Interview with the Professionals: Shane Gross

After hatching from their eggs, these younger plainfin midshipman aren’t fairly free but. They’re nonetheless hooked up to their yolk sacs and guarded over by their father till they’re massive sufficient to swim off on their very own, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada


Shane Gross is a Canadian marine conservation photojournalist. His childhood ardour for sharks has grown right into a love for the whole lot that lives underwater. Telling long-form narratives in regards to the ocean and the impression of human exercise on the marine surroundings—each constructive and unfavourable—are what drive him, and he has turn into well-known for his work within the area.

Shane’s photos have been acknowledged in quite a few underwater images competitions over the previous a number of years, and his most up-to-date high-profile award was introduced simply final week when his shot of a plainfin midshipman nest gained first place within the macro class of the celebrated Underwater Photographer of the Yr 2023 contest. It appeared like the proper time to meet up with Shane, be taught extra about his newest work and publish a few of his favourite photos.


Most reef sharks are in hassle, however these Caribbean reef sharks in Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen nationwide park are thriving because of stringent protections throughout the park boundaries


How and when did you begin taking pictures underwater?

I’m from land-locked Saskatchewan, Canada, so my first underwater experiences and pictures had been made in a chilly, very inexperienced lake with a disposable movie digital camera as a baby, however I used to be all the time obsessive about the ocean. Like many children I used to be particularly enamored with sharks and should have watched [the 1975 Steven Spielberg film] Jaws 100 instances, desirous to develop as much as be Matt Hooper [played by Richard Dreyfuss] from the oceanographic institute. I made a decision to get critical about it in 2009 after backpacking Australia for a 12 months and doing plenty of diving alongside the way in which. So, I went to the financial institution and advised them I wished a automobile mortgage as I didn’t suppose they might give me a mortgage for digital camera tools. I moved to The Bahamas in 2011 and labored as a dive teacher and information. That gave me the prospect to spend so much of time within the water with my digital camera and hone my abilities.


Wonderpus photogenicus on a blackwater dive within the Philippines


What tools do you presently use?

Nikon D500 in an Aquatica housing and Sea&Sea YS-D3 Lightning strobes. The Tokina 10–17mm fisheye zoom lens, and 60mm and 105mm macro lenses. Fairly normal gear, however it works!

You journey loads. What’s your favourite dive vacation spot and why?

I moved to Vancouver Island six months after COVID began and I’m enthusiastic about all of the dive alternatives right here. The whole lot is so seasonal, which implies there’s all the time one thing new to try to shoot. After all, having lived in The Bahamas for nearly 10 years means it is going to all the time have a particular place in my coronary heart, and I sit up for going again each time. Then, you could have the Galápagos, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines—I might hold going…


Lined seahorses, two males and a feminine, in an alkaline pond in The Bahamas


Nurse sharks mate in a shallow Bahamian lagoon


Extensive angle or macro? What sort of diving and images excites you essentially the most?

No matter tells the story. Gun to my head, I suppose large angle as it may provide the alternative to include extra of the story in a single picture. However I nonetheless love macro! Huge animals like sharks and cetaceans are my old flame and get me essentially the most excited, however a extremely cool two-inch fish can get me simply as excited!


Crimson octopus summary at night time off Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada


What was your most memorable marine life encounter or dive ever?

A whale named Lucile. I used to be main a small group of snorkelers off Tubuai in French Polynesia once we snuck into the water and met her, a feminine humpback whale and a male she was courting. The 2 of them caught with us for nearly 4 hours. I shot 2,500 photos of the 2 of them. Every week later, we discovered her once more, however with two completely different males. She once more selected to stick with us for an prolonged interval. Is there a greater feeling than seeing an enormous animal flip in direction of you and swim proper as much as you inside touching distance? And to do that again and again for hours? It was heaven.


Humpback whale courtship off Tubuai, French Polynesia


You’ve got gained many awards in images contests. Do you could have any recommendation for readers about find out how to put together and shoot for competitors?

The primary rule is: Don’t be boring. It actually comes right down to originality. Present the judges one thing they’ve by no means seen earlier than or one thing shot in a brand new approach. So, that you must know loads in regards to the topic and what photographs are already on the market. Then be ready to return and shoot it once more, and once more. For me, it’s a means of taking each shot doable of that scenario and slowly narrowing it down till you locate one thing new and attention-grabbing.


A inexperienced sea turtle that drowned after getting tangled in fishing line, The Bahamas


You presently mentor different underwater photographers by means of an innovative program on Patreon. What do you take pleasure in most about instructing others and what can folks count on in the event that they join a course?

I do! It’s not a lot a course as it’s a dialog. We attempt to get on a voice or video name month-to-month or semi-monthly—we’re all busy lately, proper?—to debate no matter may be most useful. We discuss in regards to the enterprise of images, pitching editors, selecting photos for competitions, gear decisions, story concepts, post-processing, and so forth.

