Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From sharks...with others

I have always heard that smoking grass is the gateway to other drugs (may or may not be true) ... but I have never heard that the love for sharks leads to loving animals in general.

It seems like this bug has bitten my dad. He has told me that through his intimate interactions with sharks, he has developed a close relationship with other animals as well, ranging from bees, spiders, to llamas, and pelicans.

Says the Wolf: "I am enjoying animal love so much now that I am old! When I see, and caress, dogs, llamas, birds, cats, lizards, even bees, I realize what I missed all my life - my ever growing love for sharks has opened my heart to all animals, big and small - much to the detriment of my fellow humans, I am afraid to say...."

Tibu, my dog, has become my dad's "grand-dog" - he always asks me how he's doing, pays his health insurance, and loves to put his nose next to Tibu's.

Look at the pictures; they tell you the story in a nutshell:

Wolf with marine birds (Photo: Karin Leander)

Will she spit or kiss the old man?... (Photo: Karin Leander)

MUAAAAAA!!!!!! (Photo: Karin Leander)

Wolf petting a tiger girl (Photo: Felix Leander)

Open Letter to

Email my father wrote to Porter Erisman, VP of Corporate Marketing at

"Hi Porter:

Please read this - and just think for one second whether you should not talk to Mr. Ma once again with a view to induce him to stop trading shark fins and thus contribute to disseminating the crucial message that shark fin soup is bad for the sharks AND the people who eat the soup....

Mr. Ma told Professor Brian Darvell of the Hong Kong University that he does not eat shark fin soup anymore as he is aware of the environmental damage the "harvest" of shark fins is causing. That is a nice, albeit non-committing demonstration of good-will - nice but NOT enough.

Shouldn't Mr. Ma tell his fellow countrymen as a prominent and responsible opinion leader to follow his example? Wouldn't that be a great PR move for him, and for Alibaba?

Porter: I will not give up on this because I cannot give up the conviction that even tough business people with short time profit horizons are, essentially, civilized human beings who care about keeping the planet livable for their offspring, and in an encompassing sense, for the future of humankind.



We don't expect an answer...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Discovery Shark Week 2008

This year I have decided to focus on the positive things that the Discovery Channel are doing with Shark Week. While I am still not convinced of featuring the Myth Busters - I am digging their blog, Shark Conservation Blog written by Sonja Fordham.

The Shark Week homepage features children silhouettes diving with sharks and overall you just finally get a feeling that the network is pushing the conservation of sharks instead of the sensationalism.

I am definitely planning to watch all their shows (minus the myth buster featuring robo sharks). And if Discovery is listening to conversation: "So far, congratulations"

Predators as Prey

Oceana has released a new report on sharks, their importance to our environment and the devastating consequences that we are causing by the killing of 100 million sharks per year.

“Humans represent the greatest threat facing sharks today,” said Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana. “Without proper management and increased enforcement, some shark species are likely to go extinct.”

PS - Report could have used better photos ;)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Island of the Great White Shark

Filmmaker Richard Theiss recently released a new film titled "Island of the Great White Shark". In it he captures these beautiful animals in their habitat and chronicles the efforts of dedicated scientists, researchers, and eco-tour operators. Have a look at the promo video. The DVD is now on sale - can be bought through Amazon.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More sharking tournaments

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this article on Bloomberg. Martha's Vineyard seems to have been the host to a shark tournament this weekend - have a read on the Humane Society of the United States website. You will recall that Martha's Vineyard was where Jaws was filmed and where recently a white shark was supposedly sighted.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Flying sharks...

Flying sharks have been discovered along the coast of Florida...not really, but Kem McNair was able to capture a spinner shark jump out of the water among surfers in New Smyrna Beach (FL). You will notice the surfers, completely unaware of the "absolute danger" (writing as if I was working for the media) of the leaping shark.

I think this just further proves how harmless sharks really are - surfers are constantly around them and rarely are there any incidents.

