'Shot of a lifetime': The story behind a Newton native's close encounter with a shark

BOSTON — As Keith Ellenbogen gears up for another day at sea, he's hoping to capture the improbable again.

The underwater photographer came face to face with a great white shark off the coast of Massachusetts and has the video to prove it.

They came eye to eye at the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary which spans much of Massachusetts Bay between Cape Ann and Cape Cod.

That photographer told Boston 25 News it was the 'shot of a lifetime.'

“I really didn't know what it was going to do, but I knew I should be getting the photograph -- which is what I've been trained to do my whole life,” Ellenbogen explained.

On August 17, he came face to face with a 16-foot, 2,000-pound white shark.

“As I'm swimming towards this shark at about 20-25 feet of visibility, I realized I was encountering not a basking shark, but an enormous great white shark,” Ellenbogen said.

He was shooting 360-degree video that shows just how close he came to the great white.

"We swam inches from each other, if I put my hand out, I'd be able to touch the shark," Ellenbogen said. 
The Newton native is photographing wildlife in the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary as part of a grant.

Ellenbogen says he maintained steady breathing and kept his cool in the heat of the moment.

“As we approached eye to eye, one of the things that was most remarkable was we made very strong eye contact with one another,” he said. “With this shark, when it made eye contact it just watched me the entire time way and was unmistakably looking at me.”

The acting superintendent of the Stellwagen Bank National Sanctuary was with Ellenbogen on the morning of his encounter and said up until then, the summer wasn't great photography-wise because of bad weather and poor visibility.

But that all changed in an instant.

“It's a once in a lifetime experience for Keith and probably I think one of the most dramatic wildlife experiences you can have on this planet,” Ben Haskell, the acting superintendent, said.

And Ellenbogen has video to prove it.

“This was one of the most extraordinary moments where I recall all 17 seconds of our encounter, each second felt like years of a lifetime kind of thing,” he said.

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