I love turtles!  One of my biggest disappointments as a nature photographer is that I have only photographed six species of turtles in my life.  None were soft shell and all were aquatic. Still I have had a great time with those that I have photographed.  Three species, Painted Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle and Common Snapping Turtle certainly dominate my photo files.

I use every lens from 18mm wide to 500mm when I photograph turtles.  Aquatic turtles that are land locked can be pretty simple but you will be shocked how quickly they can disappear if you turn your back.

One of the jobs of a nature photographer is to build a photo file that can help tell (and illustrate) the story of wildlife such as turtles.  Below you will find a series of pictures of three different female Common Snapping Turtles.  This is not even close to giving the complete picture of this species but it does give a nice overview of the snapper.  Missing are snappers in the water, mating, catching and eating prey, eggs hatching etc.  It takes a long time and a lot of work to truly tell the visual story of any species of wildlife.

You always need an establishing shot or shots.  When I don’t have a lot of behavioral images I make sure to give the viewer a great look at the species that is featured.

The one snapper behavior that I have a lot of photos of is females digging nests.  I work very quickly with these turtles.  I do not want to disturb them too much.  I think ahead about what I want and can usually get everything, including lens changes in about two minutes.  If I feel I am drawing the attention of hikers or motorists I generally move on. Some people will intentionally kill or torture these creatures.  If I feel I have drawn attention to the turtle, and it may be with someone who will cause harm, I remain near the turtle, and by that I mean about 50 feet not the 1 ½ foot distance that I sometimes make photographs from.  If necessary I will stop people from harming them.  This is less of an issue in state parks or nature sanctuaries.  Non wooded grassy areas and the shoulders of roads are likely places to find Snapping Turtles building nests.  In Wisconsin, early June right after a rain has softened up the ground is a good time for nest making.

In the context of their environment

Parting shots.

 “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Henry David Thoreau

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