Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gator fan

I am a big gator fan and I can't remember the last time I watched a football game.  Florida is home to my favorite reptile, the American alligator. Who can imagine Florida without alligators; so common, yet so misunderstood? Aside from the spectacle of an alligator eating its prey, the appeal of the alligator to the photographer is most likely its menacing appearance with those cold eyes and large teeth. When you see one in the water, you go on alert immediately. Almost always, the animal disappears and tries to stay as far from you as possible (you and your boat that look threatening to the alligator). But sometimes, it appears close to you and will look you straight in the eyes. Sometimes, you are paddling in an area of water teaming with territorial alligators that make their presence known with a bellowing roar in surround sound. This is a challenging time to be in a boat with a camera; do I keep the lens focused on the alligator or do I paddle the hell out of there?

While many disregard the alligator, I seek them out to photograph them. Imagine my surprise to finally see an alligator on the Hells Bay trail that I have paddled through more times than I can count and had never encountered one reptile until that moment when a 10-ft alligator swam in front of us for several hundred feet. Frontlit, it offered interesting lighting in the darkness of the mangrove tunnel it swam through. Or the Rodgers River chickee  neighbor that hung out with us around dinner time. And then there were the dozens of alligators in Fisheating Creek, all quickly disappearing upon my presence, but soon reappearing as I sat quietly waiting for them. There have been many encounters with alligators and when I am lucky enough, I get to photograph them. I look for a couple things; clean surroundings (lots of empty space) and angled lighting to accentuate the textures of the animal. Here are a few of my favorites.