WPY 2013

Photograph Details

Commended 2013

Nature in Black and White

Alexander Mustard, United Kingdom

Giant with sunbeams

Alex took this shot in open water in the Caribbean Sea, off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, while swimming among a huge aggregation of whale sharks. The sharks were feasting on millions of tuna eggs. One picture he had decided on was a backlit silhouette that would show the bow waves generated by these enormous animals - the world's biggest fish - as they push through the water, scooping up food in their giant mouths. When he spotted the fin of an approaching shark with the sun behind it, he dived down, held his breath and waited for the eight-metre animal to pass overhead so he could shoot it backlit, with the sunbeams spearing into the water along its flanks. 'As serene as the moment looks,' says Alex, 'I was bursting for air. The combination of excitement and awe didn't help, or the fact that I had five metres of water and a shark between me and the surface. But the result was definitely worth it.' The tourism that has developed around the feeding aggregation is also worthwhile. It's put a value on keeping the sharks alive rather than as fodder for the shark-fin industry (a whale shark fin can fetch between $10,000 and $20,000), giving the sharks in Mexican waters a brighter future.

Technical specification

Olympus OM-D E-M5 + Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens; 1/250 sec at f8; ISO 200; Nauticam housing.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico: latitude 21.2397, longitude -86.7379 Isla Mujeres, Mexico: latitude 21.2397, longitude -86.7379

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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Alexander Mustard, United Kingdom

Alex has taken pictures underwater for 30 years, working as a full-time underwater photographer for the past decade. He has won many major awards, including in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, and is the author of numerous articles, several books and three monthly columns. He took part in the 2020VISION project and runs underwater photography workshops worldwide.