By Jack Williams
These stunning images get up close and personal with a group of sharks as they glide their way through gigantic bait balls.
Photographer Tanya Houppermans described one of the images she was able to capture as a “one in a million” shot.
Photographed from beneath a sand tiger shark, the image shows the animal as it penetrates a bait ball of thousands of fish, the top half of its body emerging out of the grouping.
In other images, Tanya, 44, was able to capture the sharks as the moved between what look like tunnels made within the bait balls.
The shots were captured on July 10 and 11, 2017, in the waters of Morehead City, North Carolina, USA, where Tanya has been shooting for eight years.
In all her time diving in these waters, the photographer said, she has never seen a bait ball of the size she witnessed in July.
Tanya, from Fredricksburg, Virgina, said: “I am always amazed by how incredibly graceful and beautiful sharks are.
“Here is an animal that has been around in one form or another for a few hundred million years, and is so perfectly suited for its environment that you can’t help but be awestruck seeing one in the wild.
“They are also so much more intelligent than most people realize.
“They will look at you and watch you; sometimes their curiosity will motivate them to come in for a closer look, and other times they’ll err on the side of caution and retreat.”
Through images such as these, conservationist Tanya hopes to dispel the belief that sharks are creatures to be feared.
Despite their sharp teeth and swimming abilities far superior to a human’s, there have been no reported human fatalities caused by a sand tiger shark.
Instead, such sharks live off a diet of bony fish, other sharks and crustaceans.
The bait balls within which they swim are constantly moving, and can sometimes measure as much as several storeys high, Tanya said.
Tanya said: “One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding sharks is that they will seek out and attack people who happen to be in the water nearby. This is simply untrue.
“Unfortunately, popular media has propagated the myth over the last several decades that sharks are mindless monsters.
“Those of us who work around sharks know that this is anything but the actual case.
“It can actually be extremely difficult to get a shark to come close enough to take its picture.
“Sharks are often quite cautious and timid around people, and will typically retreat if they feel threatened.”