Aquarium Of The Pacific [Photographers Night]



I've always loved the ocean and all creatures aquatic. I've had four aquariums over the years, the last being a 40 gallon fresh water tank with live plants. There's just something incredibly soothing in watching all those little critters swim back and forth, despite their apparent obliviousness to being contained within a 10" x 30" glass box. What wasn't so soothing was having to clean the tank and trim the plants every weekend, and so with time I strayed from that hobby in favor of photographic interests -- the two pursuits never having the chance to overlap and intersect. Until now.

Every September, the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA hosts their annual Photographers Night. For the price of a standard admission, a limited number of attendees are allowed entry into the aquarium after hours to photograph the exhibits free of the larger crowds that come to enjoy this popular attraction during the day. This was my first time attending, and even with 200+ fellow photographers roaming the halls, it was quiet, spacious, with plenty of opportunities to cozy up to a tank of your choosing. For four hours, the premises are yours to explore, though, like me, you'll probably find yourself falling short of hitting all of the exhibits. This is a positive because, per the solid recommendation of the event organizers, you really want to invest the night in making considered photographs, rather than dashing around trying to snapshot and catalog all the temptations the aquarium has to offer.

It was a great night to embrace new techniques and improve craft. Low light + moving fish + slow shutter speed + no flash (although allowed) + shooting through acrylic tanks presented challenges that make shooting a toddler's portrait session seem like a cake walk! I got me some nice fishy pictures, and I got me a bunch more blurry fishy pictures. But the true catch of the night was flexing beyond what I normally shoot and exploring new avenues to grow -- though it would have been cool to see Nemo or Dory toss a garter or bouquet to all the other single fish in the pond. And although I brought along my steady bag of reliable lenses, I decided to put those aside for the most part and try out Canon's wonderful 100mm L macro on my 5D for the night (thanks to the free onsite rentals from Tuttle Cameras!).

More weddings and events to come, but for now the Sea of Love.