Photo of West Indian Manatee, Crystal River, Florida

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, Trichechus manatus, Three Sisters Springs

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.