Friday, February 3, 2012

Photographing Alligators (or not)

During my various travels photographing birds, I have for the most part ignored alligators when I've seen them.  This is mainly because they are about as plentiful as mosquitoes here in Florida and I feel that if you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all.  Up until a few years ago, we had a few gators in the pond that borders our back yard, so I hardly get excited when I see one. 

On many occasions where I've been visiting a wildlife sanctuary to photograph birds, invariably someone approaches me when they notice one of my rather large white lenses, to tell me they see an alligator that I should go photograph.  This always puts me in the rather awkward position of figuring out a polite way to tell them that I couldn't care less about photographing an alligator.  But keeping that thought to myself, I always thank them and tell them that perhaps I'll check it out when I'm finished with what I'm working on now.  I'm guessing that most of these folks are probably northern visitors.  I guess if I were in Maine and saw a whale, I'd get excited too.

Every now and then while photographing birds, I have also photographed the occasional alligator.  When I've done so, I did it with the thought that if I ever decided to take a closer look at gators I would have a few images to work with.  But unlike birds, gators all look the same to me with the exception of differences in size.  What sometimes sets them apart are different surroundings and/or colorful reflections in the water from trees or other foliage on the bank of the pond.

This past week at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I saw many gators, but two in particular that were close together that finally caught my interest.  They were facing opposite directions and the soft early morning light made them interesting, so I decided to snap a few shots.  One was a little larger than the other (probably about 8 or 9 feet in length) and was facing to the left,while the smaller one was facing the right.

#N_112154  - Shot settings: 1/1250 @f6/3, iso 400 at 500mm, hand held

When I later took a closer look at these images on the computer, I liked what I saw so I figured it was finally time to post a few gator photos.  These first two images show the same gator.  The image below is a close up cropped from the one above.
[click on any image for a larger view]

#N_112154c (cropped from the photo above)

The soft light and a bit of fill flash reveal some detail in the head shot, and that's what I liked about this particular image. 

The next image is the smaller gator that was facing the right.  If you are thinking this is just your typical average boring alligator photo, I pretty much agree.  This is why I seldom bother to even take pictures of them.

#N_112142 (1/1000 @ f6.3, iso 400, at 500mm.)

Although gators all look about the same to me, sometimes different surroundings make the shot more interesting than the gator itself.  I particularly like colorful reflections, as shown in the next few images. 

Thinking back, I knew I had some images with reflections from the Everglades National Park, so I dug them out to add them to this post.  The same gator is pictured in both images below; the first a little further away and the second as it approached me a little closer.

#N_80810 (1/500 @f5.6, iso 400 at 420mm)

#N_80811 (1/500 @ f5.6, iso 400 at 420mm) 

This last image may be my favorite of the few I have shot over the last few years.  I like the open  mouth, and the way we can see the roof of the gator's mouth in the reflection in the water.

#N_63432 (1/200 @ f5.6, iso 800 at 400mm)


  1. Well these shots are splendid and I think you should definitively take some more ;-) Gorgeous!

  2. Enjoyed the photos. There is a lot more to Gators than meets the eye. I recommend you watching a few documentaries on their lives.