A first in a series of Stories about the Best Images from 2010

Girl & Seal

I’ve been meaning to go through all of my photos from last year and find the images that portray some defining moments in my pursuit for that slice of photographic perfection. After removing the images that were work related, product shots and images taken for other photographers, I ended up with no fewer than 5000 images to sort through.

The whole sorting process took less than hour to get through. My goal was to find a number of images that can show the diversity of my work but also has a little story behind the image. The first image I’ve chosen is an image that has stuck with me ever since I pressed the shutter. That one split second in time captured as pixels that will stay in my heart as one of my favourite images of 2010.

My family and I were on holidays at the Sunny Coast, Queensland, it was my Birthday and as a family we went to Underwater World. While waiting to see the Seal Show, I found the observation section below the water line. As I walked in I noticed a young family already there. The girls were laughing and tapping on the glass and the seals were reacting. I didn’t take much more than a passing glance at the girls, after all they weren’t mine and they looked as though they were leaving the area. What I did notice was how blue the light was, far beyond the normal white balance range of my Canon EOS 7D.

This situation is exactly the same as taking photos underwater. Beyond the 5 meter mark the red spectrum is absorbed by the water and everything shifts towards the blue end of the spectrum. The aquarium added to the problem because the walls of the tank are painted blue and they had a large blue tarp strung across the arena. I knew trying for a custom white balance was out of the question. The Canon 50mm f1.4 lens was added to the camera, the ISO cranked to 1250 ISO and Av mode selected. I took a meter reading and at f5.6 was getting 1/50th of a second. I took a couple of test shots of the seals and quickly stopped as the photos were too blue and washed out. I dialled in -1EV exposure compensation and the washed out blue look just got bluer. There was little or no contrast and I was about to put the camera away when I noticed my girls (14 & 17) were tapping on the glass and the seal looked like it was biting its flipper and the girls were laughing. I then realised the seal was “Blowing Kisses” at my girls. Now I was hooked.

The contrast came from the shadow on my side of the tank.  A few test shots and I was almost there. I just needed something to happen. The kiss blowing was still going on and the shots were becoming repetitive. Once again the feeling of nothing more to see here, move along please was starting to creep back. By this time the young family, that was there first, had almost made it to the door to leave and I noticed the little girl was being “followed” by a seal. The girl quickly jumped up on the ledge and waved to the seal, laughing loudly. The sheer joy on her face was a moment that I had to capture. I took 3 photos and turned back to see what my two were doing.

I knew I had managed to grab a good image but it wasn’t until later that I realised how special the moment was. This one image has stayed as one of my favourites for almost year and once I decided to find my “Best Of 2010” it was the first image to make the list. There are a number of images that made the grade so over the next couple of months I’ll share the image and the story behind the picture.

Happy Shooting

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