Goss’ photo of of a blue shark with a rusted hook protruding from its lower jaw won the grand prize of the Ocean in Focus Conservation Photo Contest. TerryGoss/Marine Photobank
"The ocean has been an afterthought for much of our modern culture, and I’m enjoying seeing it come to the fore again in little ways.”
– Terry Goss
SeaWeb: Congratulations on being selected as the Marine Photobank Ocean in Focus conservation photography contest grand prize winner! Tell us about the winning image; can you describe the situation that you were in while taking this photograph?
Terry Goss: Thanks very much! I am hugely flattered. This image was taken offshore of southern Rhode Island, in July of 2011, snorkeling/freediving from a small private boat. The steel circle hooks with the heavy monofilament lines are longlines. Longliners’ target may not be sharks – yet all the same, we can clearly see that the damage is done. Sadly, many of the sharks we saw had either embedded hooks, or cuts and marks from hooks, lines or nets – one shark had several plastic box ties wrapped tightly around his body, and another looked to be recently recovering from having his jaw ripped open, practically to the gill slits. The photo was shot with a Nikon D300, with a Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye lens inside an Aquatica housing, using two Sea & Sea YS90 strobes.
SW: How did you get into underwater photography? Would you call it a profession, a hobby, or some combination of the two?
TG: Currently a hobby, but I’ve managed to license and sell some shots, and have actually managed some print appearances (still not sure how, but hay!); I also keep an online portfolio. I started underwater shooting right around the time I started diving in 2006, and thank goodness for the digital revolution – I can’t imagine what travelling shooters had to go through with all that film to process.
SW: When did you start taking pictures related to marine conservation and why did that become a focus for you?
TG: I love the ocean. I always have, and some of my earliest happy memories are from aquariums and SeaWorld. When I started shooting underwater, it was immediately apparent that every shark image I make carries a triple message: 1) look at this amazing and awesome animal, 2) they are NOT your enemy,and finally, 3) look at what we’ve done to them and their home. These photos will be the LAST RECORD of their long existence if we don’t change our ways.
SW: How did you get involved originally with shark conservation?
TG: I started networking with other divers and underwater shooters, and with each new trip shared stories and books and stats and contacts with others. I’ve been donating to various marine and shark-focused causes as I’m able (I have a list of links on my site!), and was able to participate in an anti-sharkfin demonstration in San Francisco’s Chinatown, on Chinese New Year, a while back.
SW: What suggestions do you have for other photographers that want to use their images to help protect and conserve the ocean or environment in general?
TG: Show your images, and get them embedded into people’s consciousness; use the raw power of images to impress upon people in a very direct and simple yet powerful and even emotional way. Post to Marine Photobank and Flickr and other sites, and make or get your own personal site, and keep telling the stories of the ocean through these images. The ocean has been an afterthought for much of our modern culture, and I’m enjoying seeing it come to the fore again in little ways.
SW: Progress has been made for shark conservation in California, where you live, in the form of a ban on shark fin trade. What does this say about the movement to protect this apex predator and what does it signal for the future?
TG: I was amazed – I thought we were still collectively too jaded to do anything meaningful like this in such a big way. Jaws really set the tone for how our modern society considered sharks for most of my life, and yet we’re seeing that horrible mythology (great movie, horrible subconscious effect) slowly replaced with the genuine interest, wonder and respect these animals so deserve. Perhaps there’s hope for us after all!
SW: The winning photograph has earned you and a friend a 10-day expedition to the Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions, the expedition travel company that voyages the world in alliance with the National Geographic Society to inspire people to explore and care about the planet. What are you most looking forward to in the Galapagos?
TG: I have wanted to go there for so long; it's essentially 'ground zero' for our entire understanding of evolutionary biology - and there are so many incredible life forms there, it really speaks to my heavy science interests. We're truly fortunate in our modern era, to be able to so easily visit and explore such amazingly remote and exotic places, and I want to take advantage of that - I can't sit at home, I want to see this whole, teeny, tiny little rock we all call home, and maybe use my images to impress upon others the wonder I feel when I see it.
SW: What do you want people to take away from seeing your winning image?
“Blue sharks are rad," or maybe, "Sharks rule, it's such a shame he's injured."