Welcome back to my look back in time to a trip I took to Alaska in May of 2008. We are moving right along here with a bunch of second edits that I have been working on in the last week before closing on the new house. Over the past 13 entries, we have been looking at images captured out in the wild of Alaska. Today, we are going to turn things around just a little bit. On may 18th, we spent the day at the aquarium in Seward. It was inside, and one of the touristy things that my ex-wife wanted to do so we did. I was hoping that there might be an image or two to be had here similar to when I would go to the NC Zoo occasionally. At the time, I was doing some wildlife images and even had a gallery room for them. The image that I am sharing here today was actually added into that room for a time, but when I left AOL, and started a brand new website, I never brought this image over, so it has been about eleven years since this image has seen the light of day.
Going to the aquarium I knew that there would be some specific issues I would have to face from a photography standpoint. First of all would be the light. Anything shot inside would need a lot of extra exposure in order to allow hand holding. There were no tripods allowed on the premises to I knew I was going to have to be very careful with exposures. Second was the reflections from the tanks. I was going to have to watch out for those as well. Dealing with the exposure, I wanted to have as much on my side as possible so I opted to take my 70-200mm lens which was my only one with image stabilization. This was a mistake on my part due to lack of understanding. I thought that the IS would allow much easier handholding while still yielding sharper images. While that is true, I could have also gotten the same effect from a wider focal length, so my 24-70mm lens would have also worked in this situation since it was an f/2.8. I didn’t know then, so I was limited to the long lens which worked very well in most situations. I kept the ISO boosted a little bit to keep the shutter speeds up as well as using a wider aperture. In order to limit the reflections I paid particular attention the my positioning. I would have loved to have used a polarizer, but I didn’t want to have to deal with the two stops of light loss in order to use it. By watching my positioning, I was able to avoid many reflections, and then I also found that by using a lens hood, I could get right up on the glass and turn the aquarium tank glass into an element of the lens with no reflections at all. I had my methods worked out, and it was time to see if I could make it work in practice.
One of the images that shot happened to be a rather simple one where I didn’t have to worry about reflections from the aquarium. I just shot over the railing to capture this sea lion swimming int the tank. In order to capture the length of the animal, I had to include a lot of extra information to the top and bottom of the composition. I had never really liked the composition because of this, but I did like how sharp the eyes ended up in the image. It was still not a favorite of mine, but it was something that would fit in my wildlife gallery room, so I went with it.
While looking at the RAW files this one came up once again, and I still saw some aspects of it that I liked enough to try it again. I pulled it into Lightroom and started out with a 16:9 crop which immediately brought the attention to the head of the sea lion. I started to play with the contrasts and added some density to the surrounding aspects until I started to see patterns developing in the water that supported the composition. I worked on bringing those out in an almost abstract quality while keeping the bottom edge very dark and mysterious. The diagonals that started to appear added to the composition very nicely and I ended up with an image that was much better than the original. While I am still not a wildlife photographer, I feel that this one is appealing enough to fit within my style and is interesting enough to warrant a second chance on the website after ten or more years of obscurity.
We are just getting started with the interesting and oddball images from the aquarium so stick tight and I’ll see you again soon!