How to sneak up on a saltwater crocodile to get a prize-winning photograph

Saltwater crocodile. Image Copyright Justin Gilligan.

The above image, taken by Australian marine scientist Justin Gilligan at Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea, is one of three selected as a finalist in the Australian Museum New Scientist Eureka Prize for Science Photography.

Kimbe Bay is on the island of New Britain, a biodiversity hot spot where about 60% of the coral species of the Pacific an be found.

Justin Gilligan, a multi award winning photographer who has entered the Eureka Prices several times before without luck, says diving the bay is like being caught in a time warp, where hours pass by as moments.

To get the winning shot, Gilligan stalked a two-metre saltwater crocodile using snorkeling gear.

He used a 1.5mm fisheye lens with a digital SLR in an underwater housing with two strobes as flashes.

“You have to get the divide just right, between the air and the water,” he told Business Insider. “It can be quite effective if you have a good subject such as a saltwater crocodile in a beautiful setting.”

To get close to the crocodile, he came in quietly, making as little movement as possible.

“You have to be quiet and swim up to it slowly, try not to disturb the water and not to be threatening towards it and try and get your shots in an interesting composition and then just get out of there,” he says.

“It was pretty small, only a couple of metres long, a juvenile. It didn’t seem that big. It was quite skinny and definitely wasn’t a big one. It’s not really going to wrestle you to the bottom which is good.”

The moment he snapped the winning photograph, Gilligan was close enough to touch the crocodile.

“Luckily the camera was there between me and it,” he says.

Gilligan, who lives in Narooma, NSW, will find out next month whether he wins to top prize or not.

See the best Australian science photos of 2015, including the three finalists for the Eureka photography award HERE.

Here’s a bonus photograph from Gilligan’s underwater collection which he took in South Australia. There’s more HERE.

Cuttlefish. Image Copyright Justin Gilligan.

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