Enjoy the photos...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Swimming for Sharks

Came across a good post by Lori at Ecorazzi about US Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk speaking out against shark finning. Raising some awareness before the Beijing Olympics. Watch the video...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Shark Photography - can it be taught?

A few weeks ago somebody asked me whether I was a professional shark photographer - well, you all know I am not, so I told the guy that shark photography was just a hobby, and that I learned taking underwater pics by doing.

He then asked: "What precisely does it take to become proficient in shark photography?"

Some tough question!

I said: "Simply put, as in any type of photography, you have to have a burning passion for your subject - in this specific case you have to love sharks. Other than that, you need to train your eye for some basic rules such as composition, contrast, and drama.

How can you go about that? Easy. Go to the best school there is: Look at the work of the masters - that's what I did.

See what David Doubilet does. Analyze and absorb his images; the art of pros like him should be your standard.

No shark photographs are more boring than those where you can tell that the author saw the sharks and thoughtlessly released the shutter.
You have to have the images you want to take already in your head before you frame your subject."

Folks who know me call me a purist: I have an old Nikonos V, and only two moderate wide angle lenses (28 and 20mm) - I would never use a fisheye because of the distortion. Extreme wide-angles, preferred by many underwater photographers, make for interesting, sometimes very dramatic effects but they do not reproduce reality. And I am for the real stuff. Anyway, that is the way I feel. De gustibus non est disputandum.

The same is true of flash: No flash for me, just available light. Sharks don't like flash either, especially when you (or they) get really close.

Ah, yes, and I love black and white film. Black and white images are both classically retro and excitingly avant-garde; what else can I say?...

What is essential: Composition, composition, composition. Talent? Obviously, but you also need luck - lots of it!

Sometimes I tilt the camera a bit to get the sharks diagonally.

Interaction with divers has to be dramatic; if either the diver or the shark is cropped in the process of photographing them - no problem.

Avoid anything that sidetracks the view from the subject; get the shark, if possible, against a clean background.

Nothing is more annoying than having the perfect shot in your viewfinder, finger on the shutter, when all of a sudden another fish gets into the frame - however, with a little luck this could greatly enhance your composition. I have included some of such images here.

Portraits: Get close to the shark. Ideally, let it come toward you. Never ever 'chase' a shark to get his (or her) pic. It is completely ineffective and disrespectful. If you have shark diving experience you will have sensed that sharks are shy and dignified animals.

Practice at lot, learn from your mistakes - and don't despair. Most of your and everybody else's pics, including those of David Doubilet will be / are disappointingly bad. Take my word, that is normal.

If you really want to become above average, you have to be mercilessly critical with yourself.

Do not settle for the mediocre stuff, our world is full of that, now more than ever. Do not indulge in the complacency of believing that you have a fantastic shot. Rather think that you could have done better - that is what perfectio
nism is all about, no matter what you are, a pro or a recreational snap shooter.

Have a look, and see for yourself what's important:

This picture was taken by Felix - grrrrrrrr, I am envious!!! :-) Since it is not mine, I can say: PERFECT composition, just perfect!!! A winner shot!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Saving sharks in the strangest places

I was on my way to Chicago on American Airlines when I picked up their in-flight magazine American Way. Right on the cover was Denise Richards - but it was not her that caught my eye, it was the message someone had written on the magazine cover: "Stop Shark Finning...Save our sharks!"

Was nice to see and not a bad guerrilla mkt tactic - I wonder how many eyeballs will see the message.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wanna go Tiger Shark Diving?

Gliding over 'her' beach....
Photograph: Wolfgang Leander

There are only two spots world-wide where you can still dive with tiger sharks on a regular basis: South Africa (Aliwal Shoal) and the Bahamas (Tiger Beach).

Since tiger sharks a
re by far my preferred sharks, these are the places you will find me diving - nowhere else. And I say this after having dived in many places (Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, Red Sea, Indian Ocean) since I first immersed myself into the crystalline waters of the Cote d'Azur 53 years ago.

