‘It was a crazy moment’

Ever wonder what it’s like to get up close and personal with the ocean’s apex predator?

Underwater photographer Keith Ellenbogen had the extraordinary experience while freediving at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, coming face-to-face with a massive great white shark.

He had been expecting to see a peaceful basking shark in the waters off of Massachusetts when he encountered a 17-foot, 3,000-pound great white shark.

“Visibility was only 25 feet,” Ellenbogen recalled to the Herald on Tuesday. “And all of a sudden, I realized that this shark had a pointy snout and a white underbelly. It was an enormous great white shark, and I swam within inches of it. I could have touched it.

“For 11 glorious seconds, I swam right past it and held the camera steady,” he added. “We locked eyes, and it was just an incredibly powerful moment. It was a crazy moment. “

Using a 360-degree virtual reality multi-camera system, Ellenbogen was able to capture himself with the shark named Large Marge, a gigantic female that had been tagged by local white shark researchers.

“It shows that they’re not just vicious man-eaters killing everything in sight,” he said. “I would not recommend being next to one, but they are not just mindless killers. They’re part of the natural ecosystem. ”

That underwater photo is one of 50 large-scale images of remarkable marine life that are part of Ellenbogen’s “Space to Sea: A Photographic Journey into Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary” – a free outdoor public photography exhibit that will open on New England Aquarium’s Central Wharf on Wednesday and last through Nov. 1.

The underwater portraits offer an unusual glimpse into the sanctuary, home to more than 600 documented species including sharks, seals, sea turtles, whales, lobsters, ocean plankton, migratory seabirds and numerous fish species.

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