Stunning Photos Show Great Whites Up Close at 'Shark Buffet' Feeding Ground off Mexico Coast

Ever since Euan Rannachan first watched Jaws as a kid around three decades ago, he has been obsessed with great white sharks.

Growing up to become a photographer, Rannachan's two passions merged and he developed a "burning desire to shoot white sharks in their natural habitat," the 34-year-old based in Tahoe, California, told Newsweek.

Around a decade ago, he learned he could go shark-diving off the coast of Guadalupe, a small volcanic island 240 kilometers to the west of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, which is relatively near his home.

But back then Rannachan couldn't afford the right camera equipment, let alone the cost of the trip. So he saved up for half a decade, until in 2015 he finally came face to face with the daunting creatures which had fascinated him for so long.

Rannachan shared some of his favourite photos from recent trips to Guadalupe Island with Newsweek, and recalled some of his most exciting underwater adventures.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
A great white shark bares its teeth off the coast of Guadalupe Island in 2019. Euan Rannachan/@euanart

When did you start taking photos of sharks and why?
Ever since I was little I was obsessed with these big toothy creatures. Movies like Jaws helped cement my fascination.

For years I did not know you were able to cage dive anywhere around me. I knew about other places in the world it was possible, but also heard these other locations were very tricky to shoot in, and usually because of weather would be called off.

That was until I found out about Guadalupe Island. This little rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a very special place. It's a migration resting area for elephant, California, and fur seals. So that and the deep clear water around it creates a shark buffet.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
Great white sharks encountered by Rannachan near Guadalupe Island in 2019.
great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
A great white soars from the ocean in this 2019 shot. Euan Rannachan/@euanart

I remember my first trip out there and how it really affected me. The minute that cage top swung open with a clang and all that was left to do was climb in. From a young age we are told about how "scary" and "man eating" these big animals are.

So logically, standing there peering into the dark cold opening of the cage a little fear and doubt started to creep in. Climbing down into the water I struggled to breathe and floated around awkwardly, until out of nowhere a huge 15 foot male great white appeared and slowly moved past our cage. So close I could see his eye following me as he passed.

In that moment as this huge creature passed within inches of me all that wiring from years and years was whipped away. In its place extreme connection and respect took its place. That bond has only strengthened over the years. I feel an almost obligation now to show people just how these sharks really are. I hope my images, while being true to the animals' apex side, also show that they can be very playful and curious animals.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
Rannachan captured these images in 2018, three years after he first went shark diving.

Where have you captured your shark photos?
All my photos are taken at Isla Guadalupe. To me there is no better location than Guadalupe.

People often ask me to describe the place and I say imagine a place where you would think sharks would be and that's what it looks like. Big sharp jagged rocks shoot out of the water like big teeth. Huge, almost fake-looking, walls of rock form the sides of the island like a big fortress. A lot of people call it Jurassic Park or King Kong Island, both very accurate descriptions.

The reason to me why it's the best is the abundance of very large white sharks here for one last meal before they go off and either have or make babies. Also the side of the island we stay on usually gives us beautiful conditions to capture photos.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
A great white shark approaches Rannachan in 2018. Euan Rannachan/@euanart

How much planning goes into a shoot with sharks? Is it a case of diving and hoping for the best, or do you have to do a lot of research?
You can have a game plan on the type of image you are after before you get in. But at the end of the day you are at the mercy of mother nature. Sometimes you can sit down there hours and hours and you might see one shark. Other times you might be surround by many all day.

The past couple years I have been experimenting with different focal lengths under the water and that takes a bit of planning. I use lenses that are more suited for say sports or even bird watching. So as of now no one really makes exactly what I am after in the cage. Hopefully I can change that in the future.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
A great white shark takes the bate off Guadalupe Island, in 2019. Euan Rannachan/@euanart

How much equipment do you take with you into the ocean? Do you have to pack light?
In the cage space is a hot commodity. So the name of the game is really as small as you can get it and still have the quality you are after. I used to go overboard and bring way too much.

But now I just take a couple lenses, two camera bodies, a camera setup for surface photos, and a bag of GoPros for all those hard to get to places.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
Rannachan, who shot these photos in 2018, says he has never feared for his life while shark diving.

What is the most memorable experience you have had while taking photos of sharks?
I have had a lot of very exciting things happen while hanging out with these animals. The one that really stands out in my mind was on one of my first trips on the last day. It was just me in the cage and for my last dive I had decided not to bring my camera in with me and just experience them without looking through my lens.

The action had kinda died down for the most part and I lay on the bottom of the cage with my head slightly out the bottom corner hole, scanning for sharks.

Finally, I caught a glimpse of a large female making her way up from the depths under the cages towards me. She swam slowly right at me, until almost coming to a full stop next to me about two feet away, locking eyes with me the entire time.

She swam around my cage each time slowing down when she got to my corner and we would just look at each other. She did this for almost 30 min and then slowly swam back down to the depths.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
A great white shark swims with fish off Guadalupe Island, in 2018. Euan Rannachan/@euanart

Have you ever felt scared or feared for your life?
Never scared, but aware of the power these animals possess? Yes, very much so. It's an absolute honor to share space with these apex predators in their home. Try doing it with a wild lion, tiger, or bear.

What do you hope to capture in your photos, and what do you want readers to take away from your work?
I really hope to help break down the stigma these animals get from Hollywood. I want people to feel safe in the ocean, and to stop using phrases like "shark-infested" when describing where they live.

Sharks are a very valuable member of the animal kingdom and without them, like many other species, we would all be in trouble. I want people to respect these creatures and to be as curious as they are.

Do you like taking photos of any other animals?
I do! I have a website with some of my work and art. All my shark stuff is on my Instagram. The next big shoot I am hoping to put together is with polar bears.

great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
great white shark, Guadalupe Island, diving,
Rannachan hopes his photos, such as these taken in 2018, will change how people view sharks.