Monday, July 19, 2010

My Best Shot at Bay Scallops

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With black crude spewing in the Gulf, and the resulting cloud of poison moving ever closer to Florida's coast, I am seeing the beauty and bounty of our clear clean waters with new eyes. Like so many Floridians, Crystal and I are taking every opportunity to visit our beaches and swim in the Gulf. This summer (scallop season), that has meant going scalloping. The scallops apparently don't know about the oil yet and have flocked to the seagrass beds of Florida's Nature Coast.

Every year (for the 30 years I have been scalloping), I kick myself for not making the effort to photograph these incredibly beautiful sea creatures. Gather, shuck, saute, broil on-the-halfshell... or freeze some for off-season, but not photograph. So this year, finally, I spent all day Saturday with photobuddies, John Moran ( and Eric Zamora (, making scallop photos. (Well, we did have to collect some first, and then, why not shuck and eat them too?)

John and I have been talking scallop-photographing strategies for a few months. Between his mastery of lighting and the contraptions and ideas we came up with, we had a fantastic and successful day. Eric is ever-mindful of documentation (a big failure on my part) and uses video, audio, and still photos to show the process and progress of the adventure. I look forward to seeing his piece on our day in the Gulf off of Keaton Beach.
While scallops are social creatures for sure, you don't often see them this cozy. But they do make a great group portrait!
Scallops see through those lovely blue eyes... and with eyes that beautiful, why not have a hundred of them instead of just two?
Scallops don't sit around like other bivalves. They use their strong (delicious) muscle to swim by sucking in water and then jetting it out. This photo also shows the sea grass habitat of the Gulf of Mexico's bay scallop.
This was a "failed" test shot as far as ambient light settings - the sea grass was supposed to show in the background. But the underexposure combined with bright flash (in a bag underwater) and the flecks of silt that we had stirred up came together to make this extraterrestrial delight. Nothing was altered here (except the viewer's perception).
What intricate beauty! A jewel of the sea.
The wind and waves made the water's surface tricky to shoot through (and most of the shots like this failed). But luck was with me on this one - the wavy surface creates the painterly quality, yet the detail and sharpness of the scallop is not obscured by reflections.
The scallops we gathered for the background here would occasionally swim to the surface and shoot saltwater at my camera or flash, leaving bubbles as they sank back to the bottom. Quick reflexes were a must -- saltwater is BAD for cameras.


Unknown said...

These pictures are glorious. And how important it is to make them now.

Unknown said...

These pictures are just glorious. I don't think there's another word.

jonmoy said...

David...these are truly remarkable photos making them must have given great satisfaction. they are sure to win some prizes if submitted, both culinary and artistic. We're proud of you !! Love Dad

Madeleine said...

Slurp, slurp, spit, spit oh what a delight it is... And to think that the images are just a prelude to the delicacies inside. Beautiful, beautiful. One time I read how many blue eyes a scallop has. But who cares about eyes when the entire creature is so cuddly looking. Weird sentiment for a scallop, but don't you think they look cuddly??

Susan in FL said...

they are just that beautiful and I love all of the variations of background - - -thanks, Susie

Cynthia England said...

These pictures blew me away. I had no idea that bay scallops had eyes, they're so beautiful!! Enjoyed reading about your adventure in taking them too.
Thanks for sharing! Cindy

Unknown said...

The scollop looks like it is smiling at you ! Too bad it was trying to spit! Linnie

Noreen said...

Thanks for taking the time to shoot these...they are truly remarkable and I love the colors. Your lens just captures them exquisitely!!

Anonymous said...

how can we eat scallops now? I had no idea about their eyes. Yikes, I'm in a dilemma. Please don't start taking pictures of vegetables. Your work is amazing. Thanks for your passion.

Unknown said...

What awesome photos! I had no idea they were so pretty.

Grace Kerina said...

Hi, David. Thanks to you and your pals for taking these beautiful photos, and to you for posting them and lots more on your blog. I've linked to this post as an illustration of scallop eyes in my post "Slow Fool" (don't worry, it's not to illustrate slow foolishness):
Wishing you happy snapping,

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