Be The Champ! – The Spread

An American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) is reflected in the surface as it floats over a shallow seagrass meadow, close to mangroves. Jardines de la Reina, Gardens of the Queen National Park, Cuba. Caribbean Sea.


The Spread  / Alex Mustard – Snappy Snaps

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Be The Champ! - The Spread 2

Cuban Crocodile, taken with a Nikon D5 and Nikon 16-35mm. Subal housing. Seacam strobes. 1/200th @ f/20, ISO 800.

“How many teeth has a crocodile got?” goes the old joke. “Who knows – nobody has ever hung around long enough to count them!”

The saltwater crocodile is certainly Cuba’s most famous, or should that be infamous, underwater photography subject.

The question I am most commonly asked about these crocs is not how to shoot them, but how to get close to them safely.

The answer, as usual, is to not be brave and think you know it all, and instead to listen carefully to the local naturalists, understand and follow their advice to the letter.

These are wild, formidable predators, and just because other people have photographed them before, doesn’t mean that you can treat them like puppy dogs.

The crocodiles live wild in the mangroves, and the best time for photography is at slack water on high tide, when the visibility is at its best and the current in the channels is minimal.

The dive operator has been baiting a number of young crocodiles (all called Niño) since they were small and they all understand the normal drill, so stick to it. The main challenge comes when the crocs arrives at the boat, and you have to steel yourself to get into the water!

I shot both split-level and wholly underwater images. The advantage of the splits is that you can also see the eye of the croc, but it is so close to the water line that it’s a bit lost in an image of the whole animal.

I prefer this totally underwater composition because the focus is on the reptile’s key feature – its smile!


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