Sea Creatures And More – Tampa, Florida

With the temperatures tipping the scales between 96 – 98 degrees here in the heat of the Florida summer, I’m always looking for subjects to photograph indoors. Not to mention the high humidity and pop up thunderstorms that usually happen in the afternoon. This is the time of year when the north and the south switch. During the winter, people in the northern states try and stay in as much as possible. During the summer, the people here in the south try and keep out of the heat.

One of the places that I like to photograph is the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. The price is very affordable; I think it’s around $17.50 with your AAA discount and $19.95 without. If you have kids or you act like a kid, this would be a great place to visit. A family could spend all day looking at the different exhibits. They have many activities for kids to do including a mini water park. This is great as it gives the parents a chance to have a mai tai under the tiki bar, while watching their kids. As you can tell, I’m childless and I enjoying seeing the other parents “taking the edge off”. Anyway, they also have a place to get something to eat and a gift shop (read tourist trap) of course.

This is a very photographer friendly place. I have been there multiple times and I have seen all models of cameras that are sporting next to the fanny packs from the $200 point and shoot to the $5,000 DSLR. Some of the exhibits are out in an enclosed biosphere. In this area, there are alligators, birds, fish and reptiles to see. If you go on a sunny day, there will be enough light to use any lens. I would recommend something with a zoom on it for this area. I used my trusty 18mm-200mm lens. Unlike a zoo where there is wire in front of the exhibit and the animals are hiding way in the back, these enclosures have no wire and they are not deep.

Here are a couple of photos that I took at this location. Most of the subjects are used to people and will stay still. This is great if you are trying to dial in your exposure or you might be a little shaky.


Florida Mangroves

I saw this clump of mangroves in one of the exhibits and it jumped out at me as a black and white. You see these all over the banks down here. This is how some of the bushes and trees get their nutrients. This is also home for fish and other wildlife. These are usually in the water out in nature, but here I got a chance to see them up close without getting my feet wet.


This little guy seemed as if we had woke him up from his nap. I would have had the same look if someone woke me up. He was patient with all of the visitors. This is where I used the 200mm end of my lens to reach all over the screaming kids (Did I say I don’t have kids?) and get a nice portrait of this fine fellow. With an uncluttered background and great light, I don’t think I could have done any better in the wild.

Roseate Spoonbill

These guys get their name from their…foot….I mean beak. Just seeing if everyone is paying attention. I find these birds hanging out in state parks and protected wildlife areas. There was quite an assortment of these guys; I like to zoom in a just take a close up of one particular bird. I think that it shows the detail in their feathers and faces better.

Loggerhead Turtle

I then proceeded into where the covered and exhibits were in the dark. I came around the corner and I was faced with this huge tank that held all kinds of creatures from the sea. These particular tanks are lit very well and I was able to use my zoom lens. I did however; crank up the ISO up to 1600. This Loggerhead Turtle was making the rounds around the tank. I was panning with him so when he made it around the tank I was able to rattle off a few shots before he disappeared again. By the way, these turtles are the reason why flashlights are outlawed on Florida beaches at night. They come up on to the beach and put their eggs in a nest that they have to dig out with their flippers. Any kind of light will scare them back into the water and the eggs will parish.


This is where it gets tricky, for the rest of these photos these subjects are in tanks illuminated with fluorescents above. It looks like a lot of light, but to the camera, it’s very dark. Again, I’m shooting at ISO 1600, but I switched lenses. I put on my 50mm f/1.4 lens. This is what they call “fast glass”. It’s also the sharpest one I have in my bag since it’s a prime lens. This means no zoom. In some of the exhibits there are signs that tell you that “flash” photography is not allowed. I watched as people tried to get photos without a flash and they got a neat abstract to take home as a memoir due to the streaks of color (read blurry photos). I on the other hand chose an aperture of f/2.8. This way I was able to keep the whole subject in focus not just the eyes due to the shallow depth of field at f/1.4. I was able to achieve a shutter speed of 1/125. This isn’t to bad considering I’m hand holding in almost complete darkness. If you want a great low light lens, but don’t want to have to pay the $450 price tag, get a 50mm f/1.8. These are $125 and will allow you to shoot in these kinds of conditions.


As I made my way through the different areas, the lighting conditions were all the same. Since I was shooting in manual, the camera gave me a constant result. I thought this crab looked interesting. There is a little distortion at the bottom where the tank started to bend, but over all I thought this came out pretty well.

Clown Fish a.k.a. Nemo

I happen to notice that this fellow was hiding in some kind of coral. This looked like a scene right out of the movie. He held still long enough for me to grab a couple of shots.

There you have it. If you are going to go to a venue like this, be sure to take a tele and a piece of fast glass. That should cover any type of lighting condition and exhibit situation that you may run into.

As a side note, one of my family members is in the process of redoing their bathroom. They are going for a “sea” theme for the bathroom. They asked if I could send them a couple of these images so they could have them framed for the bathroom. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. Knowing that I’m not wrapped to tight, I told them that I wouldn’t mind as long as the following credit line followed: “Original sea photography by Spencer Pullen, from the FART ART collection.” I can’t wait to visit.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean



  1. Revisited – The Florida Aquarium | Spencer Pullen Photography and Training - [...] you missed the original post, check it out by clicking here. For this post, I will be showing you…

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