This March my wife and I traveled to California to visit our daughter and son-in-law in Los Angeles. However, instead of traveling directly to LA we flew to San Francisco, and then drove down to LA stopping several days in Monterey to visit the aquarium and some of the magnificent coastal areas south of the city. This excerpt deals mainly with our visit to the Monterey Aquarium. I am an armchair underwater enthusiast. I just love the diversity and colors of undersea creatures. Since I don’t get many chances to snorkel and don’t care to invest in all the underwater camera equipment I do the next best thing; I visit aquariums whenever I can to photograph the sea creatures there.
As far as aquariums go, the Monterey Aquarium is top notch. One of the exhibits that completely captivated us was the Sea Horse exhibit. This was one of the most outstanding exhibits we have ever seen of this particular animal. It was easy to spend an hour or more watching and trying to photograph these amazing little creatures. Although there were about 15 different varieties of sea horses on exhibit, the two most fascinating to me were the “sea dragon” and the “leafy sea dragon”. These creatures are not sea horses per se but are related to the sea horse. They survive in their native habitat off the Australian and Tasmanian Coast through the use of amazing camouflage that keeps them well hidden in the sea weed and sea kelp of their environment.
Watching these small creatures was fascinating, but trying to photograph them was a difficult and time consuming challenge. Typically the light in the aquarium is subdued, and you must shoot through glass and water. I had forgotten my fast 50/1.4 lens at our hotel, so I tried to photograph them using a 18-200 F3.5-5.6 lens on my D300 body. I was getting a pretty good exposure at 1600 ISO, but I really was having a hard time getting good focus through the cylindrical tanks and water.
As I was struggling to get some decent images, I happened to notice a number of small children coming up to the tank with their small point and shoot cameras and cell phones taking what looked like sharp and nicely exposed pictures. This seemed pretty amazing to me. So I thought why not give it a try? I used my android cell phone and started taking both still and video pictures. I just couldn’t believe how well the cell phone was doing, especially on video capture.
If anything, a photographer has to be adaptable to capture the right image under any circumstance. In the future I will always consider carrying my point and shoot camera and cell phone as additional camera equipment to be prepared for all shooting conditions.
If you ever are in the area of San Francisco make sure to put the Monterey Aquarium on your itinerary. It is a remarkable place to visit.
Submitted by Dynolights Member Steven Shor