The Story Behind this Remarkable Photo of a Reef Shark Parting a School of Fish

by 500px Editor-in-Chief DL Cade


Find out the story behind this remarkable photograph of a reef shark parting a school of fish. And no… it’s not Photoshopped.


Full-time engineer and part-time photographer Scott Carr received an early wedding present from a reef shark and school of fish in September of 2013. Shared with the community in 2015, his photo Parting of the Feast became one of the most popular Nature photos ever shared on 500px!

We got in touch with Scott to hear the story behind the shot. Here’s what he had to say:

The photo was actually taken the evening before our wedding. We had decided to get married on Heron Island in Queensland, Australia. Our friends and family had made the trip up there from South Australia and the day before our wedding I went scouting with my wedding photographers to work out the best locations we could use for bridal party photos the following day for the wedding.
As dusk drew near we decided to check out the possibilities around the jetty area. Fortunately I was also carrying my DSLR around with me at the time. We walked along the jetty looking down at a large school of fish just beneath the jetty. We noticed a number of reef sharks patrolling the area near the jetty and as we watched the reef sharks slowly moved into the school of fish, with the fish retreating away from the immediate area around the shark.
It was amazing to watch the continuous parting of the school of fish as each shark moved through the mass of fish. I took a number of photos from different angles over about 20 minutes, but opted for this one as my favorite.
Obviously this photo breaks the so called “rule” of thirds (and the golden mean), but I like the balance and symmetry of the shot with the shark directly in the centre surrounded by fish.
For this shot I had to shuffle around a lot back and forth along the jetty edge and have the patience to wait for the shark to be at the right angle. I leant out over the edge of the jetty as far as possible so I could get the shot directly from above with the shark moving away from the jetty. Since it was a very windy evening, the sea was quite choppy, giving the photo an almost painterly feel due to the sea surface’s distortion of the fish and shark below.

“Painterly” is the exact the word that came to mind when we first saw the photo. The second word that came to mind, seeing as it’s the year 2016 and we’re all prone to bouts of skepticism, was “fake” or “over-processed.” But it’s not. Not even a little.

Here are some behind the scenes shots to prove it:

Photo courtesy of Scott Carr
Photo courtesy of Scott Carr

In fact, the only post-processing applied were a few minor adjustments and a crop:

In terms of post-processing there was very little done to this shot. The only adjustments made were minor contrast and saturation boosts, and cropping the image slightly to remove the very top of the image where the school of fish started to thin out.

Here’s another variation on the shot. Just as incredible, and perhaps composed more in accordance to the “rule of thirds,” but not quite as powerful as the key photo of the predator swimming right through the middle of the frame.

Photo courtesy of Scott Carr

Based out of Adelaide, South Australia, Scott shoots everything from panoramic landscapes to studio portraits and weddings, but his deepest passion lies with wildlife photography. He’s also an active member, committee member, and web administrator of the Adelaide Camera Club.

To see more of his work, follow him on 500px, check out his website, or give him a like on Facebook.


This article originally appeared on the 500px ISO blog.

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