The 2013 Manatee Photography Workshop was a great success again this year. Florida performed like a champ blessing us with warm sunny days. This winter has been very warm which is great for visitors from colder climates, but not best for manatee viewing. Manatees seek the warmer waters of the freshwater springs when the weather and water temperatures on the open water gets too cold. This year many manatees remained out in open water closer to their food sources. Our first 2 days we experienced a very special population in the springs : pairs of mothers and babies. We would arrive early in the morning when much of the springs were shaded by the trees. The dimmer surface light made for some nice reflections on the water surface. A few of the guests tried some small strobe lights powered very low and used them to add a pop of light to the manatee’s chest. In some areas of the spring, the white sand bottom created enough reflected light to illuminate the underside of the manatee. I do not use strobes very often relying mostly on the natural light.
I was using my Canon 5D MK3 with a EF16 – 25mm lens. I was using ISO between 320 and 640 and a shutter speed of 1/100 or 1/125 sec (manatees are pretty slow).
The middle of the week turned colder and brought in a new assortment of manatees. Some of the younger manatees seemed very happy to be in the springs and engaged with us and other manatees providing some great shots. A few of the guests forgot their cameras and just enjoyed the opportunity to interact with these endearing creatures. Our favorite times were in the late afternoons when the manatees returned from where they spent the day into the springs for the night.
There are multiple locations in the King’s Bay region to find manatees. We visited a few of these to photograph in the different water conditions. Outside of the springs the water is greener and less clear giving a different character to the photos. Manatees are not the only residents of the springs. Guests were engaged in photographing the schools of large mullet, bass, and needle fish that reside in the springs. Turtles, boiling sand, crabs, and cyprus trees are also great subjects.
We also took an afternoon off to drift – snorkel down the Rainbow River. This 100% spring fed river flows at a nice pace. Along the way we saw the dense patches of eel grass undulating in the current, white limestone formations, fish, turtles, and diving birds. The river was a fun and beautiful way to spend a sunny afternoon. A visit to the Homosassa State Park gave us a chance to take pictures without underwater housings. Their collection of Florida native animals and wild birds gave us a great variety of subjects.
I want to thank all of the guests for making this such a wonderful and successful week. We had some great conversations at dinner and while standing waist deep in the water. I hope to see each of you again. One of the guests will be joining me in a few weeks on the Tiger Shark Dive Expedition in the Bahamas.