I considered it as a result of it’s precisely what I want I had. A number of portfolio opinions from my favourite photographers through the years modified the way in which I shoot and take into consideration images and storytelling. To have the ability to provide that to up-and-coming photographers is a pleasure, and I be taught a ton within the course of as effectively.


Steller sealion off Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada


Inexperienced sea turtle rests in mushy sea plume corals in Eleuthera Island, The Bahamas


You’re captivated with marine conservation. What recommendation do you could have for underwater photographers hoping to work on this area?

Attempt to transcend the only picture. Attempt to inform a fuller, rounder story about no matter it’s you might be captivated with. Perhaps even take photos—gasp!—above the water. Will probably be loads simpler if it’s a neighborhood story. For those who’re not close to the ocean, what a few river or lake? Hunt down the scientists and conservationists in your space and see if they might need their work to be highlighted. I wager they’ll. Now you’ll be able to start to make a shot listing of what may inform this story, and get on the market and shoot and shoot and shoot.


Tuna caught in a seine web, Indonesia


Final 12 months, you revealed a superb guide, Bahamas Underwater. It should be satisfying to see your photos in print and in bookshops. How do you put together for most of these assignments and do you could have plans to do one thing related once more sooner or later?

Thanks! Sure, it’s been a really rewarding expertise. I put this guide collectively not having any plan for publication, I simply wished to see if the guide can be any good or not. I reached out to the Bahamas Reef Environmental and Educational Foundation (BREEF), whom I’d labored with loads whereas dwelling in The Bahamas. They appreciated it and wished to companion with me on it. It’s a real partnership all the way in which down. It will not be half as impactful if it weren’t for them. Proceeds go to their wonderful Child’s Sea Camps. I’ve seen with my very own eyes the distinction these camps could make to the youngsters and to conservation in the long run. We additionally acquired the guide into each faculty in The Bahamas. Hopefully, it is going to encourage some younger (or outdated) folks to get entangled with the ocean in a constructive approach.

I hope to do extra books sooner or later, however to do it effectively takes me a very long time. That guide has virtually 10 years’ value of capturing in it. My subsequent guide will hopefully solely take 9 years!


Lemon shark pups use mangrove areas as nurseries. The advanced root programs present safety towards bigger sharks. Mangroves are disappearing because of coastal improvement, rising storm frequency and energy, shrimp farms, and different anthropogenic causes, Eleuthera Island, The Bahamas


What’s the story behind your favourite picture you could have ever captured?

I like the straightforward fantastic thing about “Goodbye.” It’s a picture I haven’t bored with taking a look at since I took it 2012. I used to be on a blue and sperm whale journey in Sri Lanka with my father, George—who’s perhaps much more obsessive about diving and the ocean than I’m! We had been having wonderful luck once we first arrived: Tons of of blue whales and sperm whales in each course, so far as the attention might see. After which someday, they had been all gone! Simply up and left the realm. On the final day, we weren’t hopeful we might see something, however you know the way this story goes: Unbelievably, a whale popped up proper by the boat and we acquired in. Because the sperm whale swam away, I imagined her tail was waving goodbye, and I snapped an image, not realizing within the second how excellent the sunshine was falling.


“Goodbye”: Sperm whale, Sri Lanka


What different photographers encourage you and why?

There are such a lot of nice photographers for therefore many causes: Alex Mustard for his innovation and instructing capability. Laurent Ballesta for pushing the boundaries of what’s doable. Thomas Peschak for his dogged willpower and experience. Brian Skerry for his refined, fascinating aesthetic. David Doubilet, simply have a look at Water Gentle Time and notice all these had been taken pre-digital! Cristina Mittermeier for her management within the conservation images world. Shin Sirachai Arunrugstichai for his constant, stunning type. Angel Fitor for his distinctive imaginative and prescient and willpower. That may be a very quick listing of underwater shooters. I might hold going and increase to individuals who primarily shoot topside as effectively, like Karine Aigner, Ami Vitale, Acacia Johnson… Okay, I’ll cease.


A juvenile prowfish (Zaprora silenus) makes use of a lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) for cover and as their unique meals supply whereas of their juvenile stage, Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA


What are your future plans and initiatives?

I actually intend to concentrate on native tales right here on Vancouver Island. I really feel very naive of all of the species and habitats right here, and I sit up for studying extra about them and doing my greatest to inform their tales. Additionally: touring the world.


Pink salmon migrate upriver on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Their our bodies already deteriorating, they’ll die shortly after spawning


Shane making ready for one more underwater journey!


To see extra of Shane’s superior photos, take a look at his web site,, and his Instagram web page.