For wildlife photographer Chris Knight, there's nothing like being within arm's reach of a large shark. A childhood fascination with the movie Jaws inspired him to learn more about these apex underwater predators. During a recent trip to Guadalupe Island (the very same place where the infamous "Deep Blue" was last seen), Knight snapped this shot of a great white as it swam away. It's easily one of the most beautiful shark photographs we've ever seen.

Image: Chris Knight/Used with permission

Knight had spent four days in the water attempting to land the "perfect shot" of a white shark from the front, but it wasn't until he reviewed his camera roll on the big screen that he realised he was worrying about the wrong end.

"The photo has had a great reception from many people as it's not an angle of a great white that you often see," he says. "I really hope that people who don't know much about sharks, or who are not particularly into them, see my images and something inside them says 'wow, that is a beautiful and amazing creature'," he says. "I think it is important for people to be more aware and educated about sharks these days as overfishing and shark finning have driven some species close to extinction. I also want people to know that I had to get in the water with that shark to catch that image and yes, I'm still alive. They are definitely not the mindless killers that some people believe them to be."

Image: Chris Knight/Used with permission

Interested in photographing sharks for yourself? Knight has your back. He's given us some pointers for anyone thinking about taking the plunge: 

1. Start small

Experienced as he is now, it might come as a surprise to learn that Knight's first interaction with a shark was actually at an aquarium. "From then on, I was hooked," he says. "I saved all my money for marine research programmes and specialist shark-diving expeditions. Obviously wanting some mementos, I started taking photos with my basic compact camera in an underwater case. Only as time went on did I learn more about photography and upgrade my equipment."

Image: Chris Knight/Used with permission

2. Dive, don't snorkel

Most shark bites are a case of mistaken identity. A shark can see you very well when you're underwater and is less likely to mistake you for its prey. When you're hanging around at the surface, your sihouette can be confusing.  

3. Learn about the animals you're photographing

Learning about sharks, and how to interact with them, is the best way to make sure your photography experience is a good one. "I have been lucky enough to dive with may species of sharks all over the world and not once has any of them shown any aggression towards me," says Knight. "There is a lot of information that can be found on the internet by looking at shark conservation websites, shark diving trip providers, their relevant YouTube channels and shark specialists' blogs. For example, sunrise, sunset, where anyone else is fishing or spearfishing and murky water should be avoided when you pick your dive site." 

4. Bring a buddy!

There is often more than one shark around, and it's important to be aware of your surroundings. Your dive buddy can keep an eye while you snap a few shots and visa versa. 

5. Only touch when you have to

It's always best to take a "hands off" approach while diving with sharks. But should one come too close for comfort, Knight explains that a gentle nudge is usually all it takes to deter the curious fish. "You don't need to punch hard," he says. "Seeing as they are apex predators, it is very rare that other animals touch them. By you giving them a small nudge, they realise that you're something that they should be wary of. Remember, you are not on the menu."

Image: Chris Knight/Used with permission

Knight has photographed many other animals, including crocodiles, but the experience of diving with sharks is one he will never tire of. "It's obvious when you are next to them why they are apex predators: they are so streamlined, powerful and well adapted to the marine environment. They gracefully glide through the water with no effort as they come over to check you out and see what you are doing in their backyard."

Hammherhead QA-related content-2015-4-14

Top header image: Chris Knight