Why Are We Afraid of Sharks…Should We Be?

When you think about the ocean…what words spring to mind? Water? Fish? Dolphins? What about words such as fear? Scary? Deep? Intimidating? Everyone has their own opinion on the ocean and what words they associate with the ocean. One word we all have in common though…and that is sharks. Everyone can name at least one species of shark, whether that is the famous Great White Shark or Whale Shark, we all know one.

Now when it comes to sharks what word springs to mind? Killer? Scary? Fear? Have you ever wondered where that fear came from? Why are we so scared of sharks? Should we be scared of them? Now I am no expert on sharks, but I have extensively studied them recently and have been fascinated by them since I was 10 years old. The one question that everyone asks me is ‘are sharks really the ruthless killer we think they are?’. Isn’t that the question everyone wants to know?

I know for myself that it was the question that I wanted answered 16 years ago. At that point all I really knew about sharks was what my parents knew (the internet had only just become widely available but it was still dialup so it was either the phone or the computer…the phone won). My parents realised that I had a hunger for knowledge on sharks and ended up buying me a book on them and I remember so clearly that the pages on shark attacks and survivors is what really held my attention. Specifically it was the story of Rodney Fox and how he survived. Now what really surprised me was that after his attack, he became a shark advocate…he admitted that he was not the victim in this attack, the shark was!

This set me off on what I thought was a great detective story. Turned out that the majority of shark victims didn’t blame the shark at all and actually became advocates themselves! Now if people who were attacked by them aren’t afraid of them…why should we be?

So the big question is, where did this fear come from? Many would say, and I would agree, that the media have made sharks these ruthless killers that we are all afraid of. Whether this all started with the film ‘Jaws’ or not is another question. But the author of ‘Jaws’ Peter Benchley also became a shark advocate and regretted writing his book so much that he wrote another book talking about how important the oceans are and what lives in them.

Yes sharks look scary, they are apex predators so they are ‘designed’ to perfection for their environment. But just because they look scary it doesn’t mean that they are ‘cold-blooded killers’. In fact the chance of a shark killing you is so small, you are more likely to die from a cow or a coconut falling on your head! Those that do get attacked are mainly surfers, and that is because surfers tend to go out at dawn and dusk, prime shark feeding time. Plus the major reason surfers get attacked, is because they look like seals in the water, seals being the number one food source for many sharks.

So does this mean we should be scared of them? To an extent yes, they are the apex predators of the oceans and it is their environment. When we step foot into the ocean, we are going into their environment. But, that fear shouldn’t stop us from exploring or understanding the oceans and especially studying and understanding sharks more! The media has made us scared of sharks with behaviours that aren’t natural to them, we love being scared of monsters, they intrigue us. But instead of being scared of seeing them in the wild, lets be amazed! It is not often that you can come face to face with these beautiful creatures!

Sharks are truly incredible creatures and I will spend my life protecting them and making people aware of just how amazing they are and that we shouldn’t be scared of them.

What about you? What about sharks scare you? What about the oceans scare you? Let me know in the comments below!

~ Fear is only as deep as the mind allows – Japanese Proverb ~

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Taking Time for Yourself

It’s important to, once in a while, take some time for yourself…I did just that this last weekend. After dad being away for 2 1/2 weeks last month…my anxiety picked up…it hit me out of nowhere and for those of you who also have anxiety…you know that it isn’t something that you can just stop…

Anxiety can be crippling, it can make you scared to leave your house, talk to new people, try something new…but you also know that it is a completely illogical fear. I’m known as an over thinker…I over think pretty much everything in my life and so my brain is a constant bundle of things I need to do and scenarios that would never happen. I have yet to find a permanent solution where I can battle my anxiety and overthinking. For right now though a few hobbies keep my mind distracted and this last week and weekend I really focused on myself and pressed the ‘reset’ button in my brain.

So last week, Dad and I took a trip down to Cornwall…dad had an event that he was playing the drums at and I used the time to just relax. We rented an airbnb in Porthtowan just minutes walk from the beach. Now for those of you who know me know that there is something about the ocean and the beach…I feel like I’m at home. My love for marine biology intensifies whenever I’m near the beach and I always feel like the ocean is calling me…my mood instantly changes when I see the ocean, no matter the weather…I cheer up…I relax…I breathe more deeply and think more clearly.

