2007—Havelock Island, Andaman Islands, India
The subject of this image is Rajan, a domesticated male Asian elephant that was formerly used in the logging industry in India. He now resides on Havelock Island, India, with 2 female consorts, and takes an occasional swim from the beach with his handler (mahout). He is not restrained while on the beach or in the water, and you can dive with him while he is taking a dip! For more information on Rajan, and how he came to be at Havelock Island, check out this article  written by Nancy McGee of Island Time Scuba.
|Shot with Nikon D2X, and Nikkor DX 10.5mm fisheye lens in a
Subal ND2 Housing, no strobes. ISO 100, 1/100 sec @ f10.
When Nancy asked if I was interested in joining her and her brother in "shooting" a swimming elephant, how could I say no? It was, and is, one of those unique experiences that come perhaps only once in a lifetime. In scouting and preparing for the shoot, I came to the conclusion that the water was clear and shallow enough that I could get good exposures using ambient sunlight, and could, therefore, forego the strobes. Good call, because all they would have done was slow me down in the water, and it was almost impossible to keep up with Rajan as it was! Another decision I made before getting in the water was to use a feature on my camera that I had never used underwater before: continuous shooting mode. This allowed me to shoot bursts of frames of the best action, at up to 12 frames per second. No strobe in the world can keep up with that shooting pace, so this was another reason to leave the strobes behind for this shoot.
We spent a total of about four hours underwater with Rajan in 4 dives over a two-day period. One of my goals was to capture images that showed only him, without his handler or the other divers in the frame, while still keeping the sun behind me so that his body was well illuminated. Positioning myself was therefore critical to creating the images I wanted, and was more physically taxing than usual, due to the speed with which Rajan "elephant paddles" his way around. In the end, I got my fair share of pleasing images, but this one was clearly the best, with Rajan looking into the water and using his trunk as a snorkel. I was only about 5 feet away from him when I shot this frame, but the fisheye lens, again, allowed me to capture his entire body in the image, and still have great depth of field. This is my most popular image, and was highly commended in 2007 in the Shell/BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
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