When I want to swim with the Bahamian striped babes, my choice is Captain Scott Smith of the Dolphin Dream Team.

Captain Scott Smith with his two girls: wife Robin and daughter Holly

Scottie is a dolphin man through and through, and he connects with these most lovable and intelligent marine mammals the way I do with tiger sharks - our deep love for "our" animals is, thus, our common passion.

Although Scottie was the one who discovered Tiger Beach back in 1994 by sheer chance when he was chumming the water just for fun while anchored at night in that shallow place, it was not until a few years ago that this confirmed dolphin friend decided to cater to tiger shark divers as well.

I am so glad he did!!

What I like about Scottie is that he lets me free-dive
on his tiger shark trips. To me THAT is absolutely crucial as I believe that the best way to interact with sharks is while free-diving. I know it's not everybody's cup of tea as it requires some relevant experience.

Da Wolf playing with a Lemon Shark at Tiger Beach

Photograph: Paul Spielvogel

Other regular clients of the Dolphin Dream Team love the relaxed and friendly atmosphere on Scottie's spacious boat - and the terrific food Gail, his cook, serves the guests! Hey, when you dive hard, and spend almost a whole week 'out there', you want to be pampered as if your were a demanding gourmet, won't you?

I don't eat much as I normally spend between seven and nine hours NON-STOP in the water when I am a Tiger Beach bum.... but that's just me. Remember what I said some time ago? I can't get enough of tigers - so I'd rather starve, and be with my mascots as much as I can!!

I will be back on Scottie's Dolphin Dream II in November 08 - with lots of cool people from all over. One of them will be Felix, my only and one of a kind "baby"... :-) :-)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Live in the moment

Kevin Haythe - June, 2008

Every so often things get taken away from you – that is life. The more we accept and learn from this the stronger we become. Gifts such as friends, relationships, family, even dogs are given to us to enjoy in the moment…

Two days ago I lost one of these gifts.

I first met Kevin over the phone in 2007 to develop a training program for the company I work for. I was intrigued by how sharp he was and by the questions he would ask me…felt challenged, yet I found myself thinking my answers and thoughts through. It was not until about a few months after that we actually met in person and hit it off pretty well.

Over the next year we worked on several training session and our relationship grew – he role took on a role as a mentor for me and really helped me put things into perspective and better myself as a person, not just professionally.

The last time we saw each other was about a week ago in London…this trip was the first time that we really bonded – like dudes. We shared very personal stories and really let out our “human sides…” It just further reinforced what a great person Kevin was…very warm and full of SOUL. What I will take away from my last conversation with Kevin is to “Live in the moment…” and ask less questions at a time and more open-ended ones.

I am in India at the moment (about to give a training that I was supposed to give with Kevin) and will likely miss his service. There are several South Pacific tribes that believe their loved ones are reincarnated as sharks – I like to believe the same. In that sense, I will attend my own service and always think of Kevin when I am diving among my friends with fins…

Kevin – I’ll see you soon

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Watch that saves sharks

Riedenschild watches and Fred Buyle have united to save sharks. Together they have come up with a limited edition diving watch, the "Ultimate Diver". Only 299 of these watches will be produced and they will be priced at 990.00 Euros, of which (and this is the great part), 100 Euros will be donated to the Malpelo Foundation.

Says Fred: "I am very proud to be working with Riedenschild. I take great pride in my diving and my photography, which I endeavor to produce as honestly as possible, without breathing aids, special equipment, lighting or digital enhancement. That's why I believe in our new time piece for Riedenschild, which has come to stand for simple excellence and no gimmicks."

Says James Newell (president of Reidenschild): ""Our partnership with Frederic couldn't be more fitting. Riedenschild is a truly unique company, and the watch we're developing with Frederic is a one-of-a-kind treasure."