Photo & Text by Mike Gerken
©All Rights Reserved
Sand Tiger Shark with bait on the Wreck of the Caribsea, NC.
Taking impressive underwater images is as much about being in the right place at the right time than anything else. Your chances of discovering the "magic moments" increase exponentially the more you dive. It's a simple numbers game. Of course having the skills and proper hardware are of utmost importance but, even the most expensive camera gear won't take great images if it is sitting on the bench at home. Get up off the couch, get out there and allocate as much time and resources as you can afford to your pursuit of underwater photography.
Another important element to this formula is diving in locales known to have superior subject matter to photograph. For example, attempting to shoot shipwrecks in the "mud hole" off the New Jersey coast may be a waste of time. The chances of the visibility improving enough to take a photo of even a small part of the wreck may be slim. This is one of the reasons I enjoy photographing the wrecks of North Carolina. The region is subject to warm clear Gulf Stream waters offering some days with visibility in excess of 100' and with abundant marine life to boot. The photo highlighted above was one such day.
The wreck of the Caribsea located on the eastern side of Lookout Shoals is notorious for its large population of sharks and dense biomass. It is being able to see and photograph this marine life that is the trick, for the dive site is also renown for sporadic bouts of green water and low visibility. When I used to captain the dive boat, Midnight Express with Olympus Dive Center, it was always a crap shoot to take passengers to dive the Caribsea. If the conditions were exceptional I was the hero that day. If they were terrible, I was a zero! But knowing what I knew, I normally would opt to go. It was worth the risk.
The day in 2012 that I took the photo above I recollect with great fondness. Dozens of sand tigers were swimming gently in the gin clear blue water above the wreck with dense schools of bait pulsating around the them. It was mesmerizing; a truly existential moment. All the best conditions came together at the same time. It was sensational. It didn't take long before a shark enveloped in bait began it's approach towards me. At the last moment it turned and just then the school of bait began to pulsate as if it were a single living breathing entity. The fish were orchestrated perfectly while the shark was oblivious to the spectacle taking place around it. I knew after the shot that it was a keeper without looking at the LCD.
Since that day, I have had many successful photographic dives on the Caribsea with numerous images on display in this web site. These exceptional dives and many others like it have indelibly etched this wreck in the books as my all-time favorite dive site. For me, it's a special place where the positive results of one good day far outweigh the poor ones. Remember, you gotta be in it to win it!
Please join me for the
Please view the documentary below, "Wreck Denizens of North Carolina" for more insight and stunning video of this animals behavior.
Wreck Denizens of North Carolina - The Documentary
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