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One Great Shot: A Tiny Turtle Takes to the Sea

Planning and preparation helped this photographer document a baby turtle’s first swim.

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by Grant Thomas

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Pollution, overfishing, and a local custom of eating turtle eggs have led to a decline in Papua New Guinea’s sea turtle populations. Since 2013, conservationists based out of Lissenung Island Resort, on a private island in the country’s northeast, have worked to give the reptiles a fighting chance.

During nesting season, the crew visits neighboring islands every morning to collect new eggs and gently transport them back to the resort. There, the workers transplant the eggs into protected outdoor nest boxes—large wooden structures filled with sand. The crew places each clutch in the same orientation and order as their mother laid them, ensuring nearly natural incubation conditions.

Once the turtles hatch, their guardians release them onto the beach as quickly as possible—usually in the evening to avoid predators—and the babies gravitate toward the ocean, innately propelled to swim for open water.

When planning this shot, preparation was key. I practiced different lighting setups and compositions beforehand using a bit of turtle-sized driftwood as a model. I locked my settings, flash positions, and lens focal length to ensure my camera was ready for the big day.

Seeing this baby bobbing up and down in the dark water, paddling for its life, I felt sobered by its odds of survival: only about one in 1,000 sea turtles reaches maturity.

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Cite this Article:

Cite this Article: Grant Thomas “One Great Shot: A Tiny Turtle Takes to the Sea,” Hakai Magazine, Jul 5, 2024, accessed July 12th, 2024, https://hakaimagazine.com/videos-visuals/one-great-shot-a-tiny-turtle-takes-to-the-sea/.


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