Tuesday, December 29, 2009

333 Productions new trailer

Joe Romeiro just posted a new trailer of 333 Productions called Lateral Line.  In the short clip there are some great scenes coupled with a great soundtrack.  I am just not too clear what the plot / story will be about...regardless, looking forward to seeing the whole thing.

Find more videos like this on iDive Sharks

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shark Nets kill another innocent member of the famous Tiger Tribe in Aliwal Shoal marine protected area

Dead tiger shark killed by shark nets - Photo by Mark Addison

That is Mark Addison's Facebook update today (he also blogged about it).  Mark posted several photos on his profile of a beautiful Tiger shark killed by shark nets in South Africa.  Who exactly the nets are protecting is a mystery - all they are doing is killing marine life.

Drowned to death - Photo by  Mark Addison

As much I wish 2009 would end on a positive note - it will not...and for a year that was supposed to be for the sharks we still saw more losses than victories.  There is still a lot of work to be done - this shark is a reminder...what does it say when we cannot enforce small marine protected areas, how will we protect an entire species?

For more information on the shark nets in Aliwal Shoal and how you can help, please go to REMOVE THE NETS

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

South Florida Shark Conservation Party

If you love sharks and will be in South Florida on Jan. 10th, 2010 - mark your calendars.  Shark Savers, Oceanic Defense and Shark Safe Network are organizing a party / fund raiser.   All proceeds will go to the "Say no to shark fin soup" billboards in China organized by Wild Aid.

For more detail please go to http://floridashark.pingg.com/2010SharkParty - hope to see you all there!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Duck "Doc"??

Photo: Wolfgang Leander

--------- yes, that's right: The one and only Shark "Doc" also loves ducks. He has a few in his house, just to have them, not to eat them. I have forgotten their names but they all do have names as befits full-fledged members of a family.
"Doc" hand-feeds his ducks and talks to them in their language which is what true animal lovers generally do - Quack, quack ... :-).
A couple of weeks ago, when Karin and I were still in Miami, "Doc" and his charming wife Marie invited us and our kids, Felix and Carmen, over for coffee and cake. The cookies they offered us were good, old Jewish "rugelach" - the sweet equivalent of "gefilte fish", as it were.

We had much fun with the Grubers, but not only that: Being around the "Docman", as I call Samuel, is always an inspiring educational experience.
While I learned quite a bit about the sharks' highly developed intelligence, Karin got an expert introduction into the anatomy of the upper human spine - actually, Samuel explained Karin with a truly DaVinciesque drawing why he needed an operation of his neck.

Photos: Wolfgang Leander

If you want to learn something about lemon shark behavior, try to meet the "Doc", and if you are lucky enough to get invited for lunch or dinner, you can be sure that the hospitable Grubers will serve you excellent stuff, Japanese, American, East European, just about anything that is exquisite - but duck!!....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Combative Jupp

Jupp Kerckerinck zur Borg
Photo: Paul Spielvogel

When my good friend and shark dive buddy Jupp does not agree with what others say or do, de guy don't mince his words, that's fo' sure. Being diplomatic ain´t exactly a German virtue... Hahahahahaha!!!
Here is a letter Jupp just posted in President's Obama website to express his displeasure at the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit:



President Obama and the President of China should be ashamed of themselves.

I am sorry to say that I voted for Obama but as of today, I'm not proud of it anymore. He does not seem to know that there is NO PLANET "B".

WHAT ARE THOSE PEOPLE THINKING? When all is said and done, they will have to agree that we cannot eat our money and it will not help us to breathe fresh air and drink clean water either.

Doesn't President Obama think about his two daughters and their children? Obviously not, their lives don't seem to matter very much to him. That is exactly what I despise about him because I have children, too, for whom I care a lot - contrary to him.


That was Senator Obama, on July 25th, 2008 when he wanted to get where he is today.

And what does he say today? "Bla-bla-bla" in Chinese. Today, his own words don't seem to mean a damn thing to him anymore.

