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“You’re living the dream Lesley!” was a comment on my Facebook wall when I announced I would be returning to the Tiger Beach in the Bahamas, a place that offers the best opportunities for shark photography.

I’ve held an underwater camera for almost as long as I have been diving, which is over 22 years. As the AfriOceans Conservation Alliance principal photographer I’ve been blessed during the last few months to go on two exciting photographic expeditions for our Rethink the predator shark awareness campaign series. The one was to the remote Cocos Island, a destination I had dreamed of visiting for years, and very soon after returning home I was heading west again, back to the Bahamas.

The Dolphin Dream owned by Scott Smith was my home for two weeks, and once again I was surrounded by beautiful tiger sharks, lemon sharks, and silky smooth Caribbean reef sharks in infinite visibility. It was all work – yes, the part of my portfolio I love most, being in the water with the sharks – and every minute possible I spent in the water, working on different ways to best capture their exquisite beauty. It was a busy but fun time with not enough daylight hours; footage was captured for a documentary I’m producing and images taken for a new shark awareness campaign, which I’m still to announce.

There were times I put my camera down and spent some hours freediving with the sharks. I’d been training during the last year to improve my freediving skills with Trevor Hutton, South Africa’s most accomplished freediver, an AfriOceans Ambassador (DEEP FREEDIVE FOR SHARKS), and my partner (book a freediving course with Trevor here). It was time to put what I had learnt to practice. The legendary Wolfgang Leander, shark lover, photographer, and freediver extraordinaire, who was also on this recent trip, said to me some years ago: “Once you have learnt the joy of freediving with sharks Lesley, you will not go back to SCUBA that easily.” Wolf was right and I’m hooked, the simple pleasure of being with them with nothing but the air in my lungs is an addictive joy. SCUBA, however, will always give me longer bottom time for photographing them, and until I can work out how to make my enormous photographic kit more freediving friendly, I will continue to SCUBA dive.

Apart from launching my new long over due website, I’m building my new photographic website and will soon share loads more of my images so keep popping into my site. For now on this post I share just a few of my images from this latest trip, saving my best to share with you later.

Thanks to Scott and the crew of the Dolphin Dream for a fantastic two weeks – you guys run the best Tiger Beach diving business ever! I’m leading a Photographic Expedition back to the Bahamas next year, dates to be confirmed, but in the meanwhile anyone interested in joining, email me here: lrochat@iafrica.com Space is seriously limited, and that is not sales talk, these trips are so popular, and for good reason, that the Dolphin Dream is booked up for over a year in advance.

And yes, it’s true, I am living the dream, it wasn’t easy but I got here, and I can’t imagine another way. I also know Henry Thoreau’s words are wise and true: I learned this, a least, by my experience; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Watch my space!