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Swimming With a Shark Shepherd | An Underwater Photo Shoot With Von Wong

By Hanssie on January 18th 2016

In the recent years, sharks have become cool. The fear of going in the water single-handedly induced by the movie Jaws has given way to sharks being full blown media darlings. These silent, deadly, beautiful, and enigmatic predators of the sea have gained popularity and have climbed the ranks to be the cool kids of the sea. With upwards for 42 million viewers for Discovery Channel’s Shark Week last year to Sharknado to the infamous “left shark,” the species’ notoriety is skyrocketing.

Sadly, these predators are being hunted by man for a variety of reasons. Shark soup is a delicacy in many parts of the world; shark cartilage and liver oil are put in medicines and beauty products; shark teeth are sold as souvenirs. The shark population is depleting at an alarming rate, and photographer Benjamin Von Wong wanted to do a project to advocate their conservation.

If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Benjamin Von Wong, first check out these articles. Von Wong is known for taking on seemingly impossible projects and creating stunning images in the midst of the chaos. Each shoot seems to be more challenging than the last and each full of the element of surrealness, photographed in some remote part of the world. In his work, you can’t help but try to figure out if it’s Photoshop magic or if he really did dangle the CEO of SmugMug off the edge of the tallest skyscraper in San Franciso. So, it’s no surprise that Von Wong’s latest shoot involves tying a model down while sharks swarmed around her in Fiji. No big deal.

Von Wong's Shark Shepherd


In his recent work, Von Wong has been striving to use his talent to bring attention to the conservation and protection of nature. In this project, Shark Shepherd, Von Wong’s vision was to bring attention to the plight of sharks and where better than in a land known for its shark dives. Working in unpredictable elements (underwater) with unpredictable creatures (sharks), Von Wong and a team of support divers, a marine biologist/shark expert, plus champion freediver as the model, went beneath the surface with the goal of capturing a shark shepherdess in her element. They had a two-hour window to work with each day. The shoot took three days to capture the perfect images of the skittish sharks.


Gear Used:

Sony a7R II, 16-35mm,  Nauticam Housing180mm Dome Port

Von Wong hopes that this project will encourage supporters to sign a petition to create shark sanctuaries to protect these magnificent creatures. You can sign the petition here:

See more images in Von Wong’s blog post here and watch the video below for a behind the scenes look at how it all came together.


Photography: Von Wong
Video editing: Adam Frimer
Model: Amber Bourke
Underwater video operator: Steve HathawayYoung Oceans Explorers
Drone operator: Joost Glaser
Shark Expert: Thomas Vignaud
Dive Team:  Lydia Murray, Kris Mcbride, Rachel Young, Carlo Acosta
Special thanks: Barefoot Collection, Tourism Fiji, Nauticam

Conservation Partner: Shark Stewards

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Warren Senewiratne

    Loved the video.

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  3. Trevor Dayley

    These are phenomenal! Fantastic job Von Wong! You continue to execute amazing shoots one right after another. I love your vision, your purpose and your pictures!

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  4. Masrur Mahmood


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  5. Peter Nord

    One thing to have imaginative vision, another to be able to execute it. Old masters may sell for millions but they didn’t have to paint under water where they weren’t the top predator. In a class by himself.

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  6. John Cavan

    At this point, I have to wonder if anyone is doing as cool and as interesting as the stuff Ben Von Wong is doing these days? Every time I watch a video or look at his images, I get drawn in. Fabulous, as always and, in this case, for a very good cause. Life is a balance, we need to stop throwing the scales out of whack if, for nothing else, our own sake.

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    • Hanssie

      Ben has a knack for pushing the envelope for sure. I’m amazed every time I see his latest work. Just when I think he cannot possibly top what he did last time…

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  8. Nick Viton


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