Monday, March 9, 2009

Crocodile, Up Close and Personal

This is my favorite crocodile photo. This was a rare chance to look upwards at a crocodile in the wild from an angle to photograph the underside of his chin.

I was so close to this crocodile that an instant after I took this photo the crocodile rushed into the river and I got splattered with mud as he dove into the water. (Yes, I did use a telephoto zoom, so I was not as close as this photo appears.)

I took this photo from a wildlife boat excursion on the Tempisque River in Palo Verde National Park. Usually the crocodiles visible on such trips are in the mud along the river banks. This crocodile was up on the river bank, and the boat operator glided the bow of the boat into the river bank so that we could watch the crocodile up close. The boat is a good size, holding 20 or so people, so there is no danger from the crocodile on the boat.

As you can see from this photo angle, the crocodile was higher in elevation than the boat. Instead of the usual crocodile photo looking down on the top of his head and back, I was able to get a shot looking up to the underside of his chin. To get the best angle, I went to the side of the boat, leaned over with my camera hanging from my neck, and held the camera as low as I could, just above the water, to get a better angle to shoot up at the crocodile.

Just after I took this photo the crocodile charged the river right next to where I was hanging out of the boat and leaning over. No, I did not get a photo of that. I bolted up from the water and retracted safely into the boat, plenty fast enough to not be in reach of the crocodile, but not fast or far enough to avoid getting splattered by the mud from the river bank kicked up by the crocodile.

In retrospect, it was stupid and dangerous to lean over the side of a boat with a camera and hands dangling just above the water. After all, if there is one crocodile in the area, there could have been another. But sometimes the desire for the best camera angle is an irresistible force that controls the movements of the photographer, at least for amateurs like me. I am sure a professional photographer, which I would love to be, would have taken a better photo in a more careful manner, but I got a photo I love, and a story to tell. And, yes, I have washed the shirt that was splattered by crocodile mud.

(I have another dangerous jungle story about the time I was on a hike in the Amazon jungle at night and was charged by a wild animal. I was able to deflect away the animal with the lighting quick reflexes of my forearm. And what aggressive, crazed, wild animal had mounted this attack on me, you might be wondering? It was an animal that is attracted to light, and my hiking companion shined a flashlight on the animal, provoking its charge. Sorry to string you along for this tease, but the wild animal that charged me was a hummingbird.)

12 comments:

Sharon said...

This is a fantastic picture and I love the story that goes with it. I probably would have done the same thing.

Julie ScottsdaleDailyPhoto.com said...

Crocodiles can move pretty fast if they want to. I have always wanted to see a crocodile dive straight up in the air to get its prey. They have power.

glenda said...

Grt a grip Dave, a hummingbird! Wow the crocodile picture is really great. Funny story.

Jarart said...

No wonder it is a favorite photo, unique and with memories like that.
Watch out for those killer hummingbirds. hehe.

Kuanyin Moi said...

Photographers are a bit nuts, and I qualify for this as well. :-)))) Great shot!

nanak said...

great capture. i like the story :)
thanks for sharing

JM said...

Wow! David, this is an amazing shot! A view from below is not common at all. Fantastic!
I've seen them big from a bridge on the way to Manuel Antonio, but I don't remember the name of the river now...

Steffe said...

I don't think I would have gone up so close to the crocodile as you did here. In fact I would probably run away!

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