I’ve never tried underwater photography. First, I’m not a diver so that limits underwater photo opportunities significantly. And second, I don’t have a waterproof camera housing for my gear, so I keep my camera and lenses far from water.

I have had limited success photographing sea creatures in zoos or aquariums, but limited is the key word in that sentence. It’s difficult to isolate a subject in an aquarium full of fish. And shooting through thick glass is a major problem because it distorts the subject matter. Add a layer of sticky, greasy fingerprints and dirt to the outside of the glass and photography becomes close to impossible.

But I still try.

We visited the zoo in Toledo, Ohio, last spring, adding it to our growing list of zoos we’ve seen. The Toledo Zoo impressed me. It has a nice variety of animals with viewing areas that seemed more photographer-friendly than many other zoos.

And I managed to get a usable underwater photo through glass in the zoo’s aquarium.

This is a Pacific sea nettle (commonly called a jellyfish and the subject of my photo of the week), one of a collection of sea nettles floating in a large tank at the zoo. The moment I saw the yellow/red nettles against the blue background in the tank I knew I needed to try to get a photo. But I wasn’t optimistic, given my lack of success in the past.

First, I found an area of glass that had few scratches. I wiped the area the best I could, attempting to remove smudges and dirt. Then I put the lens hood against the glass, bracing it the best I could to prevent movement that would blur shots taken at a relatively slow shutter speed. The lens hood also helped prevent reflections on the glass.

Then I started shooting, using the blind squirrel photography technique. As the saying goes, even a blind squirrel can occasionally find an acorn. Similarly, if a photographer shoots a massive number of frames of a subject in difficult conditions it increases the odds that one will be usable. Turns out I ended up with about a half dozen usable shots of sea nettles. 

I particularly liked this one. The sea nettle was floating down in the tank with its tentacles extended above it. The colors popped against the background. 

One other thing about sea nettles: Watching them in an aquarium is extremely relaxing. It’s almost like standing beside a giant, living lava lamp as the nettles slowly and randomly move with the current.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.


Date/time: May 17, 2018, 1:49 p.m. 
Location: 41°37'4.187" N 83°34'55.026" W (Show in Google Maps)  
Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II  
Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (24mm) 
Aperture: f/5.6  
Shutter: 1/40th second  
ISO: 6400