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© SEAPHOTOART / SHUTTERSTOCK
BY TIM TALEVICH
MY WHOLE LIFE, I’ve been drawn to water.
I always figured this was because I’m a Pisces
or because I spent most of my growing-up
summers at the ocean, where my grandpar-
ents had a cabin (more of the latter is my
guess). But for whatever reason, if there are
waves, rivers or lakes, my first inclination
has always been to wonder, “Hmm, can I
This pastime took on an added dimen-
sion with the advent of affordable and easy-
to-use underwater cameras. As a scuba diver,
I knew about sophisticated waterproof hous-
ings for popular cameras—indeed, they help
photographers capture outstanding under-
water images (such as the beautiful one on
the cover of this issue). But these days my
“jumping in” is usually with a mask and
snorkel at a beach. My cameras are basic
waterproof models that I use on land as well.
I have taken underwater photos and
videos everywhere from the warm Pacific
waters of Hawaii to remote, wild (and frigid)
rivers in the mountains of Idaho and
Washington state. If I’m going anywhere
near water, my camera is usually in my
pocket or backpack. Why not?
In search of sea turtles
My first plunge into underwater photography was in Hawaii, where there are
miles of sandy beaches and coral reefs close
to the shore. The reefs and fingers of lava
rock attract an abundance of colorful tropical fish, often in reachable shallow areas.
My equipment was simple: a mask and snorkel, water sandals (fins are a good option,
but not necessary) and a camera.
My goal that day was the honu, the gentle green sea turtle that feeds on the coral
reefs. These stunning creatures were once
in decline, but their population has
rebounded since they were given protection
Wading out waist deep, I eased into the
clear blue water. Immediately the colorful
world of a tropical reef opened up before
me: a variety of striped butterfly fish with
their plate-shaped bodies, darting yellow
and convict tangs, and the regal Moorish
idol. I also was treated to numerous triggerfish, whose real name I later vainly tried to
Hawaii’s state fish.
In all my snorkeling adventures in
Hawaii, I have never had a problem finding
a wonderful variety of fish in the coral reefs.
The only question is typically how clear the
water is for optimal visibility in nature’s
aquarium. Finding sea turtles, however, is
a different story. While they frequent cer-
tain beaches, as with any wildlife there are
no guarantees of spotting one.
Watching other snorkelers is one good
clue. If nearby swimmers are seemingly
mesmerized by something below the surface, they’re probably watching a turtle or
two. Following their cue and patiently, quietly snorkeling around an area are good
approaches to finding a sea turtle.
I was fortunate that first day to spot
several sea turtles, and I have since seen
them dozens of times. My favorite experience was watching a pair feeding in the surf
on a coral reef, and rolling at times in the
Into rivers and pools
Underwater photography in fresh
water is much more challenging, and certainly less alluring, than in warm tropical
locations. Yet you can find a unique under-
Taking photos of your