Chasing Shadows – The Art of Filming Great Whites. By Naomi Pleizier

Television and film have made the sharks’ breaching at Seal Island an iconic natural phenomenon, but little do viewers know the time and effort that goes into filming these spectacular events. This past week we had a film crew on our boat, Buel Pointer 2, and we experienced once again all the heart and energy that goes into filming the flying sharks.


The first thing that amazes me is the volume of equipment that a film crew lugs onto the boat. Pelican case upon Pelican case of wires, cameras, and computers, not to mention bags of tape, coils of rope, rigging, and decoys that are all carried on and off the boat each day. The next thing that amazes me is the time spent on getting those shots. Consider that for a five-minute segment in a nature documentary, a film crew spends ten days, dawn until dusk, at the island. This time is spent rigging cameras, testing the cameras, trouble-shooting, towing the decoy, and downloading shots. Finally, the expertise and the daring that film crews bring to the boat continually impress me. Here at African Shark Eco-Charters, our knowledge of shark behaviour is paired up with the filmmakers’ skill in operating a dizzying array of complex and delicate equipment in innovative ways to produce film sequences that are attractive, novel, and high quality. The only other ingredient we need for a film shoot is a good helping of luck!


We certainly had luck this past week. With the exception of one foul weather days, we had sunny skies, calm water, and great shark activity. This was easily the best shark-viewing week we have had this season. In one day the various crews counted a total of fifty natural predation attempts. On that same day we had a whopping six breaches on the decoy. The week continued in style and the crew got some stunning shots of sharks breaching and feeding, as well as of the birds and seals that cover the island. I know that I get nervous for the film crews, wondering whether all their effort will be rewarded with good shark sightings.

I’m so glad this shoot was a success!