Photo: In February 2012, Muller traveled to Fiji with a set of 1,200-watt strobe lights modified for underwater use. “I bring a full studio down with me,” says the Los Angeles photographer, who started taking pictures of snowboarders when he was 15. At a depth of 80 feet, Muller encountered scores of bull sharks. “Three or four were coming right at me,” he says. “I felt like Neo dodging bullets in The Matrix: swerving to my right, pushing a shark’s nose as it swam by. It was wild.”
“Over the years I’ve had many high-profile actors, athletes, and musicians ask to go diving, but when the time comes to book the ticket, most find a reason they can’t go... but not Ben Stiller. Knowing full well that if I took him down to see great whites first he’d probably never get in the water again, I decided it would be better to start with sevengills, a prehistoric breed of sharks that are typically pretty mellow until you break out a piece of fish. Dropping down we came into a junglelike area where 25 or 30 were circling around. Stiller was in heaven.
“The second day, we went 50 miles out to sea and dropped into a part of the ocean that is 3,000 feet deep to swim with 130 blue sharks and a half dozen makos. There were sharks everywhere! When I handed Ben one of my cameras, he said, ‘Mike, I don’t want to take pictures, I’m fine to just watch.’ Laughing, I explained that the camera was for protection, what we use to bat the sharks away when they get too curious or decide they want to take a taste.”
“Have you ever seen a great white shark exploding out of light? Neither had I, except in my head. One of the most exciting things about creating is having the vision first, and then the journey begins taking that vision, that dream, and making it into a reality. This moment, this image, wouldn’t have been possible without my custom-built 1200-watt waterproof strobe lighting system.”
Muller shooting with his assistant Leland Hayward in Fiji, May 2011.
Sharks: Face-to-Face with the Ocean’s Endangered Predator is available now.