Photographer Art Wolfe gets up close with a crocodile in Mexico

When the first pandemic hit in 2020, the photographer Art Wolf was working on a big wildlife book coming out in the fall of 2023. He had already rescheduled a few trips but decided to do one with a friend in the state of yucatan in southern Mexico to photograph American crocodiles.

Wolfe is an acclaimed American photographer and conservationist who has photographed the breathtaking scenic beauty of the land, wildlife, and indigenous cultures right out of college for over forty years.

“Although this species can grow to about 20 feet, these fangs were likely in the nine-foot range,” Wolfe said. PetaPixel. “We snorkeled from a boat while biologists with poles watched over our safety. They have studied these particular individuals for years and know their habits and territories very well.

Feel safe in the water with Nine Foot Crocs

“I felt pretty comfortable,” says Wolfe, “and sometimes the guys with the sticks would put the sticks under their muzzle and scratch their chin. That said, if you are not apprehensive when you are in the water with crocodiles, you are not paying attention!

“We weren’t in more than three or four feet of water, so we could anchor a bit against the current. The crocodiles were stirring up the sand in the seagrass, but the current was clearing it away pretty quickly.

The photographer’s full-frame Canon DSLR was placed in a Nauticam underwater dwelling and was only feet away from prehistoric-looking predators and Wolfe “was doing [himself] tiny behind!

The state of Yucatán in Mexico
The state of Yucatán in Mexico. Map by TUBS and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Crocodiles are at the top of the food chain so didn’t need to run or swim away from the photographer. In fact, they would “bounce their toothy snouts” off the dome of the underwater camera housing as they were photographed in the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.

Shoot half underwater and half above

The photo of Wolfe above was taken on a Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR and Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens at 15mm, f/18, 1/640s and ISO 2000.

The beauty of this image is that the reptile’s body is below the surface when walking underwater, but the snout is above the Gulf of Mexico waterline, showing a menacing set of about 80 teeth shiny. The lens is also half submerged as Wolfe tries to stop it from swinging in the waves.

The crystal clear water reflecting the green hue of the vegetation made a perfect film against the blue sky above, one-third separated by the water level.

The Seattle-based photographer says he’s “out of his element” shooting underwater, but he does his research and does his best to get the perfect shot even when working in unfamiliar surroundings.

Photographer Art Wolfe
Photographer Art Wolfe. © Philip Kramer/Art Wolfe Incorporated.

To photograph the crocodiles, Wolfe’s team had to head thirty miles offshore to a shallow area where the crocodiles hang out, which was the hardest part of the trip. Sahara Desert sand was flying in a storm coming from the Atlantic Ocean to the east. This made the sky overcast, but it also created perfect lighting conditions with very even and diffused light filtering into the shallow sea. The surface of the water acts as a natural reflector to illuminate the inside of the croc’s mouth.

“It was good to know that crocodiles rarely eat, but their prey is mainly seabirds, as well as bycatch from local lobster fishermen,” the wildlife photographer explains. “When they hear the outboard motors coming, it’s like ringing the dinner bell. For better and mostly for worse, we humans are changing wildlife dynamics everywhere. »

Wolfe (b. 1951) emphasizes that wildlife photography is conservation photography – it’s about raising awareness of the natural world and defending the planet in order to preserve untouched lands and endangered species, near and far.

About the photographer: Art Wolf has traveled to all continents to capture the glory of our planet for over forty years. In the past 30 years, he has published over 60 books, which is something of a record of two books per year. Within four years of obtaining his BFA from Univ. from Washington, he carried out a mission to National geographic and made a book documenting Indian Baskets of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska (first published 1978). The U.S. Postal Service used Wolfe’s photographs on two stamps.

About the Author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera courses in New York at The International Center of Photography in the 1990s. He was the director and teacher of Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s Digital Days workshops. You can reach him here.

how i got hit is a weekly PetaPixel feature that is released every Sunday. If you want to share the story of how one of your best or favorite photos was made, We would like to hear from you!

Image credit: Header – Mexico, Quintana Roo, Yucatan Peninsula, Bancho Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve, American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) IUCN Red List status Vulnerable, photo by Art Wolf.

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