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Crocodiles are a challenging photographic subject for a number of reasons. At one level, they’re easy. When they do occur, there are often a lot of them. So I was up in an area that had the highest concentration of salt water crocodiles in the region. Plenty of choice means you have the chance to get a lot of variety.

What makes them hard is that they’re big and long. The size makes it extremely hard to get them all in focus- your depth-of-field is too narrow. So mostly I’m trying to get the eyes and teeth as the sharpest feature-

Male- Adelaide River (#2)

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The length means that getting all of the body in the shot is now difficult. So you’re looking for twisted bodies…

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…or just concentrating on part of the body

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Compounding this is the fact that most of the time, they live largely underwater and just wait (#33).

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Some of the tricks to shooting underwater aren’t going to work. You can’t go diving with saltwater crocs. And the water is so murky, there’s no real visibility. You can’t put the camera in glass and drop it into the water.

Now, one of the big reasons for going up to Darwin is that most croc photos I’d seen, were of crocs basking on the river bank. I completely understand why people get these shots. But they’re not very exciting. I wanted to get a range of shots that showed crocs in their natural environment.

You have three options. One is to go and shoot from the river bank. This is where a lot of the ‘basking crocs’ shots originate. This alas, gives a very poor success rate with photos. If you want to photograph crocodiles, you have to get on the water with them.

The second option is to go on a commercial tour. To be honest, these are better than I expected. The main problem is that you’re shooting to their schedule, not your own. And commercial boats tend to be taller and hence safer for tourists. There’s little risk a croc will jump into the boat with you. That means getting low-angled shots is almost impossible. But hey, it is safer.

The third option is to go the completely private route. I found that this was the best way to get the photographs. You can get a small boat that will give you the low angled shots you need. And you can shoot entirely to your own schedule, not some tourist schedule. This comes back to another point. Photographing crocodiles is actually a team effort. You can’t go by yourself in the way that bird photographers can.

So, if you are using a small boat (we tried to maintain a 5-10m gap to any croc) you then hit your next photographic challenge. Small boats move. The currents and prior momentum of the boat is going to produce a considtent pitch and yaw. The engine will send a steady vibration through the boat. So you really need a stabilised lens or body, and you have to push the shutter speed very high. I ended up shooting at ISO400- not because of the lack of light- but to get the shutter speed up to 1/2000 sec or more. And you have to take a lot of pictures. You cannot use a tripod from this platform.

In terms of lenses, I used the 300/4 G most of the time and supplemented it with the 70-300 G zoom. A 70-200/2.8 would probably have been the best single lens option, but the combination of a zoom and prime works well.