A Great White Shark in Mossel Bay, South Africa
A Great White Shark in Mossel Bay, South AfricaAmanda Brewer
A Great White Shark in Mossel Bay, South Africa
A Great White Shark in Mossel Bay, South Africa
Amanda Brewer
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Capturing a Great White Shark with a GoPro

Oct 06, 2014

Depending on your perspective, Amanda Brewer either had the best, or worst summer vacation ever.

The elementary school art teacher snapped the photo above of a Great White Shark in South Africa where she volunteered this summer to collect data for the eco-tourism and animal conservation organization White Shark Africa. A lifelong lover of the typically terrifying sea-beasts, Brewer said that her time in the waters of Mossel Bay were some of the most fascinating and rewarding of her life.

"I wasn't even a little bit frightened," she said. "When you're there and you're in their presence, it's not scary. They're beautiful and graceful, and you can see how intelligent they are."

The photo was taken totally off the cuff with the a GoPro camera, Brewer said. And while she'd experimented with nature and candid photography, had no way of knowing if the image she saw as the giant shark approached her with its jaws wide open, was the image she'd actually captured on camera.

"I bought the camera right before I left for the trip, and had no expectations at all," she said. "It was the perfect moment, and the camera is so easy to use and takes such magnificent photos. I'd been waiting for this kind of experience my whole life, and was worried that when it finally happened I'd ruin it, but that photo was taken from the cage and the shark was just coming straight at me. It happens so fast when you're actually there."

Brewer said she took multiple images during her adventures among the sharks in South Africa, but none as dramatic as this single frame of the Great White Shark. When she returned to the U.S., the New Jersey school teacher hung the photo in her classroom, and said that her students were enthralled by her close encounter, but also inspired by her passion for animal conservation.

"I knew immediately that that photo was going to do something," she said. "It's a motivation for them to see that image, and be excited by it, and to realize that they could do that too, if they wanted. And even though some people may see the image and think it's terrifying, if 350,000 people can talk about it in one day, at least people are talking and having conversations about these beautiful animals."

Amanda Brewer is a New Jersey based educator and a volunteer with White Shark Africa in Mossel Bay

Krystal Grow is a contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter and Instgram @kgreyscale

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