I hope everyone has been well since the last post. Sorry for the delay in updating the blog but time always seems to find new ways to make itself increasingly scarce.
The learning zone is a concept an instructor at Rocky Mountain School of Photography named Kerri Rosenstein covered with my group during a rather profound introductory lecture on the life of an artist (btw, Kerri is not only an engaging instructor, she is also an experienced gallery curator and an incredibly talented artist working in a vast array of media and you can see some of her work here). The gist of her discussion was that we learn and grow most when we purposefully step out of our comfort zones, wherever in life they might exist. Equally applicable to many facets of life, the discipline of seeking out one’s learning zone as often as possible is a helpful way to avoid sinking into complacency.
Guess what, lately I seem to have allowed myself to settle into a new comfort zone with underwater photography. As a result I have noticed feeling less inclined to pick up my camera unless I intend on being in the water. Fortunately a recent call from a friend helped to greatly diminish this building complacency. Sarah Walters is a marine biologist working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). She invited me to join them on an upcoming aerial fish survey and offered me one of three research seats on a chartered Cessna. I’d be in the plane with the pilot and two other FWC biologists who would be spotting spawning aggregations of “bull” redfish while directing FWC boats toward the fast-moving schools by radio. The crew on the boats would then try to capture as many of the fish as possible, implant tracking devices, take tissue samples, among other scientific matters very much over my head. My job would be to simply document what I saw as best as possible. Piece of cake, right? Excited by the opportunity to photograph the research from a low-flying propeller driven aircraft I quickly jumped at the offer. After making arrangements to join them later in the week at a local airfield I began considering the challenges of aerial photography. This type of photography includes a host of technical considerations and I was not entirely convinced I even knew all the issues I would face. Nonetheless, I brought along my most suitable camera and lenses and shot like I knew what I was doing.
Several hours passed before we first spotted any redfish. In the meantime we spotted several schools of cownose rays as well as multiple sea turtles and dolphins. However, once we found schooling redfish the action quickly turned on and we could clearly see sharks, dolphins and other local predators feeding along with (and likely on) the redfish. After being directed to the schools by radio (which is not as easy as it sounds) the fortunate researchers on the boats then got to try their hand at landing one of the bulls via hook and line. If you’ve ever caught one, then you understand what an exciting proposition that opportunity represents. Watching the FWC crews fight these fish (often 1+ meter in length) was definitely an envy inducing event despite the perfect seats we had to view the action. For some odd reason I felt that they were the lucky ones that day.
Nonetheless, I had a great time flying around with Alison and Kyle of the FWC and our pilot Bill. They were great company for the 4 hour tour in a cramped, vibrating, bouncing, glare-filled little aluminum can. Thanks again FWC people!
Here is a link to a short video of our landing and below are some images from the day. Hope you enjoy. Jimmy
FWC boats following us in the Cessna
Schooling Cownose Rays off St. Petersburg Beach
FWC Boats getting close to the action
FWC boats chasing the action
FWC crew member angling a spinner shark
FWC catch and release of redfish
Bean Point, Anna Maria Island