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Chimaera Monstrosa

Chimaera Monstrosa

During a trip to Scotland I met Jonas Follesø, head of technology of Blue Eye Robotic. He showed me a video of a Chimaera Monstrosa, also known as ghost shark. Chimaeras, together with the sharks and rays, form the ‘elasmobranchs’, or cartilaginous fish.
I had never seen anything like that before, and so I said to Jonas that I would like to dive and photograph one of these wonderful creatures. Jonas calmly said that I should come to Trondheim, Norway, because there is a place where they come to shallow waters at night. To keep it short: ten days later we are in a nice AirBnB in Trondheim.
All dives would be night dives, because in Trondheim it is already dark after 4 o’clock in the afternoon in November. Jonas of course also has a busy daytime job, and the later, the better the chances to see the chimeras: it’s a long way up from the deep!
Although the species can sometimes be found a bit shallower, they are mostly found at a depth of 30 to 40 metres, at a water temperature of 2 to 3 degrees. No dive for the beginner.

So, I stood there with a load of stuff on the side of a road along a pitch-dark fjord. Georgina would act as a back-up on shore and handed me my gear. I wore a dry suit, and of course I have a lot of stuff to carry along: a large underwater housing with a GoPro, double tanks and more weights than I like. The road is very slippery, and once I have crossed, it’s still about twenty-five metres over large, loose stones before we reach the water. I wave Georgina goodbye and slowly slide under the cool water surface.
Jonas, his girlfriend Hege Røkenes and I are slowly floating above the sand. Only after 10 minutes we see our first Chimaera, which immediately swims off again. Fortunately, my excellent buddies spot a few minutes later that makes more sense to pose. Hege is so kind to shine my spare light on the Chimaera. I carefully swim next to the animal, so it gets used to my presence. It is a female. To my surprise and pleasure she stays with us, so I start to photograph and push the shutter. When she stays calm, I turn on my large torch and GoPro to start filming.
I had set distance and aperture in advance (I still prefer to work manually). The strobes are set as well. The little lady stays with me, so I start working more enthusiastically. If you are going to water for a specific species, it is useful to know in advance how big the animal is. This way you are ‘ready to push the shutter’ when you come across your subject. The Chimaera reflects a lot of light, and as I do not want large ‘hotspot’ in my pictures, I start bracketing by my changing f-stops.
It is especially important to continue to breath calmly and continuously at a depth of 35 meters (I was completely over the moon!) and in water this cold. I continuously checked air and depth. Jonas and Hege had promised to pay close attention to me, and I was able to concentrate completely on photography. I often dive alone, so it was not an unusual situation for me.
Want to watch the video?
Check out https://vimeo.com/259709303

Photo data:

  • 1/100 sec
  • F/11
  • ISO 1250
  • Camera: Nikon D700
  • Lens: Nikon 16mm fisheye
  • Sealux underwaterhousing
  • Flash: 2x Nikon SB800

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