To create unique angles in Ultimate Air Jaws of Chris interacting with the great whites on the kayak , the camera team had to precariously rig a small HD camera at various points...only to be done in flat sea conditions.
Q: Ever since the movie "Jaws" came out, great white sharks have been perceived as fearsome monsters. Yet your photography shows how breathtaking and beautiful they can be. Do you hope to change how people think about these sharks by offering a better understanding of their role in nature?
A: Absolutely! All the images I take and documentaries we have involved ourselves with have a strong conservation slant to them. The best way to change people's perceptions is by seeing the animal, and this is my opportunity to show the great white shark as a graceful and majestic animal, and also as a supreme predator in its world.
Q: How has technology changed our understanding of great white sharks?
A: Technology has allowed us to share so much more with so many more people. TV, the internet and print give access to so many who otherwise would never have a chance to see the shark. In terms of innovation, directors such as Jeff Kurr have brought new ideas to the screen where we can truly delve into the mysterious and at times harsh world that the great white moves in.
Q: In all of the "Air Jaws" specials, you go to great extremes to capture footage of sharks breaching as they hunt for seals. What's the craziest thing you've done to get the right shot?
A: Undoubtedly being towed behind our vessel on a 6-foot seal sled 15 feet from an Ultimate Air Jaws great white to get a seal's view of what it is like to be hunted. I have personally recorded more than 6,000 predatory events, so I had as good an idea of whether the sled would get hit. But even so, your heart does race when you are on the thing.
|Believe it or not Chris kayaked with between 30 and 35 different sharks but this was one of the few that paid him any attention. Most of the time the sharks would change course and avoid the kayak|
Q: You've been tracking the sharks off of Seal Island since the late '90s. Have you seen changes in their behavior during that time? Have they become better hunters?
A: No, I would not say they have become better hunters. What you do notice is that each season is different. Some years sharks arrive early. Others leave late. What the trigger is we do not know. What is interesting, though, is that many of the same sharks return year after year and this is their hunting ground and kingdom. What is even more fascinating is that each individual great white shark has its own personality.
Q: In the new special, you spend a lot of time exploring the behavior of great whites in the shallow waters off of Mossel Bay, South Africa. What new things did you learn from seeing them in this environment?
A: The biggest thing we learned is just how often they are actually in contact with people. They are swimming amongst them all the time in this area, yet there are very few shark attacks. Sadly we also learned that there is a very active sport fishery off the beaches in this area for these sharks, so the sharks once again have far more to fear from us than we do of them.
Q: Because of the popularity of the "Air Jaws" series, you've practically become the human face of Discovery's Shark Week. What's your sense of how the public perceives your work?
A: Firstly, I think a lot of the credit for the "Air Jaws" series needs to go to Jeff Kurr, who has directed all the shows. He is an incredibly innovative man and an outstanding cameraman who understands his subject and so can capture the essence of the animal and people's imagination. We get hundreds of e-mails saying how people are so grateful to us for showing the true side of great whites, and it's very gratifying to know that in some way we are helping. The great white has given us so much that it is the least I can do to help them.
Q: What's your next project?
A: To find new places where great whites are not known to occur and blaze a few more trails. We have some great ideas lined up and hopefully Discovery audiences around the world will have a few more entertaining shows in years to come. Apart from documentaries, my wife and I just want to spend as much time together with various forms of wildlife in beautiful surroundings and use our imagery to capture the beauty of the natural world.