I'm very fortunate to live in Maine, and to be the proud owner of a camp on a small pond in Turner. In our canoe and kayak trips around the pond, and during fishing ventures, painted turtles are a common sight. The turtles shift sides of the pond, depending upon the time of day, in order to keep their little cold blooded, reptilian bodies warm.
These little critters can be pretty skittish, and typically, as you approach them, they flip off the log on which they have been sunning themselves. They usually hit the water with a little "plop!"
So, when I set out to photograph the turtles I had two challenges:
1. I had to wait until the sun was up, so they would be out on the logs to sun themselves. This meant fairly flat light.
2. I had to devise a way to get close enough to take pictures from a boat, without having to zoom too much, and get fuzzy pictures on an unstable platform.
To help solve the first issue, I shot in HDR (High Dynamic Range) which takes a number of exposures, and blends them together to make a complete image. After that, the photos of the turtles were still a tiny bit washed out on parts, so I adjusted the exposure level in my software just a little.
The second issue was also interesting. Typically, when in a canoe, or kayak, even when paddling very slowly, and trying to coast in close, I'll hear, plop, plop, plop, as the turtles flip themselves into the water, and submerge. So, I had to try something different. I have an electric motor for my Jon boat, and thought that, if I could use the motor for propulsion, there would be a minimum of movement on my part, and this maybe, wouldn't tip off the turtles. I also got lucky in that there was an almost imperceptible breeze, that was not enough to put a ripple on the water, but was just enough to keep the boat drifting very slowly in the direction of the turtles that I wanted to photograph.
I rigged up my Cannon with a 75-300mm zoom lens, so that I could make adjustments as I approached the turtles. As I approached each log that held turtles, I used the motor to put myself in the drift that I wanted, and let that tiny breeze do the rest. As the boat approached a log, I hunkered down to get as stable, and low as I could. To my amazement, the turtles stayed on the logs! I was able to drift right by them, and get many shots from different angles. The calm water also made it possible to get some beautiful reflections.
When I imported the images to my laptop, there were many that were a little blurry, but I was able to get a fair number of quality shots to work with. I have posted my favorites in the Gallery titled Critters: http://johnkenealyphotography.com/p285550668
It is always fun, and rewarding, when a plan comes together!