At least the Europeans were working hard to get something done. Thank you, Mrs. Merkel.

President Obama and the Chinese Dictator, however, are more interested in making money instead of saving the world. If I would express right now what I am thinking about those two, I would most likely get arrested.


I am very sorry but this is not the change that Mr. Obama promised. This is cheap talk after he got into office.

Don't count on me to support him any longer. I sent a letter to his wife and got nothing but some stupid form letter, which she probably sends out to thousands of idiots who believe in her and her husband.

I am outraged and I don't know what to believe or what not to believe anymore. Don't count on me any longer to support this President. I am too old to go for those stupid political lies.


Josef Baron Kerckerinck zur Borg"

Hey, better don't mess with Jupp, d'you know what I mean?? :-)

"Chupe de Camarones" - one of many reasons to visit Peru

"Chupe de Camarones", shrimp chowder Peruvian style. *)
Photo: Karin Leander (Arequipa, December 2009)

When people think about Peru they probably associate this magic Latin American country with Macchu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, lost Inka treasures, snow-capped Andes, and perhaps the Amazon.

Few know that the Peruvian cuisine is, in my and others' opinion, the very best in Latin America. If we have Mexican readers of our blogspot, I ask them to please not think that I am being biased, I also love Mexican food!!!

The more sophisticated the cultural structures of nations, the more refined their gastronomies. Thus, it seems to be no coincidence that both Peru and Mexico, which had impressively advanced civilizations long before they were conquered by the Spaniards, developed an absolutely delicate and varied culinary "synchretism" with the foods and ingredients Europeans later imported from the Old World.

Anyway, what I wanted to say is this: Peru is definitely worth a visit if only to savor the many dishes such as their famous shrimp chowder, the legendary "Chupe de Camarones" (hmmm, just the very word "chupe" makes my mouth water!!!...).

Karin and I are still in Peru. In a couple of days we will drive to Chile - definitely NOT because of its gastronomy ----- :-)

*) Believe it or not - I could finish the plate although I just have an Ersatz kinda stomach - hahahaha!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"I am too old for this shit..."

David and Gee after canyoneering - Photo by a friend of theirs

I kept hearing this over and over again from a guy that enjoys canyoneering through cracks that are about 7 inches wide and dives with sharks - I think everyone would be too old for that shit.  At least he cannot say: "I am too old for this shit" when talking about work...David is retired and enjoying his hobbies to the fullest.  Of course he is only joking about the being old - he is actually a pretty young dude considering he is already retired.  The line became the joke of the trip - he was even considering printing it on his business card.

David, the dot, coming down a waterfall - Photo by a friend of theirs

David Wirt lives in Moab, UT - he calls it the most beautiful place on earth, he may very well be right.  When not in UT (David is not Mormon) he spends his time in Thailand with his better half and even funnier than him Gee.  David has a laugh that is extremely contagious (and he is easy to get to laugh - which made me think I was comedian material).  Both make a great couple and you can tell that they truly enjoy life (you could feel the positive energy around them) - and Thai food!

David has been diving for a long time, on this trip he brought with him the Nikonos SLR - large and heavy underwater camera that uses film - my dad was pretty excited to see that someone else was as "old" as he is -  still waiting for his photographs (you know how that is, development, printing, scanning, etc).  I was interested in listening to David's canoyneering stories and what goes behind the sport.

David and his camera - Photo by: Felix Leander

I have an open invitation to visit David in Moab to go canyoneering and I think I will take him up on that - so long I do not get too old for that shit...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Robert Terpstra - a real Flying Dutchman.

Robert Terpstra getting ready to photograph the tigers of Tiger Beach.
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

Click on image to enlarge

Unlike the legendary ghost ship that was doomed to roam the oceans eternally, and could never sail back home, Robert Terpstra, a highly qualified Dutch propulsion systems engineer of KLM, jets around the world, on duty, knowing that his company will fly him back to Amsterdam safely and always on time.

Being able to fly at fares normal people like us can only dream of, Robert can afford to not miss an opportunity to travel wherever he can dive with our preferred sharks, the tiger sharks.

