Andrew Casagrande saw the two great white sharks approach and he froze. Not out of fear but fascination.
While on a photo shoot recently off the coast of Australia, the cinematographer dove into the waters and found himself face-to-face with two identical white sharks. They were the same size. Same seemingly friendly attitude.
“They seemed to never leave each other’s side,” Casagrande said. “It was almost like they were related. I swear they could have been brothers. It was incredible.”
Because of the sharks’ non-aggressive demeanor, Casagrande was able to get a rare close-up photograph of two of the most dangerous fish without being locked in a shark-proof cage. It was just one of many spectacular wildlife shots that have marked his filmmaking career.
Casagrande is a wildlife photographer extraordinaire who has been featured on Animal Planet, ABC World News Tonight, the BBC and various other media outlets. His work can be seen alongside Dr. Chris Lowe of Cal State Long Beach’s Shark Lab on Discovery Channel’s upcoming Shark Week.
There will be a preview will be shown Friday at CSULB, along with a tour of the Shark Lab. The television episode will air Tuesday.
“I’ve known Andy for (roughly) 10 years,” Lowe said. “He wasn’t even in the film business at that point but was really interested in sharks. He started volunteering in places and started to learn some of the film stuff and camera stuff. He’s very passionate about what he does.”
Casagrande graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 2000 with a B.A. degree in psychology, a major that has served him well in reading the psyches of wild animals, especially sharks. When he spots a shark, Casagrande immediately tries to read its attitude before sticking around for a picture. He said great whites open and close their mouth if they are angry, and if that happens, stay calm and don’t move. Don't act like prey or they'll treat you like prey. It’s advice he has learned in nearly two decades filming underwater wildlife.
“I’ve had a few close calls with white sharks and tiger sharks - always my fault - putting myself in the wrong place at the wrong time - but I stay focused and read the sharks’ immediate behavior,” he said. “I’ve managed to coexist quite peacefully with them.”
Casagrande is a veteran cinematographer who has traveled the world to capture the behavior of some of the most-fierce animals. Sharks are one of his passions.
“Since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with sharks,” he said. “All I wanted to be growing up was a marine biologist, but I ended up becoming a wildlife filmmaker instead.”
His first shark assignment came while working as a field research assistant for White Shark Trust in South Africa. It caught the attention of the producers at National Geographic. He later won a television Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for “National Geographic Television – Great Migrations & Wild Americas.”
He met Lowe later and the pair have worked on a few documentaries since.
“He loves getting into the water (and) he’s a creative guy,” Lowe said. “That’s the part that resonated the most. And he’s got a great personality.”