September 30, 2013

Sharks

Speaking of challenging: the BBC NHU once again approached Tenthirteen to discuss filming great white sharks hunting seals off Seal Island which is in False Bay, (Cape Town), South Africa. To our knowledge this hadn’t been done successfully before. The sharks are notoriously quick and come up from the deep and the only way to approach the shoot was to look for seals coming in from feeding, lock onto one on the long end of the lens and hope that there would be a predation. The challenge was to operate on the long end of the zoom for prolonged periods and when something happened, to hold the framing perfectly.

With 3 mornings allocated in the budget we were fortunate to have ace film Pilot, Chris Bohnen and a long lens, specialist cameraman – David McKay, onboard. We had a spotter boat and a safety boat on station in case of an emergency ditching situation. Needless to say, if we did find ourselves having to ditch, we didn’t want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary in the Bay, which is well known as having the highest density of great white sharks in the world!

During the first morning session, we did not see a single kill, but the following morning we were lucky enough to achieve what has never been done from the air. We filmed sequences of 3 kills, one prolonged chase between a shark and a seal and another sequence where, after one shark hits a seal, another shark shoots up from the depths to steal the kill. It was intense and extremely exciting and holding the shots steady was challenging in itself when, from nowhere, a very big great white shark appears at speed to take a seal.

It does make the hackles stand up somewhat especially considering that David, being from Cape Town, has spend many hundreds of hours surfing and swimming in that very Bay. Luckily, the great whites prefer seals. It really was a humbling experience to see such magnificent and endangered predators and is something that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.