Want to become a shark filmmaker? Joe Romeiro shows the way

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(CNN) – Let’s say you’re ready to give up your job and replace it with a not-so-typical, still dangerous, adrenaline-pumping career. If so, then shark cinematography might be right for you. That is, if you’re okay with the possibility that a 1,400 pound tiger shark will occasionally steal your camera gear. Or a mako shark sneaking up on you on a night dive.

All in a day’s work for Joe Romeiro, extraordinary shark filmmaker. For the past decade, his main focus has been on filming some of the world’s largest predatory marine animals.

You name him, he filmed it. From massive great whites in Cuba to tiger sharks in the Bahamas and hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos Islands, which can grow up to 20 feet long.

Joe Romeiro thumbs up, saying he had been shot at a tiger shark.

Mike Dornellas / Discovery Channel

This begs the question: why does it swim towards sharks when most humans do the opposite?

Simple: Through years of careful research and first-hand knowledge, he knows the chances of being fatally attacked are extremely slim. Sharks are just not the man-eating machines that “Jaws” made of them.

For Romeiro, the obsession began at age 4 when his family moved from the Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, to the United States. He couldn’t speak English, so he mostly turned to monster movies and natural history movies that didn’t require translation. Every time sharks were on screen he was captivated.

“Thanks to that, I found my first heroes,” he recalls.

‘I’m trying to change the way people see sharks’

In adulthood, the fascination continued to grow. Starting this hobby into a career made sense.

“I was shooting and diving all the time, and I made a conscious decision one day to go for it,” he says.

Romeiro has obtained PADI, NAUI and SSI certification, from diving schools that teach diving techniques, in their twenties.

He immediately started filming sharks with a small camera, and after about 15 years he had made his way to awesome cinema systems used to shoot Hollywood movies. Although he took the advice of mentors along the way, he is a self-taught filmmaker.

Romeiro and his crew saw over 10 mako sharks the day he got this photo.

Joe Romeiro

He finally took a truly impressive picture of a shark’s pearly whites and sent it to a producer at Discovery Channel’s Shark Week (August 9-16 this year). This opened doors for him and ultimately led him to organize and produce for Shark Week.

Fast forward a decade and his equipment now costs more than the price of a starting home and Discovery Channel, BBC, and National Geographic take him to travel the world to film everything from makos to the fastest shark around the world, to the gentle whale sharks, which can grow to the length of a school bus.

“I’m trying to change the way people see sharks through the photographs and videos I create,” he says. “It allows people to see how these sharks interact with me and how they behave in their natural environment. “

One thing’s for sure: it’s not your typical 9 to 5 job. While most people only think of sharks for a few weeks each summer, Romeiro has sharks in his brain every day of the week all week long. year.

When he’s not traveling the world filming the toothy creatures, he’s at home collecting footage in Rhode Island, brainstorming ideas for upcoming shows, drawing sharks and to become CEO of the Atlantic Shark Institute. All in the name of shark conservation.

A big hammer at night

A big hammer at night

Joe Romeiro

Breaking free from dangerous encounters

Needless to say, Romeiro’s career path keeps him on his toes.

“I’ve had a lot of close calls,” he says. “It was all my fault or someone else’s fault, but never the shark’s fault.” “

While diving at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, for example, there was a curious woman spinning it. While distracted with several other tiger sharks, this curious female went to shake Romeiro’s head from above.

“Fortunately, I noticed the reactions on the faces of my fellow divers, and I knew she was above me. I was able to push her away gently.

On another shoot, he was inside a shark cage that fell and was dragged behind a boat with him still inside.

Guadalupe Island is one of the best places to see great white sharks, Romeiro said.

Guadalupe Island is one of the best places to see great white sharks, Romeiro said.

Joe Romeiro

However, his job is certainly not routine. And that is exactly its appeal.

Peaceful encounters, believe it or not, are the norm. Take for example the time he took a hook out of a shark’s mouth and it hovered at eye level as if to say thank you.

Or the first time he met Emma, ​​a famous female tiger shark who frequents the Bahamas, for the first time. She’s what Romeiro calls a supermodel shark because she’s ready to let you get some close-ups.

“Once you see them long enough, you can see that different people have different personalities,” he explains. “You can see one, and it’s like seeing a friend. “

Regarding this weird and wonderful career he spoke of, Romeiro says it’s a dream come true – and being able to educate people about his favorite marine animal is an added bonus.

The gear is serious

On any shark shooting excursion, Romeiro’s must-have gear includes: his RED Weapon 8K digital camera, PhantomVEO, Canon 1DXII, Mavic Pro, and GoPro.

“We use the same cameras you see in Hollywood movies,” he says. “Right inside a waterproof metal box. “

Security measures include his wife, Lauren Benoit, who is also a camera operator. They watch each other. Plus, there are always three trauma kits on board with every conceivable safety item, from bandages to tourniquets.

When it comes to mastering the art of filming these top predators, Romeiro says it’s important to keep your head on a pivot. They are wild animals after all and therefore unpredictable.

Jamin Martinelli holds a tiger shark at bay as Joe Romeiro shoots the encounter.

Jamin Martinelli holds a tiger shark at bay as Joe Romeiro shoots the encounter.

Michael Dornellas / Discovery Channel

Beyond that, it’s crucial to make sure your white balance is correct. And, of course, double check to make sure your camera is on and rolling.

“Ten percent are there and 90 percent are ready,” he says. “There are so many shots missing by not having a camera handy or by not being on and rolling. ”

Whatever role you want to play – be it an underwater videographer, surface cameraman, sound technician, lighting technician, writer, producer, narrator or editor – it’s definitely a competitive field.

But for those who are persistent enough to make a career out of it, it can certainly be rewarding. Romeiro’s best advice is to never give up.

“You only fail in areas that you will eventually give up,” he says. “I always believed it, and at least for me it was a truth. ”

Do you have what it takes?

During non-pandemic times, Romeiro and his wife lead shark expeditions from their home port in Rhode Island from June through October. They teach serious underwater photographers and videographers to master the craft.

Photo subjects: blue sharks and mako. The backdrop: emerald and blue water about 20 to 40 miles off the coast.

Don’t be surprised if you also encounter twilight, smooth hammerhead, tigers, and basking sharks. If you’re lucky, maybe even a fox, porbeagle, or great white shark. They even occasionally encountered whale sharks.

They have also led expeditions to the Bahamas in search of tiger sharks, ocean whitetips, and great hammerhead sharks. However, all of these trips are on hold for the time being due to Covid-19. Check the website for updates.

Shipping costs $ 500 per person per day for a 12 hour day.

Sarah Sekula covers stories about travel, fitness and amazing people, and her assignments have taken her to all seven continents. Follow his adventures @sarahsomewhere.

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