IFLScience Meets: Underwater Photographer, Cinematographer, And Stunt Man, André Musgrove

'One of the dives was me swimming between these two large [~4-to-5 meter] 14-to-16 foot tiger sharks... I was right between them, almost like a sandwich.' Image courtesy of André Musgrove 

From your portfolio, would you say there’s one photo that really stands out for you?

Probably one of my most notable photographs was actually kind of a mistake. It's a photo of my friend freediving with a spotted eagle ray over a white sand path. We were following a school of spotted eagle rays, at least 40 of them, and I'm kind of just waiting for them to do their loops around so we could time our dive to meet them at the bottom so we don't spook them away, while getting some shots of them. But we never actually got the shot with the big school. Right when we're about to leave, we're swimming back to the boat and one straggler swims past. I was actually at the surface, so I wasn't aware, but David had already dived down and he was following it from behind. I was able to swim right on top of it and shoot a photo straight down. And that became the image that people know today, which was not the image that we were going for, but it was an image that turned out pretty well. That was a pretty unique and funny experience.


Have you ever had any particularly memorable close encounters with wildlife?

There was an interaction with two gigantic tiger sharks in a place called Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, and I was shooting and working with Sea Legacy. One of the dives was me swimming between these two large [~4-to-5 meter] 14-to-16 foot tiger sharks. And I was right between them, almost like a sandwich.

I remember just looking into the eyes of both of the animals nearby and I could see that they recognized me and they noticed me, but they weren't afraid of me. Nor did they think I was prey or food or anything. I just found a really big sense of acceptance and coexistence between them. That moment, it almost felt like it lasted for like 10 minutes, even though it was probably only five seconds. But I just felt really, really safe at that point. I was like, these are the biggest things in the water around us right now, and if these two big bosses accept me then I don't feel like anything else can touch me. That that moment was really special and just encompasses, like, we can coexist with these animals and people don't always have to fear them.

Class in Session, by André Musgrove. Image courtesy of André Musgrove

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

The first step would be to get as much underwater experience as they can without a camera in their hand. So that would be learning scuba diving and building up your scuba certifications. If you have the ability to, it’d [be] great if you can dive in different places because different places have different things.

There are a lot of resources online where you can watch other professional scuba divers and learn a lot. That's what I did when I first started out, I was watching every single person who had an underwater anything out there, or who travelled across the world when I wasn't able to, just to learn as much as I could, but also learning different disciplines and diving, including freediving.

You can learn to hold your breath and dive down and be comfortable in the water where you can get a lot more close up interactions with animals than you would doing scuba because there aren't any bubbles to scare the animals if you're freediving.

I guess that would actually be the base, I would say before you even pick up the camera make sure that your body is comfortable enough as to be effortless in the water so that holding the camera is just an added thing that doesn’t affect your performance.


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