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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | Art Talk | September 2009 

Photo Tip of the Week: Photographing Banderas Bay's Sea Turtles - Part 3
email this pageprint this pageemail usLarry and Linda Bennett - PVNN
September 08, 2009

Photo Tips of the Week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. For more photo tips click HERE. To view more of his work, visit
Okay, back to the photography tips. In most cases, at this point you will be getting some flash back or white balance problems with the turtle shells. Simply adjust your flash diffuser so you’re not shooting with a direct flash. Point your assist beam towards the middle of the turtle’s back, or if you’re flash savvy adjust the flash output down and keep adjusting until the image is right.

You will have some post processing to do for these images. I have never shot a perfect turtle image at night. My turtle laying images always require I Photoshop them for correct exposure, saturation and contrast. There are many wonderful free downloads on the web for those that are not Photo shoppers.

Stay with the turtle and shoot some fun images. Moving around to the back of the turtle makes some fun images as well. The turtle will wake up soon and it will be time to back away again, giving the turtle time and space to cover her eggs.

This too is fun to watch, just sit back and enjoy. The turtle will move in circles while pivoting on her stomach to pack the sand and then wipe it smooth. Once she has finished compacting the sand, she will move toward the ocean and when she gets close to the water is another good time to shoot some images.

You will be free handing your camera this time, stay about 30 degrees to either side and NEVER directly in front of her. Shoot as she walks to and goes back into the sea, it’s a beautiful site as she enters the water and swims back out to sea.

You have just witnessed one of the most amazing and coolest acts of nature that can be seen by a human. Now watch for the babies to start springing out of the sand in approximately 45-50 days. Again with the help of volunteers and the biologists, you can find out where they are releasing the babies.

Almost every evening around dark, from July through November, baby turtles are being released. Photographing the babies is also fun. You will use the same settings as photographing the laying mother, but in better lighting conditions I will use TV mode or shutter priority, with a shutter speed of 400-500 (it will automatically assign an F-stop, that’s okay - you can control these images by adjusting your ISO.)

ISO is a wonderful tool that most people are afraid to use. Play with your ISO! However, I would caution you in shooting much over 1250, as your camera noise will start about here and if you are not quite sure in what you are doing you can have some very grainy images.

It’s fun to shoot these little creatures that aren’t much bigger than an adult thumb as they start off on their voyage of life! Shoot your images at an angle to avoid direct eye flash, too much flash will confuse the babies and at times cause them to turn and go inland. If this happens, remember to wash your hands in sea water and sand and then gently place them on the sand 10-12 feet from the surf and heading back towards the water. Then back off and go photograph the others. Remember to respect and love them, they too are living creatures and need our help.

I know I have mentioned this topic in other articles, and I am going to say it again, clean your equipment! For those of you using high end cameras, please listen. I have sacrificed far too many cameras to the sea gods so please learn from my mistakes, wash your equipment! Take a damp (not wet) towel and wipe it down, everything but your glass. Then dry your camera good with a dry towel. If you have canned air, it is a good idea to use it both prior and after wiping your camera to make sure all the sand and sea mist is gone.

There are many groups working with the Sea Turtles on and around the Bay of Banderas. Please support them! Go out and spend an evening or two and enjoy these wonderful creatures. My amigo Oscar Aranda Mena is very well known and respected in the marine world and would be happy to answer any further questions regarding the turtles. Plan to spend an evening with him and learn more about the turtles.

Being a part of the turtle program can bring you much pleasure and knowing you are helping the turtles can be very rewarding and fulfilling. You too will find that the Olive Ridley’s have captured your heart as well! Oscar can be reached through his website at or email him direct at seaturtlesvta(at) And for any photography questions or comments as always you may contact me through my website as well.

Watch for my next article on photographing hummingbirds, coming soon.

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Photo Tips of the week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. These tips are to be just tips, refer to your cameras owner's manual for specifics on your camera. Readers are welcome to enjoy Larry's website at

Click HERE for more Photo Tips from Larry Bennett

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the included information for research and educational purposes • m3 © 2009 BanderasNews ® all rights reserved • carpe aestus