Slow down and LOOK!

Hello everyone.  I hope 2011 is off to a great start for each of you.

I recently completed an interesting assignment for the upcoming issue of Bay Soundings, a quarterly news journal covering Tampa Bay.  Last Fall I contacted the journal’s editor to propose a photo essay documenting the small creatures living in seagrass beds around the bay.  Much is already known about how important this ecosystem is for the overall health of Tampa Bay and many other saltwater estuaries.  Seagrasses produce food and serve as important habitat for a huge number of species at some point in their lives.  According to research conducted by the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Station at Ft. Pierce, “a single acre of seagrass may support as many as 40,000 fish, and 50 million small invertebrates.” (link).  In addition to the significant variety and mass of life they support, seagrass beds are also an important indicator of the overall health of coastal waters because of their sensitivity to water quality changes.

Despite their obvious importance there is a relative lack of photographic documentation of seagrass systems.  My proposed focus for this project was to make as many images of the animals I saw while visiting two specific sites in Tampa Bay.  Originally thinking that this was a relatively straightforward assignment, I told myself that I would need as few as three good days of shooting to capture sufficient imagery to accompany the essay.   Upon entering the murky 55º water, I quickly learned that capturing compelling images of anything in this environment would be challenging.

Unfortunately, the water was noticeably colder than normal for this early in the season (just in time for my first visit:).  That was bad, but at the top of the list of negatives was the apparent lack of life that was readily visible.  Perhaps it was the complete lack of feeling in my extremities affecting my ability to concentrate.  More likely it was the skillful use of camouflage by many of the area’s residents.  Regardless of the cause, the ongoing viability of this project seemed highly questionable.  After two trips to both project sites I had exactly zero useable images!  I also felt a little skeptical that there would be a turnaround anytime soon.

After some initial distress over my self-imposed misfortune, I decided that it was time to change basic tactics.  I realized that in my eagerness to cover as much underwater territory as possible I was overlooking many of the important details of this amazing world.  I began noticing some erratic movements among the seagrass that appeared out of sync with the prevailing motion.  By focusing on a specific area and the irregular movements I began to see some of the hidden life that was all around me.  It was interesting how quickly the project progressed once I was able to really concentrate on looking for details.  I am now fully convinced that this principle has meaningful bearing on many other areas of life.

Here are some photos from the collection, I hope you enjoy and I hope all goes well.  Until next time, take care.  Jimmy

Bay Soundings Blog Images – Images by James White

25 Responses to “Slow down and LOOK!”

  1. Susan Kahraman says:

    Hi Jimmy – Your photos take my breath away!!!! They’re beautiful and textural and fabulous. Also loved the very interesting and humorous text. And, yes, the quieter you are and the closer you look, the more wonderful shows up. You’ll go far for sure….Susan

  2. David Ho says:

    What an exciting project you are involved in! Great pics! I love investigating a sea grass bed for critters. Unfortunately there aren’t much around where I live. 55F degree? I hope you had a dry suit. I wear a dry suit even in 70F water temperature. I love the way you show the sea star with its orange tube feet (I think that’s what they are called).–David

  3. MJ says:

    Amazing, transporting & evocative as always! Gorgeous work as usual Gum. The new website is so pretty. I was mesmerized by the photos at the top. That photo of the jellyfish looks like something taken from a rocket ship in outer space!! Love it.

  4. Kate says:

    Love these images you are doing so well with your new career. Awesome website too.

  5. htweto says:

    Yeah! Great lighting in this series. And an excellent time to deploy a shift in perspective, bringing us macro when anything else just misses too much. Good stuff, and a great idea for a story.

  6. Elaine Lammlein says:

    Jimmy: I am never disappointed with your capture of nature. These, as always, are amazing – some a little more “scary” than others but “beautiful” at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Beverly Hill says:

    Amazing work, Jimmy! As I viewed the beautiful images you’ve captured, I heard Sting’s “Fragile” running through my mind, from The Living Sea. Interesting how one sense can invoke another. offering a space of harmony, just by witnessing fellow inhabitants of our natural world.

  8. Page says:

    These are such great photographs! Your underwater photography always make me want to go to the ocean immediately.

  9. Mel says:

    That’s a great discovery for your photography – stand still and let the images come to you! I really like the anemone images – as John said above the lighting is very nice as it highlights the details and colors. You’ve really captured some beautiful creatures.

  10. preston says:

    fabulous, Jimmy.

  11. john says:

    Hey Mon,
    The roundness of your lighting in this magnificent throughout this series…one enters this world and it feels eerie and full of wonder. I feel as though I have embarked to unknown worlds. You have found a distinct vision. That, that is no small thing my friend. Congratulations.

  12. Mike Reems says:

    Great work again, Jimmy! Enjoyed the seagrass stuff. Makes me feel bad about the flounder I caught (and released) yesterday. But he attacked me from that ambush position you’ve captured!

  13. Lee says:

    Great shots, Gum! I especially like the one of the strung-out looking flounder. Keep up the good work! Love, Lee