Robert and I met in April 2007 in Umkomaas, South Africa, where we dived with the "Blue Wilderness" gang.

Since then he joined me three times to play with the tiger sharks of Tiger Beach, a fantastic dive site where we normally spend five to six days aboard the spacious and sturdily built "Dolphin Dream".

After our last dive trip (November 2009), I asked Rob whether he would join us (the core group being Felix, David Ulloa, Jupp Kerckerinck - our Tiger Beach Baron - and me) again in April 2010. His answer was not a simple 'yes'; he replied with his distinctive Dutch accent:

"Wolfgang, you don't heff to ask me det - you should know by now det ffhen you go, I go, too!"

Beautiful, very Dutch, very much to the point, very Robert Terpstra!

We have a few things in common: We are Europeans (I guess one has to be European to know what that means), we absolutely love tiger sharks, and we are both photography nuts.

However, in contrast to me, Rob has a sophisticated digital camera and a fabulous Hugy-Fot housing with which he takes gorgeous pics - when the housing doesn't leak, that is.

It actually did so once, and since then Rob makes absolutely sure that it won't happen again - which keeps him busy for HOURS checking EVERY little detail of his equipment meticulously before taking it in the water. Not only that: In order to be able to work efficiently, he has reserved a large territory at the dining table of the boat that is indisputably HIS.

Who says that only Reef Sharks are territorial?..... :-)

Robert - the way we all remember him... :-)
Photo: Felix Leander
Click to enlarge

Anyway: Rob is a great dive buddy, and a wonderful guy to be with above the surface. Those who know him are very much looking forward to seeing him again next April at Tiger Beach.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Pure Energy - Barry Kulick

Felix Leander shaking fins with a lemon shark - Photo by Barry Kulick

Barry Kulick does not sleep...he is restless, and his brain is always working, composing, and thinking of the next shot.  When Barry told me that he hardly sleeps I thought he was kidding - he does have an odd sleeping schedule, but he is up most of the time and was working on his photographs early in the morning (3AMish), and in the water by 7AM to avoid the traffic and pollution (bubbles).

I had never met Barry before or heard of him...but he has been around for a while taking pictures all over the world...this trip was fun.  He started diving back in 1974 (it seemed like a great time to spend on planet Earth) and in 1977 started taking U/W for the Navy - a noncommissioned officer told him to do so.  It must have stuck...in 1988 Barry became a professional photographer - I asked him which are his favorite subjects to photograph: "Don't have only ONE favorite - there are too many fascinating subjects in the world."

Barry uses a Nikon D2X camera with a Nexus housing and Inon strobes (he has three positioned in such a way that he looked like a 18-wheeler from far away).

To see some of Barry's work visit his websites at: http://web.mac.com/barrykulick/Site/Welcome.html and http://www.barrykulick.com/.

Felix Leander and tiger shark - Photo by Barry Kulick

I have seen some of the photos he shot in the Bahamas and was very impressed by his work.  Hope to see more soon!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

When you photograph sharks and divers, get to your subjects as closely as possible

Connor and Tiger Shark (Bahamas, November 2009)
Photo: Wolfgang Leander

Click on image to enlarge

- well, that is certainly the rule. But to make a rule a rule you've gotta have the few exceptions.

Here is one such exception: I took the picture from the surface realizing that what I had in my viewfinder was exactly what I have been trying to visually transmit since I "got" into sharks - the unobstructed harmony between man and nature. This minimalistic photograph is about 'man
and nature'; not 'man versus nature'. Replace 'nature' with 'shark' in this context.

After taking the photograph, I began observing the diver, and was absolutely amazed to see the way he interacted with the tiger sharks. He always kept his distance to the sharks, floated in the water as if to signal that he was on the same level with the creatures, metaphorically speaking, yet full of awe and respect.

I have never seen a scuba diver interacting with sharks as elegantly and with so much sensitivity as this diver.

