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I have just returned from photographing West Indian manatees at Crystal River State Park, Florida. It was a very interesting experience. I am usually the only photographer, let alone person, at the wilderness locations that I typically photograph. I knew that was not going to be the case with the rampant manatee exploitation at Crystal River, but I was totally unprepared for how many people, boats, and kayaks were in the water. Fortunately, I bumped into National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen who gave me a nice referral to the USF&WS so that I could get a special use permit. The permit did not solve my problem of all the people in my pictures harassing the manatees, but it did give me some special access and the ability to sink down to the bottom in order to shoot up towards the surface. My other challenge was giving myself a mild case of hypothermia by spending over 6 hours each day in the 70° water. I could barely hold my camera by the time that I got out of the water. However, through my diligence I was able to photograph some fantastic encounters with curious manatees when no one else was around. This is one of my favorite images from my ordeal. I really like how this manatee posed for me and even put its flippers together as if it were praying. I created this image using my Canon 5DmkII and 17-40mm f4 lens with a +3 diopter in my Ikelite 5DmkII housing with 8″ dome port. This image is a single exposure which was mostly processed using Aperture 3.0. I also cloned out particles floating in the water using Photoshop CS5.
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