Face to Face


Earth may be our home but undersea it can be a strange, alien world. In the ocean we should consider ourselves guests and while we’ve likely already taken our shoes off before entering, we’ll want to keep all of our manners keen when getting up close and personal with the locals. Of course, when visiting far-flung destinations below the waterline, just as above, you’ll want to bring a camera. And some of the more aquatic-minded who are damn good with a camera have gotten pretty up close and personal with all manner of fishy things. Swim along with us while a few of them give their perspectives on undersea encounters.

Tiger Shark facing the camera and swimming just below the waves.

Michelle Drevlow

Location: Auau Channel between Maui and Lanai

This beautiful shark came to say hello from the deep blue sea. I had not seen a tiger shark before and
was in complete awe of it. Surprisingly, it was quite shy and I remained composed. I made myself appear smaller which in turn brought the shark closer to me out of curiosity. Sharks are so incredibly important for the health of our oceans and I am beyond grateful to have met such an important fish.

Photograph by Steven Kovacs of a young sharpear enope squid, Ancistrocheirus lesueurii

Steven Kovacs

Location: 700 plus feet below, off Palm Beach, Florida

With the advent of blackwater diving [drifting over deep water in the open ocean at night], encounters with rarely seen animals like this young sharpear enope squid, Ancistrocheirus lesueurii, have become possible. There is always a feeling of awe and appreciation when encountering such an amazing animal that so few are privileged to interact with. Especially when these animals show a mutual curiosity, rather than fear. This particular species has the added bonus of occasionally displaying a beautiful symmetrical pose, thus allowing for the chance to create some incredible photographs. As blackwater photographers we continuously feel very blessed to be able to come in contact with such incredibly rare and bizarre creatures on a regular basis.

Photograph of moon jellyfish in the waters of the Great Bear Sea captured by Cristina Mittermeir

Cristina Mittermeier

Location: Great Bear Sea, British Columbia

I imagined this image long before I took it. During our summer explorations in the remote fjords and channels of the Great Bear Sea, I took every opportunity to swim with jellies. For the adventurous diver, the cold, rich waters offer an underwater spectacle that rivals any marine environment. Several species of jellyfish are seen often undulating in the current. Moon jellies— by far the most abundant — gather in the mouths of streams alongside spawning salmon. Perhaps they come to feast on the carcasses of the fish that don’t make it? Like ghostly apparitions, other mysterious jellies, like this large egg-yolk jellyfish, seem to come out of the deep and disappear just as inexplicably.

Photograph by Mike Coots of a Great White shark poking head out of water in New Zealand

Mike Coots

Location: Stewart Island, New Zealand

This was on my first day shark diving in New Zealand, and I was about to jump in the water. This guy popped up next to the boat, and I happened to have the GoPro on the half-second timer mode. Didn’t realize at the time what I captured (this was before they had screens on the back) and wasn’t till that eve I realized I caught a special (and rare) moment called spy-hopping. It became a meme a few weeks later about stepping on LEGOS.

Photograph by Donal Boyd of a puffin against a black background

Donal Boyd

Location: Vík in south Iceland

“How strange the surface must seem to a whale. Existing between two worlds: born to the water, but bound by
air. Does a whale resent the shackle of returning to the surface to breathe? I wonder if they dream to explore the depths of the ocean without ever rising again.”

Photograph by Justin Burkle of a manta ray swimming right beneath the waves through sun rays

Justin Burkle

Location: Montauk, New York

The morning after spending the night offshore in the northeast canyons (90 nautical miles southeast of Montauk) I was lacking sleep and energy. A pair of manta rays were spotted just behind the stern. Upon breaking the surface the curiosity of the massive rays was evident. There’s nothing in this image to put the manta ray’s size to scale but when this one turned and headed directly towards me, I realized its enormity.”

Photograph by Ryan Borne of a tiger shark being touched on the forehead by a human diver

Ryan Borne

Location: Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

We were free-diving with two tiger sharks and they allowed us in the place they call home. The second you enter the water you are in their territory. You earn the right to experience the beauty of nature by having the humility to accept that you’re not in control of it. You are part of it. I was with Titouan Bernicot, the founder of Coral Gardeners, on the shoot of our ‘Coexistence’ campaign documenting the relationship between humans and marine life. Here is Titouan gently redirecting this curious female tiger.

To me, this photo embodies the concept of coexistence. We’ve proven that our hands have the power to destroy and kill. It’s time to show that they can love and heal as well.