Underwater photographer Joe Romeiro isn’t afraid of sharks; in fact, his actual fears may surprise you
What’s the scariest thing about
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
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