I had so many things planned for that weekend, however there were 2 factors that hindered those plans and could have ruined it all for me. The weather is not something you can control and bank holidays in the UK are notorious for having poor weather. Well, the weather in Cornwall lived up to that…I received pictures from several important people in my life showing the blue sky and talking about how hot it was…I looked out my window and all I had was dense fog, the sun wasn’t anywhere in sight…But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from being on the beach! Now the second factor was a little more annoying…2 weeks before I had managed to dislocate my right shoulder (yes I am right handed) and was still in significant pain and arm still in a sling. So suddenly things like picking up trash on the beach, or trying to take a picture with my camera, became a lot harder to do. Yes we had the dense fog for 2 out of the 3 days we were there, but the last day the fog finally lifted and I remembered why I love the ocean and the beach. The colours of the sand and the blue hues of the water…there is just nothing quite like it for me.

Now getting back to what I did to press the ‘reset’ button, I went for numerous walks on the beach and along the coastal path along the cliffs and spent time staring out to sea, anxiously looking to see if I could spot any wildlife (some seals but that was it), I explored some of the numerous ruins that Cornwall has to offer. Spent time reconnecting with old friends, building connections with new ones and drinking multiple iced lattes and peach green tea lemonades. Oh and who can forget the ice creams!!

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Unfortunately, time always flies and before I knew it we were home and the instant lull in my mood was noticeable. I knew I had to do something to stop myself from slipping back into my anxiety driven state. I ended up looking through my yarn stash and decided to crochet something again. Recently I had been knitting a wrap for myself but I really wanted to crochet something. So I picked a pattern and off I went…There is just something about crocheting and knitting that keeps my mind preoccupied and allows me to relax.

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Some people might say that it is selfish to take time for yourself. But if you don’t, then when do you get the time to be yourself…allow yourself to grow and to relax. Sometimes that means a mini break away to your ‘happy place’ and sometimes it means just picking up an old hobby. All I know is that since my mini break…my anxiety has lessened and my mood has improved.

What about you…what is your happy place? Do you have anxiety? What helps calm you down? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!!

Have a great weekend!

~ A cloudy day at the beach, is still a day at the beach – Unknown ~

My Top 10 Photos and the Stories Behind Them

In preparation for the release of the gallery part of the blog I decided to show my top 10 pictures and the stories behind them. Photography has been a huge part of my life and is one of the main ways in which I can be creative. I have been asked ‘why photography’ a lot and for me it allows me to show the world from my perspective. Something which you could walk past every day, is beautiful to the next person. So I try in my daily life to imagine what would make a good picture.

I have done some interesting things in my life and so I thought about sharing my top 10 pictures and also why I took them. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some incredible places in the world and have seen and experienced so many different cultures and wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else.

  1. My First Long Exposure Shot – MadagascarIMG_8087

Back in 2012 I went for 10 weeks to Madagascar where I had an unforgettable time! It was genuinely one of the best trips of my life. Everything was super photogenic out there and one evening whilst sat watching the sunset, I just looked down and saw this log being washed ashore and saw the beautiful patterns and decided to try my first attempt at long exposure photography. This was the result. Yes the focus isn’t perfect, nor the composition, but it was my first attempt at something I had been too scared to try. The reason I chose to include this in my top 10 is not only because it was my first attempt, but I love the movement of the water and I love that it tells a story.

2. Ethiopian Man – Ethiopia

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I took this picture whilst I was there for my first time in Ethiopia. During that trip we were taken to a religious festival in the middle of nowhere. Everyone was so happy and the people of Ethiopia are all just so beautiful! Whilst having lunch I looked up from my food and noticed this old man standing in a doorway just watching the celebrations and I just thought that that would make such a beautiful picture and I just couldn’t stop myself from grabbing my camera and taking the shot. This was the outcome…It still remains as one of my favourite pictures from my trip.

