By Balraj Sohal
SPECTACULAR images capture a DAREDEVIL photographer chilling alongside CROCODILES.
The thrilling series of photos include a shot of a crocodile flashing its gnarly teeth whilst another shows the predator gliding dangerously close to a surprisingly composed photographer.
The dramatic pictures were taken by underwater photojournalist and marine conservationist, Tanya Houppermans (46), who is from Virginia, USA. Best known for her shots that highlight the beauty of sharks, Tanya’s work has reached publications in over twenty countries, as well as winning a vast amount of awards; the most recent being first place in both the 2018 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest and the Big Picture: Natural World Photography Competition.
Weighing around 180lb and growing up to eight-foot, one can only image how nerve-racking it would be to share the water with these crocodiles; however, Tanya manages to come within inches of the apex predators without so much as a sweat.
“They can sense when you’re nervous and jittery so it’s best to stay calm and relaxed. The best encounters are when they approach you. I usually try to keep my movements slow and deliberate as well; I do not want the animals to see me as a threat,” Tanya explains.
“I always look for any change in behaviour that may indicate fear, aggression, anxiety. I’m always ready to get out of the water when things don’t feel right.
Sadly, the US Endangered Species Act have deemed American crocodiles as endangered, although these species can have a lifespan of one hundred years, only one in four reach the age of four due to their vulnerability whilst at their hatching size. This startling reality adds to the long list of issues related to the oceans inhabitants but spreading the knowledge of these snappers remains the prime focus of Tanya’s work.
“I hope that through my images, people can feel more connected to these animals and maybe even do what they can to help protect them,” Tanya says.
“You can make smart choices about what you eat and the products you use. Know where your seafood comes from and learn about seafood sustainability.
“Before I started taking pictures, I ran a marathon to raise money for shark conservation, so people can do different things within their power.
“I couldn’t help but fall in love with the crocodiles of Cuba. I think they are incredibly beautiful; I can’t wait to return someday and spend more time in the water with them.
“I appreciate it when people react with fascination and curiosity. It means they feel a connection with the image, and it opens a dialogue where I can address their questions such as why the crocodiles were not being aggressive toward me, or why they did not try to bite me.
“The photographs allow the audience to learn more and have some of their misconceptions dispelled. Of course, there are those who think I’m taking unnecessary risks, but I feel the rewards outweigh these problems.
“If my images and the articles I write inspire people to do what they can to help in conserving the oceans, then I’ve done my job.”
To keep up with Tanya’s amazing croc work, visit her Instagram here.