I love photographing animals doing surprising and unusual things. For a few years now I have photographed marine wildlife surfing waves from an underwater perspective. I have successfully shot wave-riding turtles, fur seals, dolphins and even marine iguanas, but manta rays had eluded me. Until the day a fierce current pulled me into shallow water on Hanifaru Bay’s reef flat. Busy fighting the current and duck diving under breaking waves I almost missed the manta ray in the same predicament as me. A large wave broke almost directly on top of the manta, but it did not seem bothered and effortlessly surfed past me into the lagoon. Shot on expedition with @mantatrust and @fonassociation This image can be found in my and @mantaguy latest book MANTA: Secret Life of Devil Rays. Check out the link below my bio for more info.
The best camera/lens combination is the one you are holding in your hands! I was walking through coastal forest on the tiny Seychelles island of Cousine when a white term began to hover inches from my face and tried to land on my head. Unfortunately I was on my way to go diving, in addition to wearing a wetsuit and clutching my fins in my teeth I was holding my heavy/bulky underwater camera setup. With no other option than use the gear in my hands, I raised my underwater rig to my eye, framed as best i could and hit the shutter. I think this certainly the only terrestrial photograph that I have ever shot for @natgeo magazine with my underwater camera. @natgeocreative
Aerial photography is one of my passions, I love to hang out (tied into a safety harness) of helicopters and document the sheer exuberance of our planet from above. I have been fortunate to witness some incredibly scenes, but shooting a double rainbow over the D’Arros Island and St. Joseph Atoll in the Seychelles was a very special moment. This ring of islands was once commercially exploited for fish and coconuts, but today it is protected and prized for its marine biodiversity and seabird colonies. The island is managed for conservation by the @saveourseasfoundation Shot on assignment for @natgeo magazine for the March 2016 story “Return of the Seychelles” @natgeocreative
A Indo-Pacific lemon and Blacktip reef shark battle a ripping tidal current in one of the channels that connects Aldabra's lagoon with the open ocean. The seas around this remote atoll in the Seychelles are some of the most pristine in the Indian Ocean, with sharks and large predatory reef fish being very abundant. Shot on assignment for @natgeo in collaboration with @sif_seychelles#sharks#aldabra@natgeocreative
After ten years of photography and research @mantaguy and myself have just released the world's first book devoted to manta rays Click the link below my bio to get your very own copy of MANTA just in time for Christmas and the festive season. All profits from the book go directly to @mantatrust to support manta conservation projects all over the world.
For years I watched young Cape fur seals play "pass the seaweed" but it was only recently that I was invited to partake in the game myself. This seal dropped a kelp frond a few inches from my face and retreated, waiting for me to make a move. I grabbed the seaweed, swum a few feet up into the water and released it into the current. Like a dog fetching a stick, the seal brought it back...again and again and again... #capetown#home#backyard#ocean@natgeocreative
Hundreds of manta rays gather together in Hanifaru Bay to mass feed on a seasonal plankton feast. I have photographed mantas for more than 10 years, in fact my first ever story for @natgeo Magazine in 2008 was about these incredible animals. It "only" took a decade but now in collaboration with scientist Dr. Guy Stevens @mantaguy I am proud to present the world's first book on manta rays. Thank you to @richardbranson for the inspirational foreword and to @saveourseasfoundation for supporting the making of the book. Check out the link below my bio and follow @mantatrust for more info.
