Floating down the Rio Saluda in a small native boat in Honduras, I found myself searching for crocodiles at high noon. This wasn’t exactly the time of day one expects to do any serious wildlife photography. Underwater is a different story, but above water, well, it was hot, bright, and contrasty as hell. Yet, here I was.
The last three days had seen a major cold front stall out over Honduras. Thick clouds and dropping temperatures meant that for the crocodiles of the Cuerro y Salado region, their black water home fringed with lowland rainforest would be something of a prison for them as they worked to regulate their body temps during the front. By the fourth day the unusual cold that had settle over the usually hot country had moved on.
I had been on the water since day break in search of these hold overs from the age of dinosaurs but with no luck. Finally, as the sun reach overhead it was as if someone had flipped a switch. Hundreds of crocodiles began to emerge as they hauled themselves out onto downed trees, dense clumps of floating vegetation, and whatever else they could find. This was what I had been waiting for.
Given that crocodiles live in the water, they need to climb out into the sun to rid themselves of parasites – as opposed to bathing themselves in water like we do. At high noon, with the intensity of the sun at its apex, the crocs all began hauling out to burn off three days worth of funk that had begun to build up on their bodies.
Despite the intensity of the harshness of the light, all I had to do was find a bit of dappled lighting to work with. As the river narrowed and the forest began to close in around us, bright shafts of light were contrasted with the deep shadows that the gallery forest cast across the water. All we had to do was to keep paddling until we found a crocodile in one of these shaft of light with an appropriately shadowed background. Given that the dynamic range of the scene was too great for the camera to record detail across its full spectrum of tones, I was able to create this chiaroscuro lighting scenario in the middle of the day.