Crocodile tales: 6 November

Not many people would jump into the water when they see a crocodile. But David Keep, Ilkley Camera Club’s guest speaker on 6 November, did just that in 2019. The result was a compelling series of underwater photographs. The guides David was with told him he could only enter the water if the crocodile was the right size. “Too big and it could drag me away if it attacked; too small and the photos would not be interesting enough. That was supposed to be re-assuring.”

David was also told to get out of the water when another crocodile approached. “They will fight and you do not want to be in the water when that happens.” Whilst photographing, David said he had slipped on the vegetation. “Mud billowed up, at which the crocodile made a lunge. It just missed my foot.” David commented, “I was glad to make the dive but after that experience I shall never get in the water with a crocodile again.”

David said he had been a diver for 25 years but he was relatively new to photography. Combining his two passions had given him some wonderful experiences. Other underwater subjects he showed included Atlantic Grey Seals, Manatees (a lumbering but endearing beast related to the elephant), Hammerhead and Tiger Sharks, a pet dog and Gannets.

The key to success said David is to know the right time of year and location for the animals to gather. Then have the patience to await for good weather. On organised trips there will be food thrown into the water to bring the creatures near. “Even then”, warned David, “you have to be careful. A Hammerhead Shark’s eyes are at the side of its hammer shaped head. It cannot see directly in front of it, so if one is heading straight for you it is best to get out of the way.”

On the technical side, David described the camera he uses and the special waterproof housing that contains it whilst allowing him to operate all the settings manually. He uses two powerful flash lights because, even at quite shallow depths, the water limits the natural light and distorts the true colours.

For his shots of Gannets in a feeding frenzy, he brought in supplementary lighting held on the boat because fast shutter speeds were necessary. “Even then,” said David, “having taken over 700 shots I found that only about a dozen were clear and sharp enough to display.” With hundreds of birds punching into the water from 60 metres up or more, David said that you might be worried about being hit. “But they know what they are doing and I soon had confidence to get in closer to where the action was.” For examples of David’s beautiful and challenging work see the David Keep Photography website.

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