Exploring Florida’s Freshwaters

A Florida manatee floating effortlessly within the gorgeous blue of a north Florida spring: Each winter, 1000’s of manatees journey into springs and rivers across the state to flee frigid coastal temperatures. The springs stay a relentless 72°F 12 months spherical, the right manatee sauna. Fisheye lenses work finest for manatees, as not solely are manatees massive, they’re usually pleasant and can come proper as much as you. It is very important needless to say not each manatee is considering an interplay and be aware and respectful of that reality. Watch for a pleasant manatee to interact you on their phrases (Nikon D700, Nikon 8–15mm f/3.5-4.5 fisheye, Zen 230mm dome, 2x Retra Flash strobes)


For good motive, most divers and underwater photographers visiting Florida head proper for the world-famous Blue Heron Bridge, or the sharks of Jupiter, or maybe the reefs of the Keys. Nonetheless, to disregard Florida’s unimaginable freshwater ecosystems could be a mistake. From lakes and ponds to crystal-clear springs and blackwater rivers, the range of habitats for freshwater life within the state is wonderful. Lots of of fish species, reptiles, crops, and naturally, the a lot liked manatee, name Florida’s freshwaters house.

By far my favourite lenses for photographing the freshwater realm are wide-angle lenses, particularly fisheye lenses. Nothing reveals off an surroundings like a fisheye, and whereas there are, in fact, macro alternatives available, the wide-angle alternatives are much more impactful and quite a few in my expertise. Freshwater environments usually present much less house for maneurverability, so holding your rig as compact as doable could be invaluable for creating photos. Maybe essentially the most essential bit of substances for taking pictures in contemporary water is definitely extremely low-cost—strobe diffusers. Most freshwater fish are extremely reflective, and except you have got a strobe that naturally has a really broad beam unfold, hotspots can damage many a freshwater fish picture.

Whereas sure freshwater animals like manatees or snapping turtles usually present curiosity and can strategy the digital camera, the overwhelming majority of freshwater topics in Florida require a way more affected person strategy. Many fish can solely be photographed throughout their breeding exercise, as they are going to be completely distracted and nearly oblivious to the presence of a photographer. The photographs of the largemouth bass beneath, each the courtship and egg guarding, are examples of any such conduct. Analysis forward of time to search out out when your goal species is spawning or guarding eggs is extremely necessary close to photographing freshwater fish. It is going to be an train in frustration in any other case!

The hope by placing this small portfolio collectively is to indicate divers that maybe it’s value spending just a few additional days on their subsequent Florida go to devoted to freshwater diving and images. Simply watch out of the gators! None are featured right here, however nearly each physique of water within the state performs host to those toothy mates!


Arguably the good turtle on Earth, the alligator snapper: That pink worm-like factor in its mouth is definitely a lure it’ll wiggle round whereas ready for unlucky fish to swim straight into its guillotine jaws. Whereas they will sometimes be present in springs, alligator snappers are way more ceaselessly present in blackwater, murky, creepy rivers and creeks. With a fisheye lens, it was doable to fill the body with the turtle’s large head. As a result of the water is so murky, beam restrictors have been used on the strobes in order to not gentle up all of the particles and detritus within the water (Nikon D7100, Tokina 10–17mm f/3.5-4.5 fisheye, Zen Mini Dome, 2x Sea&Sea YS-250 strobes with discount rings)


A typical fish in Florida’s rivers, the mosquitofish: They are often discovered by the tons of or 1000’s in sure locations, buzzing about simply beneath the floor. This one simply blew a bubble and seems to be kissing its reflection. The monitoring capabilities of the OM System OM-1 made this picture doable. Mosquitofish earn their identify, continually transferring in unpredictable instructions. The OM-1 locked focus and did a much better job at holding the fish in focus than is feasible manually (OM System OM-1, Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro, 2x Ikelite DS230 strobes)


Every winter, Florida gar combination in springs and rivers to spawn. Among the many most prehistoric wanting of all fish, gar are voracious predators and their mouths are lined with massive, razor-sharp enamel. Regardless of their fearsome look, round divers they’re fairly skittish and really a lot choose to maintain their distance. That is a picture that reveals off the significance of a fisheye lens in freshwater environments. They mean you can seize an enormous scene and on this case, give a glimpse all the best way up into the forest above the spring (OM System OM-1, Olympus 8mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye, AOI 4-inch dome, 2x Ikelite DS230 strobes)


A better have a look at a set of Florida gar from the varsity above, cruising by a spring. Utilizing a sluggish shutter pace allowed pure gentle to bleed into the body (shaded springs are darkish locations) and let the environment soften right into a painterly aesthetic whereas the strobe gentle saved the gar good and sharp (OM System OM-1, Olympus 8mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye, AOI 4-inch dome, 2x Ikelite DS230 strobes)