A short behind the scenes video of me @thomaspeschak documenting giant tortoises for @natgeo and @sif_seychelles on remote Aldabra Atoll. Here temperatures are so hot that if these tortoises are not beneath a shade tree or deep in a cool coral cave at midday they cook to death in their shells. Only around 4pm do the tortoises pile out one by one to graze in the cool of the evening. It took nearly 2 hours for all of the tortoises to leave this cave. Video and time lapse footage shot by my assistant @ottowhitehead Check out his feed and follow him for more behind scenes videos
Galapagos Marine Iguanas live on the edge and the difference between life and death is a few degrees of temperature. The world's only ocean going lizards graze on cold water seaweeds. Increases in sea temperature due to climate change have detrimental effects on marine iguana populations. No seaweed=No iguanas. If temperatures continue to warm these Galapagos icons could become the first to disappear. The world's leading scientists have just met at @darwinfound in the Galapagos to discuss how to safeguard and protect the island's unique fauna and flora from climate change. To find out more follow @darwinfound#climatechangegalapagos
A reef manta ray breaks the surface while feeding on plankton in Hanifaru Bay, Maldives. The current was pumping hard, pushing both me and this manta across the reef flat. It took all the strength I could muster not to get sucked into the surf zone, but it was child's play for the manta. With one wing beat it shot back into the bay, leaving me to fight the current alone for another twenty minutes. Shot on expedition in the Maldives in collaboration with @mantatrust and @fonassociation
Galapagos giant tortoises live on the frontline of climate change. Nest temperatures during egg incubation determine sex, so predicted warmer air temperatures in the Galapagos could mean warmer sand and more female tortoises, skewing sex ratios. Changes in rainfall patterns can alter the timing of tortoise migrations and lead to flooding of tortoise nests. The world's leading scientists are currently meeting at @darwinfound in the Galapagos to discuss how to safeguard and protect the island's unique fauna and flora from climate change. To find out more follow @darwinfound#climatechangegalapagos
A blacktip reef shark swims up to me for a closer look. Patrolling these tidal flats on a daily basis, it probably hasn't come across a photographer sitting in its path before. I have had the privilege to visit Aldabra on two expeditions and was able to spend almost 3 months on this remote Atoll. About one hundred of these sharks spend part of the day in the waters in front of the research station run by @sif_seychelles. They are curious and very relaxed around people. This video was shot by my assistant and videographer @ottowhitehead . He just completed his PhD studying penguins on Marion Island in the Sub-Antarctic. So follow him @ottowhitehead and please send him a congrats message if you are so inclined :-)
Now I don't want to ruin your appetite, but in light of some of the comments on my last post I feel like I need to show this photograph. I know it's not easy but please look at the image carefully and read the caption. Some of you had strong concerns about my photograph of tourists in Baja California touching/ petting gray whales. While in most other situations I am a firm advocate of not touching marine wildlife, San Ignacio lagoon is a unique exception. Here the whales have initiated and controlled these interactions for over 30 years, with no harm coming to them from this practice. In fact the local fishermen who seasonally earn their living from whale watching are now the whale's fiercest guardians and without their conservation voice this critical lagoon would have been degraded through salt mining and industrial activities long ago. The photograph of the dead mako shark, also made in Baja illustrates what often happens when local communities in developing countries do not benefit from marine biodiversity. At this location sharks are still worth more dead than alive, thus they are landed and killed almost daily. In San Ignacio lagoon whales are worth significantly more alive than dead and have become the flagship umbrella species that protects the entire ecosystem. TALK TO ME. I would love to hear all of your thoughts about sustainable marine ecotourism as a alternative to consumptive exploitation of marine wildlife. There are no easy solutions and this is not a simple equation of evil (fishing) vs. good (tourism).
A tourist gets the once in a lifetime chance to pet a curious gray whale in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja California. This is one of the few places in the world where whales seek out contact with people. A cultural trait passed down from mother to calf for over 40 years, it is the whales who initiate and controls these encounters. Shot on assignment for @natgeo magazine for the September 2017 story Ocean Stewards with @erikvance@maresmexicanos#mexico#Baja
A northern elephant seal pup curiously inspects its reflection in the glass dome of my underwater camera. It is always a very humbling experience when a wild animal decides that I am worthy of its curiosity. Once hunted to near extinction in Pacific Ocean, today the species has made a remarkable conservation comeback. Shot #onassignment for @natgeo in collaboration with @maresmexicanos
To celebrate 1 Million Followers on Instagram I am giving away 3 signed A3 prints of my photograph "Night of the Manta". To be in with a chance of wining tell me in the comments WHY you decided to follow me on Instagram. I will pick the 3 winners after comments close in 24 hours. Good luck.
