DANCING WITH SHARKS
From the moment I joined the diving world, I dreamt of being a part of a glamour shoot with sharks. My first encounter was with the oceanic whitetip shark in the Habili Ali Reef of the Red Sea. When I saw it calmly floating towards us with such elegance and grace, a strong longing to join them filled my heart, and this only grew stronger with each encounter. I would look at photos of underwater models with admiration, and, to tell the truth, with envy. I examined their movements, scrutinised the emotions on their faces – all the while feeling disheartened.
One cold winter evening, I was browsing through dive safaris in the Maldives when I suddenly thought, “Why not take the risk?”
In that moment, I was filled with determination. All I needed was to put together an underwater shoot during the safari. Easy, or so I thought. I initiated what became a long email exchange with the dive boats in the Maldives and finally, we found a tour company that was agreeable.
Our first attempt was a failure: The photographer we worked with did not manage to capture what I envisioned, and I left feeling disappointed with the result. The second try, however, was a huge success, and I have to thank Andrey Nekrasov for fulfilling my dream.
By divine arrangement, Andrey found himself on our boat as the manager of our creative team. There were two assistants with us – Stanislav Duz, our videographer, and my husband, Britanov Petr. My husband was my air supply – during shoots, he would hold a two-metre octopus attached to a wooden pole throughout the shoot, while frightening off curious groups of divers.
When I saw it calmly floating towards us with such elegance and grace, a strong longing to join them filled my heart, and this only grew stronger with each encounter
At last, it was time for our final rehearsal. Waking up at 5:30am, Andrey and I headed to
Ari Atoll first where we submerged at a depth of more than 25 metres. I was attached to a reef with the help of a fishing line. Before I could settle down into position, huge shoals of bluestripe snappers were swimming in circles around me, performing a beautiful synchronous dance. At that moment, Andrey signalled the assistants to fall into position. I took off my mask, held my breath, and entered their world.
The feeling was magical, and the results, even more so. Vibrant colours, beautiful hues; Andrey’s timing could not have been more perfect. As we reviewed the images, we were both pleased with our work, but it was too early to relax – Indian tawny nurse sharks were waiting for us that night.
After carefully checking my outfit and preparing the equipment, we submerged for a final time in the night ocean. With the help of our powerful flashlights, we approached the shooting location at over 17 metres deep. With the fishing
line in place, the crew in position, and Andrey ready to shoot, it was finally my moment to shine with the sharks.
Unbelievably graceful tawny nurse sharks were swimming around me, touching me with their fins or tails, sometimes bumping into me with their curious shark muzzles. Huge pink whiprays were flying around me, swarming near my legs or swimming around in circles. Large caranxes were fussing everywhere, as if wanting to be part of the activity. I couldn’t see much without a mask but thanks to the lighting, I could recognise their silhouettes. During those 29 minutes, I could hardly breathe, overcome with emotion that words can’t express. It was as if the ocean and I became one; I was in absolute unity with its inhabitants, but it ended all too soon.
I must express my gratitude to Andrey Nekrasov for the well-organised photo shoot, and above all, for these amazing photos! I would also like thank our dive guide, Sinan, who brought us to this special place.