Meet Shark Advocate Mike Coots
Mike is a surfer, photographer, shark attack survivor and shark advocate. When he's not at home in Hawaii surfing on a specially made prosthetic leg, you can find him diving with sharks and sharing visual stories about why we need sharks in our seas.
Follow Mike's adventures on INSTAGRAM
1. What is your favorite shark and why?
I would have to say the Great White. There really is nothing like it on earth, you feel like you are looking at a real life dinosaur. They are so graceful, calculated, intelligent and the sheer massive is just jaw dropping. The first time I saw one was just as exciting as my last. You truly get memorized watching them swim, and interact underwater with others sharks and marine life.
"White Shark Stepping on a Lego"- Mike Coots
2. What is one shark you would like to photograph?
I have yet to photograph a Mako, or even seen one. They look so stealth and sleek, and just gorgeous. Hopefully one day!
3. How did you get started photographing sharks?
Months after the shark attack I became curious why I got attacked, and read up on a lot of shark attack books trying to find a reason why. I knew a lot about what sharks had done to humans, but little what we were doing to them. It wasn't until I watched the doco Sharkwater that my life changed forever. The number in the film, 70 million sharks a year killed for their fins blew my mind. I was a quest to use my unique (with a bit of irony) voice as a shark attack survivor to help do something. We had a local bill here in Hawaii come up soon after, I spoke out for sharks and soon was in Washington DC talking to congress about new laws to protect sharks. I studied portraiture in art school, and am a photographer for living. Once I took a camera underwater to shoot my first shark, I became obsessed.
4. Why do you think images are important for shark conservation? How can they help?
I think to tell a story to inspire change, you need to create a strong visual. Hollywood for years did showed a small dramatic side of what a shark rarely does, and I feel my work it in a small way to help balance that narrative. That there is more than brawn, a lot of brain.
5. What is the coolest/most interesting thing you've seen while diving with/photographing sharks?
I saw a incredible whale-like breach of a white shark this last year in Mexico. It was ten feet in from of me as I stood on the stern of the boat. I had just taken a sip of coffee with camera in hand, and completely missed the shot. I have never in any photo of film seen anything like that. My mind was blown, and the eye contact I made with her when she was in the air is seared into my brain forever.
6. What is the most challenging thing about photographing sharks?
The speed at which things can happen can make focusing the lens and composition tricky. And being present, having eye contact and always being aware of whats going on while taking a photo is challenging. But it truly is one of the most amazing subjects to photograph.