have started the trip as strangers, but we certainly departed as friends. After two wonderful trips to the Tiger Beach in 2017, it’s difficult not to be excited for our 2018 trips.