Gallery of Photo Safari Images
Gallery of Photo Safari Images

Trip reports from our past Manatee photography Workshop 2014

Manatee Magic 2014

Swimming with and photographing manatees is one of the most relaxing and rewarding underwater photography I do. I love sharing it with guests especially when it is their first encounter in the water with manatees. This year we had a mix of manatee veterans and those having their first manatee experience. Our 2014 Manatee Workshop was a magic experience for everyone with excellent weather and plenty of manatees. This year was special for me as it was my chance to introduce manatees to an all foreign group from New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Belgium, and Germany

Read Comments from our Manatee Workshop Guests

Manatee Photography Workshop 2013

A guests photographs a manatee photographing a manatee manatee photography workshop

Using good techique to photograph manatees

Capturing the beauty of the springs

part of the group taking a break on the boat

Manatees seek the warmer waters of the freshwater springs when the weather and water temperatures on the open water gets too cold. With the usually harsh winter, it was easy to hope for warm weather, but this is not the best for manatee viewing. Florida has had a few cold snaps so far this winter so the manatees were congregated in the area and would move into the springs at night and in greater numbers on the colder nights. Our first 2 days we experienced very pleasant weather with sunny skies. We would arrive early in the morning when much of the springs were shaded by the trees. The dimmer surface light made for some nice reflections on the water surface with a mirror like effect in the images as the manatee rose up to breath. In some areas of the spring, the white sand bottom created enough reflected light to illuminate the underside of the manatee. I do not use strobes very often relying mostly on the natural light. I was using my Canon 5D MK3 with a EF16 - 25mm lens. I was using ISO between 320 and 640 and a shutter speed of 1/100 or 1/125 sec (manatees are pretty slow).

By Wednesday it became cold and windy with some clouds. While not as comfortable, this was great for photography: softening the harsh overhead sun into the clear water. Manatees were plentiful. Some of the younger manatees seemed very happy to be in the springs and engaged with us and other manatees providing some great shots. Our favorite times were in the late afternoons with the incoming tide bringing many manatee into the spring.

There are multiple locations in the King's Bay region to find manatees. We visited a few of these to photograph in the different water conditions. Outside of the springs the water is greener and less clear giving a different character to the photos. Manatees are not the only wildlife in the springs and we had fun photographing the cypress trees and schools of fish. During a quiet moment one of the mornings, a very large and menacing snapping turtle presented himself. Several other turtles made appearances as well. The springs were not the only place we saw turtles and fish. While navigating the drift snorkel down the Rainbow River we encountered plenty. The river was a fun and unusual experience for everyone. The spring fed waters are absolutely clear and every detail of the "river of grass" and aquatic life is easy to see in the bright water.


mother and baby  manatees


Patience and time is the best formula for getting great pictures of manatees in the springs. Our long days on the water gave us the luxury of taking our time and waiting for the manatees and the great opportunities. We would witness the change in water clarity as the tide flowed and how the manatees reacted to the other swimmers in the water. Being in the springs is a joy itself as the azure blue water and white sand bottom is breathtakingly beautiful and the whole tree-ringed spring has an oasis feeling. What a wonderful place to be on a sunny afternoon.

comerant in the Rainbow River

Certain times of the day the manatees would become active and seek out interaction. We had chances to photograph courting behavior as well as rolling and asking attention from the human visitors. Conservation was never far from our minds as we engaged with manatees according to the rules. We witnessed some manatees with old injuries and some who were tagged for observation and possible medical intervention.

Photographing Manatees

manatee sleeping manatees swim a ballet



mother and baby manatee taking a breath



I want to thank all of the guests for making this such a wonderful and successful week. We had some great conversations at dinner and while standing waist deep in the water. I hope to see each of you again. It was also a treat to see people who were with us last year and on other underwater trips. Some of the guests will be joining me in a few weeks on the Tiger Shark Dive Expedition in the Bahamas. I look forward to returning to the manatees and sharing this magical experience with more guests next year.

  • Link to Gregory Sweeney Photo Safari Facebook page
  • Gregory Sweeney Linkedin profile
  • Gregory Sweeney Twitter Account
  • Photo safari and shark diving Youtube video Channel

All materials are copyright to Gregory Sweeney

All rights reserved. No duplication or use of content without permission