Maybe not as gnarly because the alligator snapper however no much less charistmatic is the frequent snapping turtle. Snapping turtles usually get a nasty rap as they tend to be fast to defend themselves when on land. Nonetheless, within the water, they’re fairly curious and can usually strategy snorkelers or divers. This particular person may be very well-known within the spring she calls house and is each used to individuals and blind, so her inquisitiveness is probably going attributable to her incapacity to see. She has to search out out what’s round her by getting shut and utilizing her sense of scent. A mini dome could be a essential software in freshwater environments as house to maneuver could be restricted. It additionally permits for way more impactful close-focus wide-angle photos. The dome was proper within the face of this massive snapper (Nikon D7100, f/3.5-4.5 fisheye, Zen Mini Dome, Sea&Sea YS-250 strobes)


A largemouth bass guarding a clutch of eggs on the very fringe of a spring: After excavating the nest on which the feminine will deposit eggs, the male largemouth acts as guardian. He’ll vehemently defend the nest towards any intruding fish. Apparently, bass appear to know divers pose no menace and can permit a detailed strategy whereas they’re on their nest. However any fish that comes inside just a few toes will instantly be chased away. Whereas this fish was simple to strategy as a result of it had eggs, the Nauticam Prolonged Macro Large Lens (EMWL) proved invaluable for getting a really low, nearly in-the-nest perspective than could possibly be achieved with a daily fisheye (Sony a7R Mark II, Canon 60mm f/2.8 macro, Nauticam EMWL with 130° optic, 2x Nikonos SB-105 strobes)


A Florida redbelly turtle cruising beneath the floor beneath a winter cover: 12 months spherical, turtles are lively in Florida. Throughout winter months, the colder water temperatures push them into the springs just like the manatees, and they’re usually way more photogenic and approachable throughout the winter. The chilly retains them much more sluggish than regular. That is one other state of affairs when doing all your analysis forward of time and understanding reptile conduct is efficacious if you will particularly shoot turtles within the springs. Spring, summer season or fall could be far much less profitable (OM System OM-1, Olympus 8mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye, AOI 4-inch dome, 2x Ikelite DS230 strobes)


A male largemouth bass trying to induce the bigger feminine to mate over a nest he meticulously excavated. For hours, the male bass will court docket the feminine, continually rearranging or clearing out the nest, nibbling her stomach and tail. Mating will happen in just some seconds earlier than the male spends a number of weeks guarding the eggs after which the newly hatched fry. Many fish are creatures of sample. They’ll return to the identical spot over and over. Whereas these bass swam round, they at all times got here again and interacted in the very same spot over the nest. Don’t attempt to observe them from place to position; sit in the identical spot and look forward to them to come back to you. This strategy usually permits for higher photos because the fish usually appear to neglect you’re there (OM System OM-1, Olympus 8mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye, AOI 4-inch dome, 2x Ikelite DS230 Strobes)


A photographer strains up a shot on an enormous frequent snapping turtle rising from the algae. Agricultural runoff and growing water temperatures are leading to massive algal blooms in lots of rivers, creeks and comes. The algae suffocates and kills most of the native crops and coats the bottoms in a dirty mess. Some springs have escaped this destiny for now, and this snapping turtle didn’t appear to thoughts both the algae or the dome port up in its grill (Nikon D700, Nikonos 13mm RS fisheye, 2x Retra Flash strobes)


The spectacular yellows and oranges of this male bluegill distinction fantastically within the blue spring water. A number of sunfish species could be discovered round Florida, from the diminutive and uncommon bluespotted sunfish as much as dinner plate-sized bluegills. Usually a skittish fish, they are often approached when guarding nests, or as on this case, whereas he picked microscopic meals bits out of the spring boil. One other instance of a tiny dome and compact system coming in clutch. The small dimension made it doable to get proper up on the bluegill and have the housing on the underside pointed up into the water. With a bigger dome, that wouldn’t have been doable (OM System OM-1, Olympus 8mm f/1.8 PRO fisheye, AOI 4-inch dome, 2x Ikelite DS230 strobes)


Usually a salt- or brackish-water fish, this gulf pipefish discovered its method many dozens of miles from the closest salty water. Pipefish aren’t the one marine fish that can typically present up in springs. Stingrays, snapper species, and striped bass can usually be present in Florida’s freshwaters. As with the bass picture above, the small dimension and close-focus wide-angle capabilities of the Nauticam EMWL made the picture doable. Photographing this picture work with the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye could be unimaginable (Sony a7R Mark II, Canon 60mm f/2.8 macro, Nauticam EMWL with 130° optic, 2x Nikonos SB-105 strobes)


An enormous, boat-scarred manatee snuffling round for snacks on the underside of a spring: An unlucky actuality of life as a manatee in Florida is contact with boats. Manatees favor shallow waters, be it rivers, springs or estuaries, and Florida doesn’t undergo from an absence of boats. Nearly each single manatee in sure areas sports activities boat strike associated accidents. This manatee was fairly younger and nonetheless had a vicious prop scar down her facet, clearly seen within the picture (Nikon D7100, Tokina 10–17mm f/3.5–4.5 fisheye, Zen Mini Dome, 2x Sea&Sea YS-250 strobes)