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Great White Shark Legend: The Interview, Part 2

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Jeff Goodman interviews Ricardo and Rachel Lacombe about their film, Great White Shark Legend

Great White Shark Legend is a well thought out and developed film. It is sensitively filmed and directed as well as being very informative and revelatory in both hard facts as well as emotional content. I talked with Ricardo and Rachel Lacombe about its making.

Rachel Lacombe

Ricardo Lacombe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Part 1 here.

Part 2

Jeff: Where there any favourite moments while making the film, and if so, are they in the final product?

Ricardo: It was a lot of hard work, and very long hours, and sometimes harsh weather out there, so sometimes it did feel more like work. Which it was. However, to help you take stock of what you are actually pointing your camera at, nature sometimes threw me a reminder.

One was a breach we captured on film. We never intended this to be what I call “camera porn”. Every year TV shows have to ramp up the technical aspect of things like high frame rate slo-mos and getting cameras into new places. I get it, and understand the TV rational for doing so. But that wasn’t our film. But one thing we HAD to capture well for at least just one shot was a big breach. It’s really challenging to be on a full zoom lens with the boat bobbing around while towing a decoy. It makes you feel motion sick and you need steady legs and steady hands and gear. One tow we had been filming for around 40 minutes and coming to an end with no success when this magnificent breach happened. Shark full out of the water, upside down, flipped around. It happens in a second and I knew it was a stunning breach. No one got it because everyone had tired arms and eyes but I thought I had. I ran back to the cabin and played it back and it was in frame and in focus and I almost cried that I had been able to catch such a display on basic gear. I put the camera down and went out to look at the sea for a while with deep breathes of sea air in my lungs and thought “this is nature and I am humbled to be here”. That’s the shot that introduces our section on breaching in the film. It’s not the most technically exaggerated shot, and it’s no BBC Wildlife competition by any means, but for me it marks what this journey of viewing Great Whites is all about.

Rachel: The really cool thing was getting to spend time and really get to know those who work in the shark industry, which was a privilege. But the real honour is sharing a small boat with other shark advocates, the guests on board. Being in this truly magical place of False Bay and witnessing these displays of awesome nature at work is only heightened by the fact that you get to share that magic with other people. The ASEC guys get this and that’s why we wanted to work with them so much. A great example of this, and a personal favourite of mine, was with a guy from Brazil called Tiago. We had seen him on several trips over a week or two on the boat photographing sharks. He was very reserved and quiet but once we got talking to him (and saw his incredible images) we realised what a passion we shared. We ended up with a night over the dinner table in a local restaurant where we made friends with this awesome guy and then I got to share the cage with him on a few dives, which was beyond incredible, because I knew and understood the person with me watching these sharks swim around us.

Jeff: I remember well the first time I ever dived with sharks – it was exactly two weeks after seeing the movie Jaws. The film did give me a few restless nights but as soon as I got into the water with them (reef sharks, not Great Whites) I was completely relaxed and awed. How was the build up for you to your first dive? What were you thinking and hoping for the first time you climbed into the cage to be underwater and close up to the sharks?

Rachel: I was absolutely terrified. I remember my husband mixed up our first days itinerary (when we went in 2011 on holiday, not the filming!) and we thought we had another day before the first dive, until our guest house owners came to see us to tell us that ASEC had been in touch to confirm that we were good for our dive the next day. Next day?! I lay in bed that night terrified! On the jetty down to the boat the next morning my knees were literally knocking together. I was shaking.

As I climbed into the cage I thought I might die. I was that scared. I still thought it was really dangerous. Once in the water and seeing how relaxed sharks were I relaxed and started to enjoy it and all those misconceptions just disappeared in seconds. I cannot stress this enough. If you believe what is shown to you in popular media, you will discover once out there that what they show you is about 0.5% of what actually occurs. So the build-up was the only fearful part, in my own mind, not the sharks. They were far from scary.

Ricardo: For me it was not so much a fear of sharks, it was a fear of open water. I would not even go beyond knee deep in a lake for a ridiculous fear that something is there. It was always the water though, the expanse of it, the feeling of being out of your element. So the proposition of being out on a boat in the open water was in my mind constantly and it terrified me going out there. The sharks came second to that. Until, like Rachel, we got out there and it all changed. The trip out on that first dive in the early hours of the morning with the sun only just about to peek out behind the mountains was just life changing – before we even saw a shark! The first encounter I had up close was five minutes into the cage. My wife prodded me and motioned to me. I turned to my right and a 4 metre Great White was heading right for the cage, probably confused and unfortunately, briefly, it had its nose in the cage, which is not good for anyone. However, from a fear of open water only hours before I was staring through my dive mask at the open throat of a Great White Shark just half a metre from my face and it was a serene and peaceful moment. Talk about a defining marker in my bond with open water!

