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An Unforgettable Dive: Learning What It Takes to Get “the Shot” of a Great White Shark

Great White Underwater

An encounter with a great white shark off Gansbaai, South Africa.

Stephen Frink

As scuba divers, we’re privileged to explore, enjoy and play beneath the surface — something the vast majority of people on the planet will never experience. While it’s hard to pick a favorite, each of us certainly has a dive we’ll never forget. Whether it’s crossing something off our scuba diving bucket list, making eye contact with a humpback whale, or simply enjoying a perfect day underwater with our favorite dive buddies – we love to share these dive stories with other aquaholics.

To celebrate the beauty, variety and joy that this sport brings, we’re sharing some truly unforgettable dives from around the world, as told by the divers who lived them first-hand. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do!

Name: Stephen Frink

Certification: Certified in Long Beach, CA to work for a job cleaning boat hulls. That was 1971.

Current: One of the world’s most widely published underwater photojournalists with a career spanning over four decades. Publisher of Alert Diver Magazine.

Follow: @stephenfrink and www.stephenfrink.com

Alexa Frink

AlexaFrink amused her photographer dad when she piped up through the fray to make sure he got the shot.

Stephen Frink

My ‘Must Have’ On Any Dive Trip

Backups for backups.

Multiple hard drives to record the edits from any given trip, packed away in different bags, hand-carry and check-in, to ensure the results of the shoot are with me when I get back home.

photograph great white

Photographers are known to do whatever it takes to get “the shot.”

Stephen Frink

My Unforgettable Dive: South Africa

The thing with specific dives, there have been many amazing ones, but picking the best of the best is hard because there are so many modifiers. Best for reef? Best for marine life encounters? Best because it was the culmination of a big project that successfully came to fruition like my first dives on the Duane or Spiegel Grove shipwrecks in Key Largo. Or maybe even the best because it was a frozen moment in time that will never come again, like diving South Carysfort in Key Largo when the reef was a pristine paradise of staghorn and elkhorn coral in 20 feet of water.

Related Reading: Cape Hopping in South Africa on a Drive-And-Dive Trip is Peak Adventure

Great White Shark Bite

A great white shark approached a dive boat in South Africa. Stephen Frink

Stephen Frink

Since I can’t decide among all of those, I’ll tell you one that resonates for a number of reasons. I was leading a photo tour to South Africa – wildlife safari for a week and then great white sharks off Gansbaai. We were working with legendary shark wrangler Andre Hartman, and, each day, I was telling my wife and daughter about the wonderful encounters we were seeing out on the boat, while they and some of our not-shark-obsessed friends were doing wine country tours and the other fun things to do along the Western Cape. Finally, on our last day, I chartered a second boat so they could moor next to us and watch the action happening as we tried to attract great white sharks near enough to the shark cage to photograph.

I had the idea I wanted to try an over/under of a great white near my dome, which meant I had to work with Andre to lure the shark near to me. I was using a full-frame fisheye, so to make the shark impressive in the frame, and not look like a minnow, I hoped we could get it within a couple of feet. I had the idea I would lay on my belly on the platform and Andre would have a bait on a line and he would straddle above me so he could pull the bait closer to me, hopefully attracting impressive proximity from the shark at the same time.

Related Reading: I'm From the Shark Bite Capital of the World. Here's Why I Love Diving with One of Nature's Most Misunderstood Predators

Great White Redirect

A great white shark off Gansbaai approaches a dive boat.

Stephen Frink

We found a player, and it approached the bait pretty aggressively. I kept shouting “closer, closer” and Andre did just that! The shark got really close to me, and Andre yanked the bait away. The momentum caused the shark to ram his snout directly into my dome port, which in turn smashed the housing into my forehead. Between all the white-water splash and initial uncertainty, most everyone on both boats shouted out in alarm: “Steve … are you OK!? Steve … did you get hurt?” I was fine, but particularly amused when the voice of my then 9-year-old daughter rose above the cacophony from the other boat: “Daddy, did you get the shot?”

I always felt that to be a fine definition of what I’ve aspired to do in my career.