Manatee 5

Manatee 5

During my week long visit to Crystal River, I spent close to 36 hours in the water with the mantees. In that amount of time, I was only able to photograph this one moment where a manatee playfully rolled upside down asking me to rub its belly. If I spend enough time with wild animals, eventually I am able to photograph a unique moment or behavior. This beautiful portrait shows how blissful the manatees can be when they are not being pursued by tons of tourists in the water. We should all aspire to exhibit such joy and trust. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a +3 diopter in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with 8″ dome port. This image is a single exposure which was mostly processed using Aperture 3.0. I also cloned out particles floating in the water using Photoshop CS5.

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Manatee 8

Manatee 8

Manatees are so ugly that they are adorable. This picture clearly illustrates that point. I spent hours in the water waiting for a manatee to pose for me like this. Whenever I photograph wild animals, I do not chase after or harass them. I can never force a picture to happen. That is why I wait patiently for them to reveal themselves to me. Eventually, an animal will become comfortable with my presence and I will be able to photograph a beautiful portrait like this. This manatee was actually nibbling on my toes, so it let me know that it was very friendly and curious. With my permit from the USF&WS, I was able to gently drop down to the bottom and allow the manatee to swim right up to my camera. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a +3 diopter in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with 8″ dome port. This image is a single exposure which was mostly processed using Aperture 3.0. I also cloned out particles floating in the water using Photoshop CS5.

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Manatee 1

Manatee 1

I have just returned from photographing West Indian manatees at Crystal River State Park, Florida. It was a very interesting experience. I am usually the only photographer, let alone person, at the wilderness locations that I typically photograph. I knew that was not going to be the case with the rampant manatee exploitation at Crystal River, but I was totally unprepared for how many people, boats, and kayaks were in the water. Fortunately, I bumped into National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen who gave me a nice referral to the USF&WS so that I could get a special use permit. The permit did not solve my problem of all the people in my pictures harassing the manatees, but it did give me some special access and the ability to sink down to the bottom in order to shoot up towards the surface. My other challenge was giving myself a mild case of hypothermia by spending over 6 hours each day in the 70° water. I could barely hold my camera by the time that I got out of the water. However, through my diligence I was able to photograph some fantastic encounters with curious manatees when no one else was around. This is one of my favorite images from my ordeal. I really like how this manatee posed for me and even put its flippers together as if it were praying. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a +3 diopter in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with 8″ dome port. This image is a single exposure which was mostly processed using Aperture 3.0. I also cloned out particles floating in the water using Photoshop CS5.

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