Jeff: By the way, what cameras did you shoot particular aspects of the film with?

Ricardo: We used a combination of some Sony HD gear, there’s some shots on Red cameras, there’s some cheap little camcorders, and there’s a ton of GoPro’s! Part of the pitch to get GoPro involved was just how versatile their cameras are and how we could prove we could utilise them to a greater extent for film making, rather than just sports and action activities – so that came with a desire to use them as much as possible. They graced me with the new model that was out at the time, the Hero4 Black, and I shot a ton of stuff in 2k and 1080 60fps. They were amazing! I don’t to focus on gear to be honest and rarely discuss in detail unless I have to, because having used everything from the most expensive cameras to the cheapest cameras I am well versed in plenty of hardware….but to get too involved in gear I find can be intimidating for new film makers and students. There’s a misconception that you have to have the best of the best but it depends on what you are filming. That’s why I loved hooking up with GoPro and it’s been a fruitful relationship since. These tiny cameras open up a world for film makers, especially divers, if you can just get past the peer snobbery which exists way too much. A game changer for me was when the documentary “Searching For Sugarman” won the Best Documentary Oscar and there’s was a load of material in that film shot on a phone! So gear talk is cool in some respects but get your story in place and the gear is not that important. Underwater film makers are currently turning off and calling me names by the way which is fine, I can take it!

Jeff: The film version I saw ran for 94 minutes, which is quite a long time for a documentary. What determined its length?

Ricardo: It’s a longer time for a TV broadcasted documentary but not for the modern indie feature documentary, which was always our intent. We never intended it for TV, largely because of the running time restrictions. The length was always a discussion between us, as we started with many weeks’ worth of footage and once pieced together against our original structure it ran at approx. 4 hours! Obviously that had to come down. We got down to 2 hours, then a 1hr 40mins cut and then a final trim down to 94mins.

We would normally determine a running time by the needs of the story but in this case we had such a different need from our potential audiences. For the shark nuts out there we know full well a 2 hour cut would have been heaven to bring in a ton more debate, discussion and more shark footage. But a more casual viewer, who we desperately wanted to appeal to, would turn off. So the running time and structure is a balance of the two. At some point you have to draw a line and say “it’s done” and put it out there as a piece. We get so many reactions from “wish you had put more in” to “you put too much in” and somewhere in between!

Rachel: As ever I am always quite critical of Ricardo’s work! That’s how we work. If I wasn’t happy I said so, much to my husband’s disappointment. In the end he always agreed with me, even if it took him a week to come round to it. He would get completely stoked about a particular section or interview and I would be more objective about it as I was not the editor, I hadn’t spent the last week working on a ten minute section. So we really made a great team as we both had different audiences in mind and how much of each topic they would be interested in. Like Ricardo said, the intention was always to make a feature documentary. We have had broadcast offers, which would require getting down to 60 minutes or less, which would never work for us. Sadly, so many of those offers asked for more blood and guts and teeth and could we add more in. Clearly that was not for us.

Come back for the 3rd and final part of Jeff’s interview with Ricardo and Rachel next week!

Haven’t seen Great White Shark Legend yet? You can buy or rent it at www.greatwhitesharklegend.com.

Jeff Goodman is the Conservation editor and also the Underwater Videography Editor for Scubaverse.com. Jeff is an award winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 4

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy for part 4 of his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

We are all back to the house reef today; the weather is lovely, the sea calm, the tide will soon be slack, so a great day’s diving in store.

A few yards away from the beach dive centre, on the Roots’ beach is their day time restaurant. It is where we take lunch when diving, and there is a continual supply of tea, coffee and soft drinks, and some marvellous lunches.  There are also male and female toilets and a fully accessible toilet for those using wheelchairs.

A few thoughts around working with amputees and those who have paraplegia. Firstly amputees – the part of the limb remaining is known as the ‘stump’, and we have worked with a substantial number of bilateral leg amputees (both legs), single leg amputees and single arm amputees.  The level of amputation can be above or below the knee or elbow, or through the knee. In one case the amputation was transpelvic and in another through the shoulder.  Some like Chris Middleton have one leg amputated above the knee and one below the knee.  This is rare, but each type of amputation offers a different challenge.

Many people think the amputation is clean and the skin neatly tidied up after surgery. Although that occurs in a few cases, in most the stump is rather rugged.  Elasticity of the skin around the stump is often exceptionally poor and can easily be damaged.  Some of our beneficiaries, as they were injured as young men, suffered from heterotopic ossification – this is where the bone tries to grow after amputation and often penetrates the skin, resulting in further surgery being required to cut back the bone and of course the stump needs to be restitched.  Very often stumps are sealed with skin from elsewhere on the body.

