Photography Adventure: Close Up With An Alligator

Wildlife and nature photographers love to get close to their subjects. However, sometimes they get a little too close for comfort. When that happens, usually the best case scenario is a jolt of adrenaline and a lesson well-learned. However, sometimes photography gear is confiscated by the local wildlife as part of the lesson-teaching (don’t get too close and always be aware of what’s going on around you). When this happens, photographers generally have to write-off the loss and come to terms with losing many valuable photos.

Unless the photographer is Mario Aldecoa who had his gear returned to him by the friendliest alligator on Earth eight months after the same alligator had “borrowed” it.

Aldecoa’s story starts when he was trying to get some images of one hundred gators and their beady glowing eyes as they swam through part of the Everglades Alligator Farm where he works putting on alligator shows. However, one alligator was not feeling particularly photogenic that night and objected to having his photograph taken. So, he grabbed Aldecoa’s camera and tripod and continued swimming with the rest of his bask, leaving the photographer dealing with the aftereffects of a close encounter with the reptile kind.

The next day, Aldecoa and several others did try combing the pond to see if he could at least find his tripod but to no avail. For eight months, the amateur photographer wrote off his camera and tripod as a complete loss. Until the alligator decided to return the gear he had stolen. Just last Friday, a keeper at the Everglades Alligator Farm noticed that one of his gators had a camera wrapped around its leg. He managed to get the camera away from the reptile and reunited the ruined camera with its owner, Mario Aldecoa. Through some miracle, the memory card in the camera had survived being waterlogged and coated with sand, silt, and mud for eight months. Aldecoa was able to retrieve the images he’d been capturing though only one of them was clear enough to share. The camera itself, though of good quality, was not equal to the treatment and was retired with honors.

— da Bird