When I was young, we lived in Revere, Massachusetts that is about 15 minutes outside of Boston. I have no idea how many miles that is because New Englanders measure driving distance in time and we use landmarks for directions. Seeing how people deal with travel out here in the Midwest; I now understand when giving tourists directions, why they had a very blank stare.
“Turn right at the tree at the end of the road and you’ll come to a stop sign that actually isn’t there anymore, but it used to be and then follow on until you see the inn with four chimneys. Once you pass the inn, you will drive for about 5-ish minutes until you see a billboard. Once you are at the billboard you have reached New York and your navigation should begin working again. Turn that back on.”
You are probably laughing; but I actually gave these directions to people that were visiting from Chicago. Living so close to Chicago now, I realize that they most likely got back in their car and picked out a few wards they would recommend I check into immediately. Since moving to the Midwest, I rely pretty heavily on my navigation that wouldn’t even pick up a satellite signal back home. People give directions using miles, and crossways and letters and numbers as opposed to “the new highway” name every road, which is actually over 15 years old.
I am telling you about living in Revere because one of our favorite places was the Boston Aquarium. My birthday was a few days ago, so my fiancé said, “pick where you want to go and I will take you wherever your little heart desires”. Love him to pieces! I already knew where I wanted to go – the aquarium! We found the Shedd Aquarium in the heart of Chicago and set out on our journey the next day. Camera in hand, batteries packed I was ready to shoot everything I saw. And this is where the photography portion of the post comes in – I know, you were wondering why it was under this category.
There are a few things that you should remember about photography in aquariums: it is naturally a very dark place, flashes are not allowed, tripods are not allowed and fish swim incredibly fast. Why is this important? If you want to get sharp images under these conditions, you need a camera that can handle an ISO of 1600, or preferably higher, a really steady hand and enough patience to take several photos to compensate for the frantic fish movement.
On the upside, you will find that tanks are lit from the top, have bright vibrant coral and use solid colors as the background which will make your life a little easier. The first photo of the jellyfish is one of my favorite photos from the trip. It helps that the jellyfish are pretty transparent and soak up the light from the tank above. They also move smoother with less dart-like swimming method like other fish. And let’s face it – they are just incredibly cool.
Expect to see the unexpected, and don’t worry if the composition isn’t quite there. Sea life doesn’t pose for the perfect photo and if it wasn’t for the aquarium, most of us would never get to see what lives in the depths of the ocean. This is what makes visiting the aquarium so amazing; there are creatures that will look completely new to you, and even maybe a bit out of this world. Everyone loves a great photo of the vibrant orange clown fish against the pretty yellow coral, but it doesn’t necessarily create the need for a second look. Remember to get the photos that aren’t necessarily pretty, but that spark curiosity.
Always remember, you are there to experience the aquarium, not just take photos. My fiancé tells me this all the time so that I will take the camera away from my face and enjoy my surroundings. I find that when I’m ‘redirected’ from my focal point, I get better photos as a result. While I was busy trying to get that ‘perfect’ photo I so desperately wanted, I didn’t even notice what was above me until it was pointed out to me!
I had an amazing day at the Aquarium and I’m so glad we finally made it there. It is a popular place; so keep that in mind if you are planning to go for a photo excursion. Be mindful of the other people that paid to see the same attractions you did and be courteous of other people looking at the tanks. If there are a lot of school groups, your best bet is to get great photos between 11:30 and 1:00 in the afternoon as they usually break for lunch at that time. On the same note, try to avoid those times in the cafés!
Last but not least, if you are desperately missing the sea like I have been, (sorry guys, Lake Michigan doesn’t cut it for me!) visit the tide pool. It is a tank that is open on the top and replicates the waves from low tide with all of the creatures that call that home. I didn’t take one photo; I know, GASP! When you first walk into the room, you are welcomed with the salty smell of seawater and when you stand next to it you can feel that same salty air. You can feel a slight breeze from the wave crashing in and the sound is something that can never be replaced with technology. There is a bench there; I recommend sitting on it for a while. Soak it all up; the smell, the sound the salty air. If you are missing the sea, it will be just enough to tide you over until you make your next visit. You will feel refreshed, I promise.