Swars kitting up

Few divers have never experienced a graze or cut underwater but such an experience for those with amputations can have serious consequences.  Stumps are more likely to get cut or grazed as the skin is so tight. We all know that there are lots of infections in seawater and if infected the cut or graze can cause very serious problems for the amputee.  Tailored wetsuits are one preventative measure, as are daily stump checks, making sure there is no damage and if there is, applying medication and or protecting the stump.

Those with paraplegia provide an additional challenge, not being able to feel their lower limbs they can easily damage them, so cuts, abrasions, and even sunburn can go unnoticed.  Donning a full-length wetsuit can be a challenge as toes can easily be broken and hairs pulled out of legs.  On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course we show how to fit a wetsuit properly.

In recent discussions between our dive medicine advisor Mark Downs and our VP Richard Castle, who is a consultant psychologist, we have been looking at areas for further medical research in terms of diving for those with disabilities.  One area of suggested study is thermoregulation. The theory is that those with amputations and those with paraplegia suffer more with the cold as their body is unable to regulate heat. Certainly, in Corey’s case, he feels the cold more quickly than those diving with him. Chris Middleton can feel the cold more quickly than others with amputations but that may well be that Chris is muscle and bone where, to put it nicely, others have a more substantial covering.

Some AMEDs and Dive Referees will not sign off amputees as being fit to dive. That is their professional opinion and although we can show that even triple amputees are more than capable divers, capable of progressing to Rescue Diver standard even, they still refuse to sign them off. Last year Oli and Mark invited us to speak at the UK Annual Hyperbaric Medicine Conference in London where Josh Boggi, the world’s first triple amputee Rescue Diver and a Deptherapy beneficiary spoke about how amputees can become safe and successful divers.

Corey, Swars and Michael

For Corey, he wears full leg coverings and diving boots in the water; as he cannot use his legs there is no purpose in wearing fins.

Another point around amputations is that most of the general population make an assumption that a leg amputation is the result of a traumatic incident.  That is incorrect; by far the majority of leg amputations in the UK are the result of diabetes. Those whose legs are amputated as a result as diabetes are more likely to have poor healing of the stumps.  This also presents an issue of comorbidity that may well result in an AMED or Dive Referee declining to sign them off as ‘fit to dive’.  If signed off you would need to be very aware of the health of a stump; I certainly would not take someone with an open wound diving and the fact that they will be on medication for the diabetes.  You also have to be aware that they may well be on other medication to manage pain etc.

You need to be very clear with those who have paraplegia and other conditions that they must let you know if they start to feel cold.

Managing air – diving just using your arms for propulsion can, for many, be very tiring and a considerable amount of effort is required.  This, plus other factors, may result in enhanced air consumption by the diver.  This may increase if a current is encountered, even one which most divers who have use of their legs and dive with fins would not cause the least concern.

Within Deptherapy we very much work on the ‘rule of thirds’ – a third of your air to get you down and to see what you want to see, a third to get you back to the surface and a third in reserve.  This in most circumstances will ensure no ‘low on air’ or ‘out of air’ situations.

Say if we have 210 bar in a cylinder that means 70 bar out, so turn on 140 bar, 70 bar to return and to the surface so we should have 70 bar reserve at the surface.

We also work our students through SAC rates and looking at the air consumption of others in their team.

Checking the team’s air frequently during a dive is stressed to all our Pro team.

Keiron became very engaged with this concept as the result of the online RAID study for his Master Rescue Diver.

On expeditions we normally dive in small teams, a DM/TDM with three programme members.  They work as a team and understand each other’s air consumption. Of course, they also dive as buddy pairs.

Today offered perfect conditions for diving, and Keiron, Moudi, and this time TDM Oatsie were kitted up and in the water within minutes.

Pause for thought… those with paraplegia will have different toileting arrangements to those who do not have the condition. This also applies to some who have suffered traumatic limb loss.  They may use catheters for urination, some may have Stoma bags etc.  This all has to be planned into your dive schedule to ensure the safety and comfort of your student.  For young people talking about these very personal arrangements may be very difficult.  Those with Stoma bags may be embarrassed by people seeing them.  This is another part of seeing beyond the injury or condition – it is the person inside that you are dealing with.

Corey on the Roots House Reef

So, Corey, Michael and myself were joined by Swars.  Swars, although he joined the DM programme at the same time as the other guys, because of work commitments was unable to join us in September 2019 at Roots where we ran a DM introductory programme alongside the crossover of our Pro Team to RAID.  Swars has become a really good mate; he is a great diver, with an engaging personality.

Michael and Oatsie were a known quantity to me as they had been on the September 2019 programme and both have travelled to my home dive centre Divecrew in Crowthorne, Berkshire, to work on courses, pre-COVID.  During COVID Michael and I, plus a few of the guys from Divecrew, have dived at Wraysbury together.