In this short video I freedive off Fernandina Island in the western Galápagos to photograph marine iguanas for @natgeo It was one of the most surreal moments of my life coming face to face underwater with these mini Godzillas. Video shot by the best assistant team a photographer could ever hope for. Thank you @ottowhitehead and @animal_ocean
Getting photographs of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the surf zone was a bit tricky. To make this image I had to free dive in and out of the breaking waves. Exact timing meant the difference between getting the shot or getting pounded by the surf. Unpublished photograph from my @natgeo magazine story Cross Currents. #Africa#Mozambique#dolphins@thephotosociety@natgeocreative
Blacktip reef sharks swim into the current as the tide drives water into Aldabra's giant Manhattan size lagoon. This remote Atoll belongs to the Seychelles and its conservation is expertly managed by @sif_seychelles. Inshore, sharks are unbelievably abundant and photographing there is almost like traveling back in time.........I would love hear about your favorite shark encounter - where, what species and why was it special?
On assignment for @natgeo photographing blacktip reef sharks in the near pristine waters of Aldabra Atoll. Still one of my all-time favorite wildlife encounters. Video shot by my fantastic assistant Otto. Please follow him @ottowhitehead for more behind the scenes videos and show him some love!
A great white shark crosses paths with a small school of silversides in the deep blue Pacific off Guadalupe Island, Mexico. A long camera exposure and flash creates a motion blur as shark and fish travel in different directions. Shot on assignment for the Sept 2017 @natgeo magazine feature Ocean Stewards. This story was shot in collaboration with @maresmexicanos and written by the very very very tall and talented @erikvance
One of the most expressive eyes in the animal kingdom zeros in for a closer look. I have photographed marine mammals for almost 20 years but never before have I experience an encounter this close. Can you guess what ocean animal this is just by looking at its eyeball? Send me you answers in the comments below. I will post the identity of the animal in 24 hours. Shot #onassignment for @natgeo magazine. ANSWER: Wow, we got more than 1000 guesses to try and identify the mystery animal just by its eye. A large number of you knew it was some sort of whale in fact more than 170 people thought it was a humpback. Fantastic to see that everyone here is so into marine wildlife. Humpback was a very good guess, but it was in fact a gray whale that I photographed in San Ignacio lagoon in Baja California, Mexico. Some of the more outlandish and interesting I.D's included a dairy cow and a rhinoceros
My field assistant Steve Benjamin (@animal_ocean) dives on a single breath to 70 foot as a giant school of jacks swirls in the water above. Shot on assignment for @natgeo magazine in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico. Until September 16th this and many others iconic @natgeo photographs are on sale as small signed prints. See link below my profile.
Happy International Whale Shark Day !!! A whale shark travels through the seas off La Paz #Mexico. Whale shark numbers normally peak in this part of the Sea of Cortez when the ocean is green, murky and rough. In 2015 however unusual climatic and oceanographic conditions resulted in calm and clear water, making this unusual picture possible. Shot on assignment for @natgeo magazine for the September 2017 story Ocean Stewards written by @erikvance In collaboration with the Mexican conservation NGOs @maresmexicanos and @whalesharkmexico Please let me know in the comments how many of you have seen whale sharks and where?
A school of Clarion angelfish remove parasites, dead skin and mucous from a oceanic manta ray. This species of "Cleaner fish" is endemic to the #Revillagigedo archipelago marine protected area, 240 miles south of Baja California. A critical initiative to expand this marine reserve, to further benefit large marine species like manta rays that roam vast distances is currently underway. Shot on assignment for @NatGeo magazine for the September 2017 story Ocean Stewards focused on marine conservation successes. Please #follow@mantatrust and @maresmexicanos to learn more about manta rays in Mexico's western seas, where conservation initiatives are bearing fruit. #mexico#baja#manta#diving#conservation
Shot on assignment for @natgeo Marine biologist @octavioaburto explores the shallows around Isla Candelabra in Mexico's Gulf of California as giant Cardon cacti loom on the ridges above. Octavio has worked tirelessly for almost two decades to help protect Mexico's ocean realm. Please #follow@octavioaburto on Instagram. He is also a great photographer and talented storyteller!
A white shark cruises the clear blue waters off Mexico's Guadalupe island while a Western gull hovers above. The extensive scarring on the flank is the result of either mating (the male shark hangs onto the female with his teeth) or fighting over prey. Unpublished photograph from my Sep 2017 @natgeo magazine story Oceans Stewards about #oceanoptimism in #mexico Written by @erikvance Please #follow@maresmexicanos and @octavioaburto to dive deeper into the marine conservation successes of Mexico.