I think the universe is trying to tell me something here.

After last week’s post regarding the shooting of wildlife pictures with a 50mm lens, here we are once again with yet another animal captured on (digital) film with naught but a 50mm lens stuck to a crop-sensor camera. A simple but effective setup, to be sure, and one whose capabilities continue to surprise me even though it’s something I shoot with almost every day. Note to Ryan, once again: You did indeed tell me so :)

As I often do, I was out for a short walk around Theta Pond one day this Spring after school had let out for the summer, and was a bit surprised to see a cluster of turtles sunning themselves on a rock. Seeing just a single turtle isn’t a big deal over at Theta Pond, but four or five together doesn’t happen all that often, so I walked over to get a picture…and they all slid right into the pond in the blink of an eye. Major bummer.

A few yards away there was another rock with some more turtles on it, so I changed tactics and, using the patience I often talk about here on Weekly Fifty but continually forget to have when it really matters, I veeeeery slooooly crept towards the group of amphibians while warily wielding my camera. I moved a few inches at a time and looked not at the turtles but out towards the pond, and much to my dismay they began to disperse one by one until there were just two left. And then soon after that just one.

Nevertheless I continued my slow walk over to the rock, which at this point was almost a crawl, and started snapping pictures of the lone turtle that remained. I fired off five or six shots, then crept closer, and got a couple more. And then more, and then more, until I was probably just a few feet away at which point I frantically began changing from f/1.8 to f/2.8 and even f/4 in order to make sure I got at leastĀ one good shot. I kept the focus locked on his eye and used the motor drive to get several dozen shots, hoping I would walk away with something I liked. After a minute of this I got up, said “Thank you for letting me take your picture,” and turned to walk back to my office.

Later on as I was going through the photos I saw that most of them were in focus and tack sharp, which meant I could then shift my attention to the background in order to find one I really liked. I found several where the turtle’s face was pointed slightly away, or where it blended in too much with the water behind it, but eventually found the image you see here where everything seemed to come together really nicely. The turtle’s face is silhouetted against a patch of sky reflected in the water, and the shimmering reflections of light coming through a grove of cypress trees made the darker portions of the water almost seem to sparkle. Depth of field here is just a tad shallow as the foreground of the shell is slightly blurry, but this was shot at f/2.8 and when I stopped down to f/4 I realized the benefitsĀ in foreground detail meant a tradeoff in background blur that I didn’t like.

Though turtles are often depicted as slow and ambling, I have often been surprised at just how quickly they can move if the need arises. It was because of this that I was so pleased to get this photo and it has once again shown me that a 50mm lens works just fine for wildlife photography, provided you use a bit of patience, planning, and a bit of preparation so you know how to get the shots you are going for.


  1. What a smug little smile the turtle has on his face. He knows he is handsome.

  2. Carol Stam Rehse says

    Your narrative made me chuckle as I have done exactly the same while pursuing the elusive turtles!!! Thank you for sharing your tactics in capturing this wily fellow. Well done.

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