The Nonfictional Jaws
Photo: Amos Nachoum
Nachoum used a Canon EOS-1v with a 15mm f/2.8L Canon EF Fisheye in a Seacam underwater housing to snap this close encounter at 1/160 sec at f/11 on Fujichrome MS 100/1000 film, rated at ISO 400.
You might think this great white shark is about to chomp onto Amos Nachoum’s camera housing. But you would be wrong. The shark had already chomped on it.
Nachoum was lying prone on a dive platform floating in the Southern Ocean off Gansbaai, South Africa, with his upper body extended over the water. “The dive master was standing above me, holding me by a belt around my waist,” he relates. “We placed bait on the water to attract the shark, with another dive master pulling the bait away slowly so the shark would end up in front of the lens. The shark started swimming full speed toward the bait, opened its jaws—and missed the bait. Instead, it closed its powerful jaws on the first thing in its way—the camera housing.”
The dive master, meantime, was more concerned with Nachoum’s safety than the photo op, and was trying to lift him up and away. But the jaws kept clamped on the housing. “Eventually, the dive master lowered me down and the shark let go of the housing. I squeezed the camera trigger with my last ounce of ounce of energy and the first image was the best one.” This self-assignment was later used as a promotional photo by Discovery Channel.
His scariest moment? No, not this one, but when Nachoum, in full scuba gear, was photographing a polar bear from underwater. Research and interviews led him to the assumption that bears would dive no deeper than 30 feet. “So, 30 feet below this bear, just as I had set my camera and pointed it up, I saw the paws in my face. I went into alert mode and rapidly kicked deeper, but he kept coming after me to about 70 feet. When I stopped at about 85 to 90 feet, the bear leveled up and rapidly got to the surface.”