Just as Roots is our base in Egypt, Divecrew is our base in the UK, and through this relationship, Martin (who owns Divecrew with his wife Sue) is one of our trustees. Together they have established a centre where pretty much 100% of the Pros are Deptherapy Education trained.

I asked Swars straight away to brief a dive for Corey. I gave him the briefing slate, a few tips and then ten minutes later he came back with a perfect briefing… and I mean perfect.  So, a great briefing under his belt; now to watch him work with Corey in open water. He looked the Pro, he knew what he should be doing, he understood his role. We assigned Michael as Corey’s buddy and said he would lead the dive. I was there to assess the TDMs and supervise very closely Corey’s skill demonstrations.

Again, it comes as no surprise that many beneficiaries in Deptherapy can move straight into dive management, as several were NCOs, as was Swars, and they are used to briefing individuals and teams.

We had decided that we would mix up the dives required to complete Corey’s OW 20 RAID dives with some general diving as trim and swimming arm action are all important. We also needed to concentrate on spatial awareness.

We agreed a signal for horizontal trim and Swars reinforced the swim stroke that Corey needed to do to get propulsion.  Every time Corey moved out of horizontal trim Swars was there reminding him about trim and reminding him of his swim stroke.

The Roots’ House Reef is amazing – at a metre you encounter a shoal of black Damselfish, at 3 metres a shoal of Unicornfish, there are Butterflyfish and all manner of other fishes in great profusion.  The coral is in great condition. It really is a place of beauty and tranquillity.

Oatsie and Swars relaxing by the Roots pool after a long day

Although we had problems getting Corey underwater again, once we got him in skill demonstration mode his anxieties disappeared.  We then took him diving. Steve Rattle, the owner of Roots joined us and was taking photos that provide a great record of the week’s diving.  Steve commented on the quality of Swars and Michael’s supervision and control underwater of Corey and gave them feedback on how impressed he was.

Meanwhile on the RAID Master Rescue Course, Oatsie who was in the same Regiment, same Platoon and Section as Keiron in Afghanistan was more than willing to be a very uncooperative victim for his brother-in-arms.  I think Keiron gave Oatsie some feedback about this!

For me this was a hard week, combining running the RAID OW 20 for Corey but also the assessment of our three TDMs.  A week underwater but no opportunity to dive for myself.  People often think Deptherapy Expeditions are holidays for the Dive Team; they are not, it is hard work and I mean hard work.

Tomorrow is Day 4 in the water Day 5 of our trip. We are on the House Reef again, and things are starting to come together. Join us back here on Monday 26th October…

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Competitions

WIN an XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask!!!

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Yes, XDEEP have now officially called their excellent frameless mask the ‘Radical’, and in this week’s competition, we’ve got another one to give away!

The XDEEP Radical Frameless Mask is a large single lens dive mask with a soft silicone skirt and traditional strap. The frameless design brings the lens closer to your face so you get a wider FOV and less internal volume that you have to equalise and clear. The larger nose pocket makes the mask more comfortable and easier to equalise, even with thick gloves.

To be in with a chance of winning this awesome prize, all you have to do is answer the following question:

In a recent post on Scubaverse.com (which you can find here), we reported that you can join Reef-World and a panel of industry experts at the first ever Scuba.Digital for an open discussion on green tourism and how this might be shaped by a post-corona world. But when can you join Reef-Word’s Sustainable Diving event on the main stage of Scuba.Digital 2020?

Is it:

  • A) 3pm BST on Friday 23rd October 2020
  • B) 3pm BST on Saturday 24th October 2020
  • C) 3pm BST on Sunday 25th October 2020

Answer, A, B or C to the question above:

Nautilus Diving XDEEP Frameless Mask October 2020

Competition
  • Enter the country you live in
  • Terms and Conditions: This competition is open to all visitors to www.scubaverse.com except for members of the Scubaverse team and their families, employees of Nautilus Diving and their families, or XDEEP and their families. A valid answer to the competition’s question must be entered. If no valid answer to the competition’s question is entered, your entry will be invalid. Only one competition entry per entrant permitted (multiple entries will lead to disqualification). Only one prize per winner. All prizes are non-transferable, and no cash alternative will be offered. In the event that the prize cannot be supplied, no liability will be attached to www.scubaverse.com. When prizes are supplied by third parties, www.scubaverse.com is acting as their agents and as such we exclude all liability for loss or damage you may suffer as a result of this competition. This competition closes on 02/11/20. The winner will be notified by email. The Editor-in-Chief’s decision is final.

  • The following fields are optional, however if you fill them in it will help us to determine what prizes to source in the future.

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