'This diver' is 22-year old Connor Cassidy (not a descendant of Butch C.!!) , dive assistant and crew member of Capt. Scott Smith's "Dolphin Dream".

While not a 'shark expert', Connor has the very essence that is the stuff a true shark diver is made of: The tact and right feel for a creature that is still completely misunderstood, and is so totally different from the image that some highly questionable "Shark Week" productions present to the American audience as the "truth" about sharks. *)

We need less sensationalistic '"Shark Week" productions, and more Connor Cassidies in "shark infested" waters so that the "truth may finally surface"! ...

*) For the sake of fairness it should be said that some SW productions, unfortunately too few, are rather objective in portraying sharks.

PS: Here is what I wrote about Shark Photography almost one and a half years ago.

Freaking Wetsuit

Tiger shark in a pool - Photo by Wolfgang Leander
Click on image to enlarge 

Nov 19, 2009

I have not met many people that enjoy getting into their wetsuit – two piece freediving / spear fishing suits are even more challenging.  I have a Yazbeck and Cressi Competition 2, both have issues.  My Yazbeck ripped the first time I wore it, and not because it got caught anywhere – the overall manufacturing quality is substandard.  The Cressi suit is a tougher build, but the interior material has slight rips as well.  Getting into both suits is about a 15 minute ritual and has worked out muscles I never knew I had (it has become easier over the days as).

Made it into my suit...Photo by Mike Ellis

As for the diving today – the visibility was even better than yesterday, but sometimes the ocean does not want you – and today, it did not want me…it was whispered to me twice, once by a large tiger (it was this one that made me get out for a while) and once by a small one.  My old man did not hear them or they did not whisper to him…Of course it was nothing serious or dramatic for that matter.  I just did not feel right and I think the sharks could sense it.  Nothing a 15 minute break could not take care of.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Tiger sharks - help, help!!.........

Felix filming his dad befriending a gentle tiger lady.
Photo: Manuel Lazcano
Click on the image to enlarge

....... we, the Leanders, are totally addicted to tiger sharks!!

Do you know, by any chance, a SLA group ("Shark Lovers Anonymous") that could help us to become "clean"?

Just kidding, of course. We most definitely do not want to get cured from the tiger shark addiction!

Here you can see both Leanders "at work": Felix filming his old man playing with a gentle tiger lady. YES, "gentle". However, in order not to be misinterpreted, please read the disclaimer on the right, printed in red.

We don't want to get into trouble with those "experts" who have never dived with tiger sharks, yet insist that tiger sharks are notorious man-eaters, and vociferously claim that what we are doing is "irresponsible" as it might create the impression that these large sharks are as docile as dog puppies.

Unfortunately, these "experts" prefer to believe what other "experts" with NO or very little experience with sharks have been preaching since "Jaws" was released (1975), and before.

Once again: Tiger sharks are most gentle sharks but as predators they are not harmless. Are we, for that matter...??

So, unless you have a LOT of experience diving with sharks and know how they behave in any given circumstance, don't interact with them closely, don't hand-feed them, and humbly enjoy the incredible privilege of being able to observe them in their habitat.

'Relevant experience': I have had my first shark encounters while spear-fishing in the Caribbean back in 1968, and believe that I was able to pass on some of that practically acquired knowledge of shark behavior to Felix who was born eight years after I had seen "my" first shark.

Photo: Manuel Lazcano
Click on the image to enlarge

Anyway - as you can see, I just looooove to hug dem striped babes....

Long live the tiger sharks of Tiger Beach, ALL sharks wherever they have
"their" beaches...

"Shark Conservation - Make it Personal" (Richard Theiss)

Tiger Shark - Photo by Wolfgang Leander

Good post from Richard on shark conservation and bring it to a personal level so that people can make a connection - definitely worth a read:

"I have said in the past that shark conservation is a tough sell. Whether it's the public's general uneasiness with sharks thanks to years of over-sensationalized media or an ingrained cultural bias towards shark products (or seafood in general), gaining converts throughout the masses has been challenging. Part of that lies in the difficulty in making a personal connection, making an argument that resonates within the individual - "this will affect me." But sometimes it's the opposition that, unfortunately, is able to accomplish that to their advantage."

