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Dolphins and Photography

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

It's hard to contain the excitement whenever dolphins appear out of nowhere. Their energy and curious behavior make you squeal even if you've seen them a thousand times but often the interaction we seek is not what the dolphins have in mind and we have to respect that for many reasons. To start, because sometimes they are just not in the mood and possibly sleeping so trying to get an interaction out of them is just not fair. In addition to that, chasing dolphins will make you swim in circles and eventually exhaust you because you cannot outswim a dolphin. Letting the animals come to you is a more rewarding and efficient experience and will produce better photographs too.

wildlife portrait of two dolphins swimming close to the camera underwater in the Bahamas

At this point, when the moment is perfect and the wildlife interaction is phenomenal, is where as a photographer I struggle the most. Underwater photography takes a long time to master and watching all the experience go out the window every time I get excited is very demoralizing.

This is why whenever the perfect moment and photo opportunity unfolds in front of me I get a little anxious. I take the extra second to make sure my settings are right and look through the little viewfinder until it's safe to do so because often all you get is that one pass.

And yet, sometimes the ocean blesses you with an unforgettable interaction. I was in the Bahamas at the beginning of January 2022 and to my surprise I ended up sharing the water with the most curious dolphins I've ever seen. The loud chattering, side looks, and swim bys so close I made myself smaller to avoid contact. Maybe they were not as excited as me but these bahamas dolphins were so curious and none of those 30 minutes were ever forced. I was gifted the most dream-like interaction as a photographer.

Bottlenose dolphins swimming closely together in shallow water in the Bahamas

But besides the incredible moments, what happens with photography? When it comes to taking photos of wildlife the right settings are very important. You never want your shutter-speed to be too slow or your photos too grainy and that's a sweet spot every one of us has to learn by doing because until you see those photos and make those mistakes you will never know what to prioritize and when. Having a camera with a good low light capability is my priority at this point in my career and it’s something I recommend to anyone interested in pursuing underwater photography as a specialty.

Everything else is dictated by how comfortable you are in the water and how much control you have over your breathhold and body and for that all you need is a photography and dove coach and the opportunity to practice and with that I can help over the course of one morning or multiple days on location in the Bahamas and Hawaii.

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