Story Behind the Shot: "Shout"

How do you Capture a Dynamic & Exciting Shark Photo?
By Allen Walker

The photograph "Shout" was taken off Aliwal Shoal at a spot known as Shark Park to help promote shark conservation and encourage underwater photographers to visit South Africa and to establish KZN as a prime destination for shark photography. 

Location of the photo: "Shark Park", Aliwal Shoal MPA, Rocky Bay, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

So what is involved in getting an image of this nature?

  • A good team

  • Preparation

  • Suitable conditions

  • Subject knowledge

  • Execution


Shark photo in Aliwal Shoal South Africa


A Good Team:

As in all wildlife photography, it often takes a team to capture an image. As the photographer you have to be able to seize the moment that all the elements come together and take the shot. Not only is missing the shot disappointing, but also a huge let down to the TEAM who made it possible. For shark diving and creating awesome images it is imperative to have a good team that understands the requirements, including a good skipper, a good bait man and a good observer who keeps you informed of the sharks all around you!

The skipper must ensure the boat lies correctly and doesn't interfere with the photo (i.e. into or away from the sun, with the current or against it). The bait man needs to be accurate and precise once he has been able to draw sharks in, as he controls the activity of the sharks and their movement. The observer is there for safety and ensures that the photographer is constantly aware of all the sharks around the camera.



It is important to ensure that everything is prepared and ready - you cannot mess around with gear on the boat and if you have left something behind then it will mean you either do without it or you go all the way back and fetch it (where time and fuel add up quickly).

Furthermore, preparation is not just about the boat, bait, skipper and conditions - it is about a pre-conceived image. You need to plan the shot you want in order to ensure you have everything you need to make the shot possible.



Doing photography work on a boat and on the surface is not a good idea if the conditions are not right. In our case, an 8 meter semi-rigid inflatable is the norm for diving, and they are not the most stable boat in rough conditions. Ensure you have chosen the correct dive days by using local knowledge of the weather and ocean conditions and trust their advice on whether or not to go out or postpone for a better day.

Visibility & strong current are also important factors to take into account. Visibility less than 5m and current stronger than 1.5 knots can present challenging conditions. Most importantly, if you are not seasoned to work in these conditions then DON'T!


Subject Knowledge:

The most important aspect of photographing and working with sharks is “Subject Knowledge!" Yes these are wild animals and like so many people say and believe, you cannot predict what an wild animal will do. I beg to differ; a good understanding of the animal and its behavior will ultimately get you the shot you are looking for. It is the knowledge about the animal that will give you the confidence to delay the shot a few split seconds, which is the difference between good and great. If you do not have that knowledge, ensure you are with someone that does as this will really make the difference.



This is it, time to put your idea into frame and capture it for the world to see. Here are a few tips:

  • Be patient
  • Let your team do the work - odds are they have much more experience at their jobs than you do.
  • Ensure your settings are correct for the conditions. Shoot test shots with your hand about 30cm of the dome port in the water and counter check the colours on camera to reality (i.e. colours of your hand above water).
  • When working with the actual animals ensure you wear dark gloves.
  • Tether the camera to a secure buckle on your BC or on the boat, depending whether you are swimming or hanging over the side.
  • Listen to your spotter to know what is happening and where the sharks are coming from, and always focus on what is in front of you!!! Do NOT take your eye off the ball (sharks) at any given time when there is bait in the water.
  • Continually wipe dome port to ensure it is free of bubbles.
  • Keep the animals as calm as possible when baiting - big splashes and chaos results in zero images.
  • Always have one person spotting for the cameraman to help direct him/her find the action while managing the camera gear.
  • Control amount of bait in the water.
  • No more than 1 to 2 pieces of bait at a time or it becomes dangerous since the photographer cannot watch all the bait.
  • When photographing from the boat the photographers get a false sense of security. They must remember stay vigilant - if they want to talk or ask questions camera must be lifted out of the water. This is VERY IMPORTANT!!!
  • TAKE THE SHOT, SEIZE THE MOMENT!!! Do not get disappointed; it could take days, months, years to get the shot you want, but think of it this way: every shot you do get may not be the shot you want, but it is a shot you have got that no one else has!


The result:

A crazy cool image that will make your heart fill with pride and show the beauty sharks to the world!


Tech Info:

Camera:  Canon 7D
Lens:  EF 8-15mm f/4L FISHEYE USM
Housing:  Hugyfot
Port:  Zen
Strobes: I non
Focal Length:  9mm
Shutter:  1/160
Apeture:  F11
ISO:  320
Strobe Setting:  Manual – 5.6 (Half Power)
Subject Distance:  0.3m
White Balance:  Manual
Metering:  Spot
Focus:  AI Servo
Shot:  Multi Hi



About the Author

Diving has been part of photographer Allen Walker's life for many years. After picking up a camera in 2007, Allen quickly strove to portray the beauty of the ocean and now sells imagery and works on commercial shoots around the world. He also works hard to support local and worldwide conservation issues.  Allen Walker Photography



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