Read complete post here.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Mike Ellis: Sharing...

A Wolf and a Tiger - Photo by: Mike Ellis

I first met Mike Ellis one year ago on a dive trip to the Bahamas, I will be the first to admit that things really did not click - partly due to the fact that we never really "talked".  This year I had the pleasure to dive with Mike again and I must say there was a completely different vibe and we actually spent a lot of time talking about everything but photography and the ocean (of course we also spoke about that, but the conversation went beyond the superficial BS).

I had already known that Mike was a great photographer from the previous trip, but what I really noticed this time was his willingness to share his know how / tips / secrets to get the right shot in the right lighting...and to any professionals out there, put your ego aside and listen to him...he has probably taken more photos of dolphins, sharks, sunsets, and candid boat photos in the Bahamas than anyone I know - maybe with the exception of Jim A.

Wolf and Felix Leander - Photo by: Mike Ellis

Mike has been diving since the mid 80s - it was in 1992 aboard the Truk Aggressor that he met Jim Church who was on assignment to gather marital for his 2nd book on the Nikonos V and Nikon RS systems.

While on a dive Jim ask Mike to finish off the roll of film for him. That was all it took, he was hooked. Soon after that he had his own Nikonos V kit (to my father's disappointment - he has now gone digital ;) ).  Today Mike uses a Nikon D70s/Aquatica housing/ Nikonos 105s Speed lights.

I invite you to take a look at Mike's website and photography at:  www.Bigkahunadiver.com - you will not be disappointed.  

And I can say this, aside from the from the photography, Mike is a very good person (I am not just saying this because he is a black belt in a martial art I cannot remember now). 

Friday, December 04, 2009

Lemon Sharks Could be Safe in Florida

Lemon sharks may have more to smile about.  Photo by Wolfgang Leander

Just got an email from The Doc, link to an article posted in the Sun Sentinel regarding the protection of Lemon Sharks in the state of Florida.  We have written about the subject before in this blog.

By David Fleshler:

"They are the lords of the reefs, powerful 10-foot sharks that prowl shallow coastal waters, snatching stingrays, crabs and mullet.

But while lemon sharks can hold their own in the undersea jungle, they face a tougher time against the predators equipped with powerboats, baited hooks and satellite tracking devices.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission this month is considering a ban on the catch of lemon sharks, hoping to protect a species that plays an important role in maintaining the health of coral reefs.

The proposal for the ban came from a group of scientists and environmentalists clustered around University of Miami professor Samuel Gruber, the world's foremost lemon shark expert. They fear that restrictions on catching other shark species over the past couple of years are leading fishermen to turn their attention to lemon sharks. Since 2004, the Florida lemon shark catch has risen more than 400 percent..."

Read complete article here.

Tigers and Lions

Tiger Shark - Photo by Wolfgang Leander

Nov. 18, 2009:

Full day of diving with lemons, tigers, and lions – we went in early and came out late.  It was great to see the Wolf out there for nine hours straight - literally had lunch on the dive platform with mask on head.  The interaction with various lemons, two tigers, and one Caribbean reef shark coupled with amazing visibility was the perfect mix for a fabulous day.  Towards the end of the day I focused on Lions – lionfish.

In the Caribbean there is currently a huge problem with the introduction of lionfish to the area.  In this part of the world, the fish does not have any natural predators that would regulate the population.  In turn, the lionfish eats many fish off the reef, disturbing the ecology.  Check out: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/stories/lionfish/welcome.html and http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111695369.   In order to do my part, I spent the afternoon spearing 6-8 lionfish.  

During my occasional visits to a freediving / spear fishing club in Miami I was first made aware of the problem – they had a lion fish shootout in the Bahamas – apparently when prepared right, it is very tasty.

On a side note, I was flipping through ScubaDiver Magazine and came across an advertisement that is promoting a trip to the Bahamas with Michael AW (I do not know him) and Amanda Cotton (who we know very well).

