Swimming With The Turtles

Getting up close and personal with interesting bits of nature isn’t always easy.  As city folk, I’ve got cats, dogs, squirrels, crows, and if I see something like a raccoon, rat, or possum, that’s pretty exciting.  One of the reasons I like to travel is a chance to see something more unique.  I’d by lying if I say that Hawaii is one of my favorite places because of the animals – the beaches, warm weather, and implied relaxation don’t hurt.  At the same time, snorkeling is one of my favorite things to do out there and I like to bring my camera along.  Here’s my favorite shot from the last trip.

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Green Sea Turtles are endangered but fairly prevalent in Hawaii.  The islands are also the only place on earth that these guys actually come out of the water to bask in the sun.  Getting pictures underwater is a bit harder though.  Most of the time the are found in the super murky shallows eating algae off the rocks.  I finally managed to catch this one in deeper water in Shark’s Cove on the north shore of Oahu.

Underwater photography is a whole different bag of tricks – just like taking pictures of food, I only dabble.  First off, you need a camera.  Although some point and shoots these days are at least nominally waterproof, I prefer a specialized housing.  Canon wins by a country mile here, because they have for many years produced really nice waterproof housings for many of their point and shoot cameras that are, as these things go, pretty darn cheap.  Getting your camera underwater is just the first issue.  The second is you have to be able to actually use it.  Luckily here, your best bet is just throwing it in automatic mode – using the buttons through the housing is possible, but so cumbersome that you won’t want to do much.  Next you need good visibility.  I’ve taken pictures of turtles underwater before but most of them look like this:

The problem is that turtles and many other critters like it shallow, where sand and other muck is often in the water.  The farther you get from the shallows, usually the better.  Color fades fast at depth as well, so unless you get perfectly clear water, bright sunlight, and shallow depth, you have to play with the image after capture to try and make it look good.  People who are serious about this kind of thing buy monstrous rigs with huge flashes.  They generally scuba dive (so you can get very close to something and actually hold still, which you can’t do very well holding your breath) and well… before you take your first picture you’re out $10,000.  Not the kind of barrier to entry I’m interested in.  For now, get yourself a snorkel and mask, a cheap underwater camera and a place with good visibility and try your hand at it.

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