Eastern Box Turtle

Eastern Box Turtle Along A Paved Path by Todd Henson

Eastern Box Turtle on pavement shot from ground level.

Any day I can photograph an Eastern Box Turtle is a good day. This particular turtle was along the side of a paved trail in a local wildlife refuge. It used to be a road, but is now just part of the trail system.

We found the box turtle stopped maybe 6 feet from the edge of the pavement. There were trees on either side, and a stream nearby that passed under the road. This was a perfect environment for the turtle.

To capture these images I used a long telephoto lens to help blur the background. I wanted to look right at the turtle, from its perspective, so I set aside the tripod and instead lay down on my stomach on the pavement with the camera in front of me resting on the ground.

Closeup of Eastern Box Turtle

Then I slowly crawled forward to get as close as I could but still capture the entire turtle in the frame. I moved in a little closer to capture the closeup image. I love the eyes on this turtle, all the colors and patterns.

One of these days when I find a turtle like this I want to stick around long enough for the turtle to get used to me and begin walking. But this part of the trail was somewhat busy and I didn’t want to attract too much attention to the turtle, or agitate it. So I moved on after capturing these images.

For another example of this technique check out my post about photographing a green frog where I show images shot from different perspectives. As with that photo, I think I could have stopped down the aperture a bit more to capture just a little more depth of field, putting more of the turtle in focus. I often gravitate to the wider apertures, which limit depth of field and create nice blurry backgrounds. But sometimes more depth of field can also be a good thing, even when shooting these animal portraits.

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Remember to Look Down by Todd Henson

Eastern Box Turtle in the grass.

In a previous post I talked about keeping your eyes open while hiking, about staying aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to overlook opportunities if you’re too focused on looking straight ahead.

This post follows a similar theme. I encourage you to look down once in a while while you’re hiking. Often there won’t be anything down there that catches your eye, but if you don’t get into the habit of looking down you may miss golden opportunities.

If we hadn’t looked down we wouldn’t have seen this Eastern Box Turtle making its way across the trail. It was almost across the trail when we found it. But it saw us and froze, as turtles often due, retracting into its shell. We kept a little distance and stayed still, allowing the box turtle to become a little more comfortable with us, at least enough to pop its head back out far enough for a couple portraits.

Closeup of Eastern Box Turtle in the grass.

After making a few photos we went on our way and allowed the box turtle to continue its trip across the path. I didn’t want to draw too much attention to it and risk it getting injured. Box turtles are thought to be on the decline due to things like habitat loss, death on roadways, and people taking them home as pets, so we need to do what we can to help them survive.