As per the ad: “Dolphins, Sharks & Mermaid Expedition – This is the definite expedition with the most enchanting big animals of the ocean; Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), Great Hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran), dolphins, and a mermaid.  Yes a mermaid! Teaming up with the divine sharks diving veteran Amanda Cotton, Michael AW, a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, will present a stupendous 10 days photography extravaganza with the amazing dolphins and sharks of the Bahamas.  With award winning photography tips from Michael AW, expand your skills to capture electrifying scenes of Amanda’s enthralling interactions with her Tigers of the sea.  24 March to 2 April 2010. (Book early – only five spots remaining).  Expeditions led by professionals with proven track records.

Amanda is a great photographer and a lot of fun to be around - something not to miss - contact her through her website: www.acottonphoto.com!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Silver and Two New Pan-American Records at the World Championships for Canadian Freediving Sensation William Winram

William Winram - Photo by: Igor Liberti

Remember we just wrote about William Winram - well, seems like he has been doing very well competitively in the freediving world - I am sure the white sharks inspired him:

"Long Island, Bahamas – December 03, 2009 – Vancouver-born William Winram announced and realized a clean dive in the breath-hold discipline of Constant Weight without Fins (CNF). Winram dove breast-stroke style down and up a dive line to the set depth of to 86 meters (282 feet) during the 2009 Individual Freediving World Championships, held in Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island, Bahamas. Not only Winram’s 18th Pan-American record claimed in four years since his debuts in the sport, today’s dive earned the Canadian Champion a silver medal, no less.

Winram had already achieved a Pan-American record depth of 80 meters in the same discipline, during the qualifying event, on November 28, 2009. The new depth he achieved today during the finals opens a new era in the sport of freediving in the West, as he is the first individual to reach that depth on his own power in the Americas.

The other compatriot to attend this world-class competition was current national record holder Jana Strain who also realized a new Pan-American in the finals, in the same discipline, bringing the record to 54 meters (177 feet) and earning solidly her the third position on the women’s podium. 

William Winram is not only an accomplished competitive freediver who has medaled several times at the world championships, he is also involved in ocean conservation projects, particularly shark preservation. To read further on his endeavours visit http://www.williamwinram.com. Winram also provides breath-hold diving education with an environmental focus through Ocean Encounters (http://OceanEncounters.net).

Winram will be leaving the Bahamas tomorrow for French Polynesia where he will join former multiple freediving world record holder-turned-photographer Fred Buyle (http://www.nektos.net) to complete the filming for a series of five documentaries for Ocean Quest."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Watermen freediving with White Sharks

William Winram with White Shark - Photo by Fred Buyle

Over a year ago I met freedivers Fred Buyle, William Winram, and Pierre Frolla - all very different personalities but sharing one passion - in South Africa while freediving with tiger sharks.  We have remained in touch on and off and know that together they have been working on some fabulous things.

Most recently I came across Ocean Encounters and a post by William about freediving with Great White Sharks - somewhere in the Pacific, three watermen broke a myth:

Says William: "After reviewing the footage filmed during the expedition, the Ocean Encounters team is hopeful that these images will impact the world to change its perception of the great white sharks. Commonly thought as the most voracious man-eating creatures of the seas, these creatures are IN FACT shy and fragile." - read the complete post here

Sounds very much like what my dad has been saying without having the long and intense experience the three watermen had...cannot wait to see the footage for their ongoing documentary.

Watch for a Shark Diver

For those of you looking for a sharky gift, look no further than a dive watch made by Helson Watches, branded for SharkDiver (I assume there is a partnership between the two).  While I have not physically seen it or played with it (or worn it for that matter) - I can not give a detailed review - but it sure looks good - seems to even have a shark suit material band...I am waiting for the guys at SharkDiver to send me a sample :)...

With every purchase a donation is made to Rob Stewart - not sure if he is doing anything anymore in the shark world - would have preferred the donation go to a established non-profit.

Regardless - check out the watch.