Heath Edwards was sitting at home on a Thursday night when a story from the Illawarra Mercury about a washed-up whale carcass flashed up on his screen. He’d just launched ‘Due South' a photography business inspired by Australia’s lush coastal landscapes, and a passion for aerial photography. Not surprisingly Heath had an arsenal of gear designed to deliver a bird’s eye view of the coast. He figured it might be worth wandering down to Bulli the next morning and seeing what kind of marine-life party the whale carcass had been the catalyst for.

Crowds gather to check out the grizzly show. Photo: Heath Edwards @due.south.photography

While Heath missed out on the pack of tiger sharks that were dining out on the dead whale earlier, he did launch his drone in time to capture an image of a hefty Great White hovering around twenty metres offshore. While a few boats tempted fate by getting up close to the giant predator, they also provided an intriguing sense of scale. “I knew the scale of the shark as there were two boats circling, so an aerial shot is the best way to see a comparison next to the boat,” explained Heath.  “ There were lots of people trying to catch a glimpse; I did hear it was a five-metre Great White…”

Another angle of old mate. Photo: Heath Edwards @due.south.photography

While debate rages over the sharks, Heath’s Bulli drone images reaffirm one thing we can be certain of – advances in unmanned aerial vehicles means we are now more aware of sharks than ever. The surf lifesaving clubs have been working in conjunction with the Department of Primary Industries on shark detection since 2016, and drones are the key ingredient in their collaboration.

Meanwhile, independent drone operators are making their presence felt in communities around Australia.

In Sydney’s busy eastern beaches surfers and swimmers can elect to get regular updates on local shark movements via the droneshark Instagram handle. Many surfers from the area elect not to look at the haunting Insta page, arguing that the sharks were always there and the only difference is that now we can see them.

 

Meanwhile Heath suggested he has no plans to become a dedicated, aerial shark hunter. He wants the beauty of the south coast to be the focus of his imagery. The marine life in its many forms is just part of the picture. As a surfer, Heath was keen to be back in the water, but suggested that discretion might be the better part of valour,  “I have a love for the water and the ocean, and taking aerial drone photography is an extension of that passion. I'll be back in the water, but might wait a few weeks.”

No shark in this shot, just a sample of Heath's handywork behind the controls of his drone. Photo: Heath Edwards @due.south.photography