Un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher Joe Romeiro isn’t afraid of sharks; in fact, his ac­tual fears may sur­prise you

What’s the scari­est thing about

WKND - - Contents - By Jan­ice Ro­drigues

UN­DER­WA­TER CIN­E­MATOG­RA­PHER JOE ROME IRO, WHO WAS RE­CENTLY IN TH EU AE FOR THE OPEN­ING OF THE DIS­COV­ERY WEEK EX­HIBIT IN DUBAI AQUAR­IUM & UN­DER­WA­TER ZOO, HAS NO QUALMS ABOUT SWIM­MING WITH SHARKS. WHAT HE IS AFRAID OF MAYS UR PRISE YOU

The ocean holds within it many won­ders, and Joe Rome­rio is on a mis­sion of cap­ture them all… but only on film. The world- famous un­der­wa­ter cin­e­matog­ra­pher and film­maker has been div­ing into oceans around the world for decades now in an ef­fort to cap­ture unique footage of the marine an­i­mals. And al­though he’s best known as the cur­rent host, pro­ducer and di­rec­tor of photography for Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s Shark Week, Romeiro ( along with pho­tog­ra­pher and sound en­gi­neer Bill Fisher) founded 333 Pro­duc­tions, which has cre­ated sev­eral award­win­ning films. But his biggest am­bi­tion, and this is truly re­flected in his work, is to ed­u­cate peo­ple around the world about the true na­ture of sharks. Ex­cerpts from an in­ter­view with him:

You devel­oped an in­ter­est in the ocean at a young age. How did this in­ter­est form?

I didn’t speak English grow­ing up, so my favourite form of en­ter­tain­ment was watch­ing wildlife chan­nels! Aquar­i­ums also fas­ci­nated me. There was only one in my area grow­ing up and I had to travel 45 min­utes just to see it. You guys are so lucky to have such an amaz­ing dis­play filled with sharks and rays right in the mid­dle of a mall. It is amaz­ing, and I’m blown away by the Dubai Aquar­ium & Un­der­wa­ter Zoo. I think it will change a lot of at­ti­tudes and in­spire a lot of youths.

Did you al­ways know you wanted to get in­volved with un­der­wa­ter photography?

I al­ways wanted to! Ev­ery since I heard about wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers, I al­ways felt like it was where I be­longed. I never went to shark film­mak­ing school or any­thing — this is just some­thing you chase. I started go­ing out and film­ing sharks and putting it on so­cial me­dia, and ev­ery­thing else just hap­pened. That is the beauty of photography th­ese days — any­one can go out there and shoot and peo­ple will take no­tice. To­day, I’m still pinch­ing my­self be­cause it’s hard to be­lieve all my dreams came true.

How does an usual un­der­wa­ter photography ses­sion go?

First, there’s a lot of travel. You have to know the per­fect l oca­tion where the an­i­mals will be. Then you have to find the right peo- ple who will help you get there. Ev­ery an­i­mal has dif­fer­ent be­hav­iour, and that has to be taken into ac­count. Once all that is done, it’s all a mat­ter of hop­ing ev­ery­thing goes right. When you are out there, if your cam­era doesn’t work, or if any­one gets hurt, there’s lit­tle you can do. Ev­ery­thing has to go per­fectly for a few sec­onds of footage. You just have to get into the wa­ter and pray you get it right.

It is a lot of pres­sure, as far as cam­era work is con­cerned. But I’m not wor­ried about the sharks. I’m wor­ried about the guy next to me with the cam­era. The ocean is so full of marine life that a jel­ly­fish will get you be­fore a shark will. So, I’m not afraid of the sharks. My fear is that one day there won’t be any sharks to film.

What are the myths about sharks you are try­ing to break through your work?

That sharks are man- eat­ing, hu­man- killing ma­chines! I want to make it clear that we are not on their menu. Thou­sands of peo­ple get into the oceans ev­ery­day, and if sharks were

truly try­ing to get us, I think we would be very easy tar­gets. Their biggest dream is to get away from peo­ple. Sharks kill about 8- 10 hu­man be­ings a year by ac­ci­dent. In re­turn, hu­man be­ings kill about 70- 100 mil­lion of them! The num­ber of deaths is on the rise and if we are not care­ful, they will be­come ex­tinct in our life­time.

Has there ever been a time when you were wor­ried for your safety or your life?

Any ex­pe­ri­ence where I was wor­ried for my life has hap­pened be­cause of the cage or the life sup­port. I’ve had some ex­cit­ing en­coun­ters — once a shark bit the cam­era right out of my hand. But again, that’s not the shark’s fault — it’s be­cause the cam­era was emit­ting a sig­nal that it can feel. So, yes, I’ve had a lot of close calls, but it’s never the shark’s fault. Also, we take a lot of safety mea­sures and we’re not just con­cerned about the safety of our peo­ple, but also the safety of the an­i­mal.

Any par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences?

There have been too many! Like I said be­fore, once a shark tried to grab the cam­era and pull it out of my hand. But by far, the most im­pres­sive is that the mi­gra­tory an­i­mal trav­els far and wide, and some­times, you ac­tu­ally hap­pen to run into the same an­i­mal at another part of the world. This has hap­pened to the point where the shark recog­nises you! They are in­tel­li­gent crea­tures. Sharks can learn an action and re­spond to it. But mostly, they are in­dif­fer­ent to us. I’ve seen huge 20 feet long sharks float right by, pay­ing no at­ten­tion to us what­so­ever.

Is there any par­tic­u­lar mes­sage you are try­ing to send through your pic­tures?

The most im­por­tant one is that sharks are amaz­ing, gor­geous an­i­mals that de­serve our re­spect, and if we are not care­ful, they will dis­ap­pear in our life­time.

Do you have any tips you want to give as­pir­ing un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­phers?

Just to go out there and do it! Ev­ery­one has a cam­era th­ese days. If you re­ally want to do it, you have to be­come a diver. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, train your­self to be good with the cam­era. There is no school that will teach you, so you have to ac­tu­ally get out there your­self. Also, al­ways take care of the an­i­mals that you are work­ing with.

Your ul­ti­mate goal?

To keep shoot­ing films and be around sharks for the rest of my life. I want to do my part to pro­tect the an­i­mals by spread­ing aware­ness about their plight — so they are around for our chil­dren to en­joy watch­ing some­day.

jan­[email protected] khalee­j­times. com

out there, if your cam­era doesn’t work, or any­one gets hurt, there’s lit­tle you can do. ev­ery­thing has to go per­fectly for sec­onds of footage

1 2 swim­ming with THE SHARKS: 1 & 2 Prepar­ing for his un­der­wa­ter photo ses­sions 3 , 4 , 5 & 6 Romeiro gets quite close to his sub­jects to get per­fect footage

3 5 6

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