To say Cape Town is quiet this time of year is an understatement. The tourists are gone for the winter and the city is silent and chilly. These winter months are however peak season to witness one of nature’s most imaginary events. In False Bay, just 45 minutes off the coast of Cape Town, Great Whites attack high protein seal pups on their way back to Seal Island.
The fascination for these prehistoric predators continued to push me back to South Africa for the last three years. And even though I don’t have Captain Jack Sparrow’s sea legs, I grumbled numerous times at 5 AM wake up calls and walked through deserted hotel lobbies to make the drive up to Simon’s Town; a small naval town just south of Cape Town to board one of the vessels.
It’s not a motivational trip. The natural predation of the seals is rare and due to the shark’s imminent extinction and climate changes, chances are declining every year. A good day on sea means there’re probably only 5 or 6 breaches. Combine that with the uncertainty of what breaches from under the abyss and 360 degrees of water to cover with no time to be setting up equipment provides a challenge. It’s a low percentage approach and there’s a small change a photographer’s is at the right place at the right time. It’s a numbers game which can only be beaten by undergoing the trip and hope for the best…
It was this one morning in June when we sailed off at first light. The signs were hopeful. No rain, the swell wasn’t too bad and from the start there was a great deal on shark activity.
When returning to Simons Town I was exhausted. On the boat I couldn’t successfully proof the image on the small camera LCD and I was afraid my focus was slightly off due to the wide aperture and splashing water. However, when I loaded the images onto my computer I immediately saw this image was more than I could have hoped for. It’s pinsharp with a perfect focus on the predators’ teeth and you can actually see the individual waterdrops splashing off. At the end it came down on just 5 minutes out of the 24 hours or so I spend at sea, but it was perfect...
Looking back three years ago, on my first trip to photograph these prehistoric predators, I couldn’t have made this image. It’s plural; the difference between “Jaws” and “Sharknado”. What makes it special is that it is built on three years of trial and error and the result of dedication and perseverance.
Jochen van Dijk