3.  Why Did the Bear Cross the Road – Yellowstone National Park, USA12698140_10153445388827613_5201671014563450931_o

A couple years ago, my parents and I decided to do a proper American road trip. Starting from Minnesota and passing through 5 states before coming back to Minnesota. One of the major stops on the road trip would be Yellowstone National Park. On our first morning in Yellowstone, we had breakfast in a diner where we spoke to a couple who had been going there for years and hadn’t seen anything other than bison and elks. Well the morning before we had already seen a baby bear, so we were having a good start. Later that day, whilst driving around we spotted a bear walking in the bushes and quickly decided to drive slowly whilst the other cars were parked. And that gamble paid off…the baby bear decided to walk next to the car and then cross the road right in front of us. What an awesome way to experience the wonderful wildlife of Yellowstone!

4.  Sisterly Love – UK17861959_10154584511697613_2200926202777938493_n

These 2 beauties are the gorgeous daughters of some family friends. They were the perfect models and behaved so well! Bare in mind that I did have a broken finger on my left hand and could barely carry my camera. So just before this moment, I had my back turned to the children whilst talking to the parents. I turned round to see the big sister tenderly touching her little sister and I caught this moment. I love taking pictures of children and babies as they are just so unpredictable. Blink and the moment is gone! Seeing the joy on the parents face when you show the final product, makes all the stress of shooting on the day, worthwhile!

5. Taking a Deep Breath – MadagascarCamera 14MP-9PC

Whilst on the trip in Madagascar, we visited one of the islands nearby to where our camp was and visited the reef there. Whilst snorkelling I suddenly spotted a turtle swimming really close to me and decided to swim alongside it for as long as it would let me (whilst keeping a respectable distance!). This moment was just so special for me as it was the first time I had seen a turtle in the wild, it also allowed me to swim with it for about 20 minutes! It was just amazing!

6. Conquering your fears – Costa Rica

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Those of you who know me, know that I am PETRIFIED of heights! Yet this opportunity in Costa Rica, was one that I could not let slip! I took this picture with my GoPro to give the widest angle of where we were. Yes I was scared, but after one bridge that fear was gone! The nature was just so beautiful that I was distracted! When you are surrounded by the beautiful scenery, you can’t help but take pictures everywhere!

7. Tree With a View – Minnesota, USADSC_0041

Whilst Canoeing down a river in Minnesota, we noticed this beautiful bird sitting in the tree. Now it isn’t crazy to see Bald Eagles in Minnesota, but there were hundreds of people below it and hadn’t spotted it. I’ve spent a lot of time in Minnesota over the last couple years and yet every single time I see them they blow my mind! I was so lucky to see such a beautiful bird so close by with such blue sky as the perfect background! I think I ended up taking about 50 pictures of this single Bald Eagle. It was clearly waiting to spot a fish!

8. Miniature World – Wisconsin, USA14525015_10154011743427613_4904568668393714772_o

A couple years ago, I treated myself to a macro lens, and this opened up a whole new world of photography for me! Whilst taking pictures in a garden in Wisconsin I suddenly spotted this tiny spider and I thought could I take a picture of it with my new lens? It was incredibly jumpy and I knew it had moved just as I took a picture. To my surprise when I looked back at it, it was staring right into the camera! It stays one of my favourite pictures I’ve taken with my macro lens as this spider was smaller than your little finger nail!

9. Curiosity Never Hurt Anyone – Madagascar544481_10150927775222613_1435884139_n

Whilst going on a walk in the forest in Madagascar, we came across this tiny chameleon! At the time it was the smallest known chameleon! This picture was taken whilst it was in my friends hand! And again just as I took the picture, it decided to move its head towards my camera to get a good look! I just loved the curious nature of this chameleon and that it really wasn’t scared!

10. Flashy Chameleon – Madagascar 529121_10150924222632613_1178186907_n

So as my last picture I couldn’t not chose this one! It has always been one of my proudest shots! The story behind this picture is that whilst we were at the camp, this panther chameleon strolled into the camp. My friend picked him up and I suddenly noticed how striking the colours were on the perfect background!! The dark background brought out his colours perfectly! A while back I actually entered this into the National Geographic photo of the year and it got into the top 10. It is one of my biggest achievements in my photography career!

So what about you? What is your favourite shot and why?

~ I love photography because I can show people the world through my lens ~

Why the Marine World?

I have had a lot of people ask me “why do you like the ocean so much?” or “why marine biology?”. So I thought, why not tell my story…

It all started when I was a young girl…since I can remember, I have always loved swimming and the ocean. Whenever we would go on holiday near the ocean I would want to go in and watch all the fish! I still remember that the majority of the time either mum or dad would have to come in to the ocean to tell me to come and have food as I would go snorkelling for hours! Something about the marine world fascinated me!

