It’s not entirely uncommon to see a whale or a dolphin breaching in the waters off Massachusetts.
But a great white shark? That sight is pretty rare — and one lucky photographer captured it in “a once in a lifetime shot.”
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy on Thursday shared an image of a shark jumping out of the water near Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro over Labor Day weekend, taken by Mike Lemery, a photographer who hails from Schenectady, N.Y.
“Most people think of South Africa when they think of breaching white sharks, but they can happen off Cape Cod too,” the conservancy wrote in the post.
Massachusetts shark experts could not be reached for comment. However, according to an article on the Smithsonian’s website, great white sharks can launch themselves out of the water while hunting in order to catch fast-moving prey like seals.
“Swimming fast at the surface, sharks can reach 40 miles per hour and fly 10 feet into the air; however, breaching is relatively rare because the shark has to use so much energy to propel itself,” the article states.
Lemery, a full-time video producer who is also making a documentary about bald eagles, said he captured the shot while on vacation with his fiancee in Cape Cod over Labor Day weekend.
Before heading to the Cape, Lemery said he researched what kind of wildlife was present in the area and was surprised to find sharks were fairly ubiquitous.
“I think sharks are really cool,” he said in an interview with the Globe on Thursday. “I had no expectations I would even see one, but the opportunity was very exciting.”
On Labor Day, Lemery said he and his fiancee went on a walk, taking pictures of the seals on a sandbar near Head of the Meadow Beach. They went back the next day to lounge on the beach, when Lemery said a woman started screaming at a swimmer to get out of the water.
Lemery immediately grabbed his camera and staked out a spot, speaking to a man who said he saw a shark about 10 to 12 feet long.
“Everyone was excited,” Lemery said.
Lemery said his fiancee saw what appeared to be a fin peeking out of the water, so he pointed his camera in that direction and captured a few shots.
Another 15 minutes went by with no action, he said.
But then as a sailboat was coming to shore from off in the distance, Lemery’s fiancee said she thought she saw something by the boat.
“As I was getting my camera focused, a shark jumped out right where I had my lens, so I snapped as many as possible,” Lemery said. “It was over in two seconds. My heart was pounding. It happened so fast.”
At first, Lemery wasn’t sure whether he captured the apex predator. So he scrolled through the images on his camera afterwards — “and there it was.”
“I was just hoping that I got it — I would’ve been really mad if I missed it,” he said. “It didn’t sink in until later how weird that was.”
In fact, he was quite certain that the shot was a once-in-a-lifetime type deal.
“I would have to go back every day for the rest of my life, and not only not see it, but never get a photo,” Lemery said, who still seemed astonished more than two weeks later at his good fortune. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Lemery, who also recounted the experience on his website, said the whole incident just shows that perseverance pays off when it comes to photographing wildlife.
“There’s always more going on than you think,” he said. “If you pay attention, you never know what you might see.”