Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus) are often struck and injured by boats, in spite of laws intended to slow the passage of boats in areas inhabited by the slow-moving mammals. Manatees tend to rest below the surface, holding their breath, and surface without warning when they need to breathe. A boater who is moving too quickly or not paying attention can easily hit the manatee in such a situation. The result is frequently injury and sometimes death, either by virtue of the immediate trauma or by infection in the deep wound caused by the boat. In these photos, Florida manatees display scars, evidence of injuries from boats and/or boat propellers.
I spent a week one winter hanging out at the Three Sisters spring in Crystal River, Florida, photographing manatees. Early in the week the weather was cold so plenty of manatees were holed up in the warm spring water. Later in the week, the weather and surrounding waters warmed a bit and the manatees gradually left to forage away from the springs. I was left with no manatees, so I decided to swim up the narrow brook that connects the three freshwater springs to a larger brackish canal in which most the manatees spend most of their time, thinking that a manatee might be up in the springs themselves. At the origin of the brook, amid a cluster of mangrovey trees of some sort, the three springs are found. Each is about the size of a large backyard swimming pool, with sandy bottom and sides composed of silt and decaying leaves. Trees overhang the edges. The water is exceptionally clear. A local had told me that one of the springs was home to a tiny alligator, but I was unable to find it. I did, however, encounter a large school of gray snapper, also known as mangrove snapper, swimming along the edges of one of the springs. With the trees in the background as a background, the fish offered some nice compositions and I spent an hour swimming around them that morning. No one else was around.
Keywords: Florida springs, gray snapper photo, mangrove snapper photo, Three Sisters, Crystal River, underwater pho
A West Indian manatee, also known as a Florida manatee, at the Three Sisters Springs on the Crystal River, Florida.
A Florida manatee, or West Indian Manatee, swims slowly through the clear waters of Crystal River.
Image ID: 02696
Species: West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus
Location: Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River, Florida, USA
I found that the best time to photograph these animals is early in the day, at least before groups of tourists arrive and begin stirring up the water or causing the manatees to leave the area. I would actually arrive before sunrise, when the canal is steaming in the cold dry air. The available light is dim at that time, in fact the trichoidal patterns on the back of the manatee are not from sunlight filtering through the water but from strobe light reflected off the surface of the water back down onto the manatee. Colleague Doug Perrine, one of the top working marine photographers in the world and recent winner of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2004 Competition, offered this most important piece of advice when I was planning a visit to Crystal River to see manatees: time your visit with the passing of a cold front. The reason for this is simple. Florida spring waters flow at a constant temperature of 72 degrees F. Manatees gather in the springs — which is where you want them to be for purposes of observing and photographing them — for warmth and to rest when the surrounding ocean and river waters are too cold for their comfort, such as during a cold spell. Once the cold front has passed and the surrounding waters have warmed again, the manatees will leave the springs to forage for food in the surrounding canals, wetlands and coastal areas.
See more West Indian Manatee photos.
Keywords: manatee photo, West Indian manatee photo, Florida manatee photo, Trichechus manatus photo, Crystal River, Three Sisters spring, underwater photograph, photo of the day, manatee picture, manatee photograph.