My 7th birthday came and my parents decided to buy me the video boxset of Jacques Cousteau’s discoveries (in Dutch). I started watching them and within a couple minutes, I asked my parents “what does he do?” to which they responded that he was a marine biologist. As a 7 year old I had already dreamt about being an astronaut or a wedding planner, but something in me clicked whilst watching the video. I knew I was going to become a marine biologist!

That was it for me, my obsession started! I wanted to read all the books I could find on marine biology and the marine world, wanted to watch all the videos and wanted to talk to everyone about it! I don’t think my parents were fully aware what they had done!

Fast forward 10 years and it came time to think about university options and what I wanted to study. I knew it had to be marine biology but there were so many different courses within marine biology. But only 1 really stood out! Marine Vertebrate Zoology at Bangor University in North Wales. Now I wish I could say that it was an easy path for me to get into university. However, it really wasn’t! I didn’t do well with my final exams and that meant that I had to repeat a year and redo some of my exams. However, in that year I also realised that I wasn’t quite ready to go to university. So what then…here came the trusty google search. What could I do to postpone university for another year but also be something worth while! I stumbled upon Frontier Gap Year’s website and that was it. Multiple projects jumped out at me but only 1 really caught my attention. Madagascar. Marine conservation and diving…now that was something that I thought was worth it to postpone uni for.

After spending an incredible 3 months in Madagascar, my love for marine biology grew so much and I was ready to go to uni! My experience at university was a mix of amazing memories and times I wish I didn’t have to go through (check out my post about living with a hidden…not so hidden illness to learn more!). But 3 years later and I had completed my BSc and was applying for a masters degree! Who would have thought! But every time I finish something, my love for marine biology grows!

I speak with so many people who have no idea what to do with their lives and I know I am incredibly lucky to have figured out what I wanted to do at such a young age! You just never know how your actions affect the other person. You might just inspire someone and help them find their ideal career! I’d like to think that even if my parents hadn’t bought me that video boxset, I would have still ended up in marine biology.

I’ve done multiple presentations about my field and people always tell me that I glow when I talk about it and I know they’re right! When I talk about marine biology, something in me changes and I become more animated and can’t stop talking! Even just writing this I have a huge smile on my face…

I am now 26 years old, I have just completed my research masters and currently looking for PhDs…my journey is far from over but I know that I am in the right field!

What inspired you to get into your career? What do you love? Let me know in the comments or message us privately!

~  When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself – Jacques Yves Cousteau ~

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Favourite Things About Autumn…

Autumn is a time of year where some get depressed with the falling leaves and the temperatures dropping. I, however, love it! And here are some of the reasons why!!

As a photographer, autumn is one of the most inspiring times of year to take pictures…the changing colours, the coats, the scarves, the hats! So many possibilities without being too hot or too cold!

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The smells!!!! Apple orchards are in full swing and the smell of a fresh apple is unbeatable in my opinion! All the variety of pies that are being made, the smell of rain, the smell of crisp fresh air! Autumn really does have the best smells!! This time of year also brings around my favourite drink of the year! Hot apple cider!! The smell of apple, cinnamon and star anise really warms me from the inside out!!! It is also a time of year where teas come out more and more from our cupboard. I start drinking tea on a daily basis, not English breakfast though! More fruit and herbal teas! The perfect way to warm up after a day outside in the cold crisp air!

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Of course, there is also Thanksgiving, a day where we can reflect on what we have been most thankful for that year! Now I am living in England where it isn’t normal to celebrate Thanksgiving, but I love the thought of acknowledging what you are thankful for that year and what you are looking forward to (plus the good food!!!!!).

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The layers…So I’m a girl that whatever the time of year, I will be wearing multiple layers, 2 strap tops plus a t-shirt. But at this time of year, it starts becoming socially acceptable to wear these multiple layers and I suddenly become fashionable!

Autumn also means that it’ll soon be winter and that means Christmas! A time of year we can reflect on the birth of Jesus and what that means in your personal lives!

So what is your favourite thing(s) about autumn? Let me know in the comments!

~ Autumn shows how beautiful it is to let go! – Anonymous ~