By Jack Williams
A brave British photographer has snapped a series of incredible images, plunging himself into the depths with hundreds of sharks during a giant FEEDING FRENZY.
Shot in Fakarava, French Polynesia, Richard Barnden’s award-winning images show the sheer energy of the feast, as hundreds of grey reef sharks slalom amongst each other, hunting tens of thousands of groupers.
According to Richard, who is originally from near Brighton but is currently based Palau, there were packs of 20 to 30 sharks everywhere he looked, taking on the giant grouper gather that was reproducing.
The event itself is somewhat of a natural phenomenon: it occurs every year as camouflage grouper reproduce around a full moon, which the sharks have now come to expect.
Determined Richard, 40, spent seven years learning the spawning patters of the same species of grouper hoping to one day become on of a select few who have witnessed the event.
Speaking of the event, Richard said: “The hunting behaviour at night is like a game of cat and mouse.
“If the fish stays still, it’s like the sharks cannot detect their presence.
“Some groupers even just stay out in the open or in a shallow hole, as long as they stay still then they generally survive.
“If the fish moves then its game over, one shark detects its whereabouts and all of them just go crazy.”
The images were taken in June 2018, and one of Richard’s photographs, named “The Gauntlet,” resulted in the photographer being named Underwater Photographer of the Year globally.
As well as the huge groups of grey reef sharks and camouflaged grouper, there were also a few parrot fish, oceanic blacktips and whitetip reef sharks present.
Capturing the phenomenon was not easy feat, and the overriding emotion Richard said he felt during the frenzy was more excitement than fear.
It’s very difficult to get close to most species of sharks, he added, but through being very patient and capturing such a unique event, the experience Richard was able to have was like no other.
The photographer came up with the idea to shoot this series having grown fascinated by the spawning cycles of such creatures and how predictable they are.
Richard said: “If you can understand how they work with the patterns of the moon and tide then you can see thousands of fish reproduce at the same place, repeatedly.
“This can bring in sharks and large predators that hunt the fish while they are spawning, so you can have a life and death scenario.
“It’s extremely hard to work out these exact moments and even harder to capture them artistically.
“One chance, one moment to capture that unique event – I guess that’s what I live for.
“My skills as a photographer are not so much about being creative or technically good, my strengths are understanding this kind of behaviour.”