Turtle in Sunbeams

23-Feb-2011 Back to Image Gallery

Turtle in Sunbeams

The best place in the World to photograph turtles is Sipadan Island. It has been a marine sanctuary for over 30 years and is infested with turtles. I had shot so many turtle pictures here I was beginning to run out of ideas for creative angles and compositions. Then it occurred to me that here in Sipadan I could capture an image of a turtle swimming through the curtain of light formed by sunbeams, framed by the reef below and the surface above. All I had to do was position myself with the sunbeams before me on the shallow reef flat and wait for a turtle to swim through the scene! Anywhere else this would be very ambitious, here it was routine!

Photo Data: Location: Sipadan Island, Borneo. Genre: Wide Angle Sunlight. Photo Data: Nikonos V, Nikonos 15 MM lens, Fuji Velvia film ISO 50, Manual Exposure Mode. Exposure f8 @ 1/250 th second. Image by Kevin Deacon

Photo Hints: Sunbeams are perfect when the sea surface is very calm and there are no clouds. Best time of day for a background sunbeam curtain is between 10am and 3pm. As you will be shooting into the light your light meter will invariably underexpose the scene so you will have to correct for this with either + EV control in Auto Exposure modes or by adjusting your exposure in Manual Mode. Ensure you obtain shutter speeds of 1/250 second or greater to freeze the sunbeams. Finally, check the sunbeams are throwing some light on your subject or you will have no details, just a silhouette! Note the rule of thirds used in this composition, one third water behind the subject, two thirds water in front, so the subject is not centred, it is not exiting, it is entering the stage! You will see this rule used in many of my images as it is an important basic rule of composition.

Interesting Facts: Turtles belong to the family of marine reptiles which includes saltwater crocodiles, Sea snakes and iguanas. Their diet includes sponges, marine algae and jellyfish. Unfortunately many turtles die from ingesting plastic bags which resemble jellyfish, a problem that never occurred in the days of the brown paper bag!

Back to Image Gallery