Photographing sea turtles for 12 years
It all started in 2007, when Kostas Papafitsoros, now well known for his unique sea turtle pictures, saw a poster announcing ARCHELON’s conservation projects on the Athens metro and joined as volunteer. Since then, he has been joining our projects every year, and his interest in sea turtle conservation brought him to photography and to research. We asked him how did this special interest in sea turtle photography evolve and below is what he answered.
"Strangely, both the object and the technique of my photos evolved alongside with the tasks I was entrusted with as a member of the ARCHELON team on Zakynthos. The sight of tens of hatchlings rushing to the sea during a nest excavation in east Laganas, provided my first photo opportunity back in August 2007. Next came a series of snapshots of sea turtles coming up to the surface to breathe, taken from a turtle spotting boat with the use of telephoto lenses, during the 2008 and 2009 breeding seasons.
My first participation in ARCHELON’s night surveys was in 2008, and nesting turtles caught my attention. To capture these moments I tried to combine the light of the full moon together with long exposure of a high ISO sensitivity camera. (I assume you know that artificial lights disturb the nesting turtles and their use is not allowed on the beaches of the the National Marine Park of Zakynthos as well as in all of their nesting sites in Greece).The first results were mediocre, but soon the technology of digital cameras advanced to the point it allowed a real breakthrough in the quality of the photos. I have been using this technique in Zakynthos and in the vast beaches of Kyparissia Bay, which is another great sea turtle nesting site monitored by ARCHELON for more than 35 years now.
And then came the underwater photography passion. I still remember the first time I swam with turtles in Laganas Bay, in the summer of 2009! The first underwater photos in 2010 were nothing special, but soon I learned how to make the most of the camera I had then. The important factors for good photos were snorkeling at the times of the day with the best light, being patient, persistent and staying in the water as long as possible. The real boost of photo quality came after 2014, when I started using a proper DSLR camera underwater. Typically, I would learn about new techniques in online underwater photography forums during the winter and I would try to apply these during the summer. It is a never ending learning process.
Photographing sea turtles has led me to visit remote parts of the world on volunteer and photographic expeditions, like Hawaii (green sea turtles), Ghana (leatherbacks) and recently to the Galápagos islands (“black” green sea turtles). My activities have evolved into several research projects, and their results are presented to the international sea turtle symposia around the world.
The most important element of sea turtle photography for me is understanding their behavior. I often encounter sea turtles that I have seen in all previous years. They exhibit a series of interesting behaviors like foraging, being cleaned by fish or being involved in antagonistic interactions with other turtles. At times I am very excited to encounter individuals that I have not seen for a decade!
Nothing of the above would have happened if I had not joined ARCHELON’s projects in the first place. I strongly recommend them".
You can get a taste of Kostas Papafitsoros’ Sea Turtle Photography here. Maybe you will recognize several of them, as they appear in ARCHELON’s website and social media pages. Thank you, Kostas.
The Longest Reproductive Migration Of Greek Loggerheads
Participation in sea turtle conservation actions is not only possible, it’s fascinating: A look into the Kyparissia Bay project of ARCHELON
- OUR NEWS02/02/2024
Sea turtles in the Greek wetlands of international importance
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2. These vulnerable areas of the planet are a refuge for migratory birds and other wildlife species, including sea turtles. ARCHELON is present in wetlands that play an important role for sea turtles, such as the Amvrakikos Gulf.
- OUR NEWS24/01/2024
Why are ARCHELON’s projects international?
ARCHELON’s sea turtle conservation projects are organized with the valuable contribution of volunteers who come to Greece every year not just from Europe but from more distant places such as South Korea, Australia, and Colombia. Speaking English while carrying out fieldwork or public awareness activities as well as when interacting with each other in the campsites is essential to the projects.
- OUR NEWS17/01/2024
ARCHELON has been running a special hospital for sea turtles with tanks and impressive old train wagons for 30 years in Glyfada
Turtles with IV and bandages, rehabilitation and recovery tanks, special environmental enrichment equipment, recovery greenhouses, and… renovated train wagons! The hospital for injured and sick turtles that ARCHELON has set up in the 3rd marina of Glyfada, next to the sea, is certainly something out of the ordinary.
- OUR NEWS05/01/2024
What happened in the world of ARCHELON in 2023?
A world record for reproductive life for a sea turtle and 40 years of ARCHELON’s actions for protecting sea turtles are some of the moments we celebrated together this year. So, what happened in the world of ARCHELON in 2023? Here are some highlights of the past year.
- OUR NEWS21/12/2023
Assuming responsibility for the environment brings more meaning into our lives
“ARCHELON is an opportunity, not only for the animals and the ecosystems, but also for us who participate in it and for the society in which we operate”. Thomas Arapis, President and founding member of ARCHELON, talks about the efforts of the organization and about what he aspires for the future.
- OUR NEWS20/12/2023
Forty years later: the world of ARCHELON has expanded
Thomas Arapis, President and founding member of the Association gives the current coordinates of ARCHELON. "We encounter many turtles in our daily activities, and even more people, many more people actually, who help us. Amongst them are the people who work for us, they stand out for they represent the Association out there, through thick and thin".
- OUR NEWS20/12/2023
19 Environmental NGOs ask the Greek Government not to consent to a change in the wolf protection status in Europe
- OUR NEWS15/12/2023
Messages of love from the world turtle community!
Celebrating ARCHELON's 40th Anniversary we have received warm messages from the turtle community worldwide
- OUR NEWS14/12/2023
When the past becomes a lighthouse for the future
Thomas Arapis, the President of ARCHELON and one of its founding members talks about the quality and values, and the people who marked the setting up and subsequent action of ARCHELON. “Dimitris Margaritoulis taught us, not only the methodology for monitoring and protecting them, but also what it means to organize tasks, take responsibility, work as a team, evaluate our course and cooperate with each other”, he says.
- OUR NEWS12/12/2023
Notes of a volunteer (Part 2): Ηead trauma happens more often and is more serious than you think
Jessica Van Damme who volunteered at the ARCHELON Sea Turtle Rescue Centre for 6 weeks in 2023, talks about what she learned while taking care of sea turtles with human caused injuries.
- OUR NEWS04/12/2023
Notes of a volunteer (Part 1): Jessica Van Damme was at the Rescue Centre
“During my 6-week stay, there were more than 30 injured sea turtles being treated at the Rescue Centre. Seven of them were successfully released, but, during the same period there were five new arrivals – all turtles with human-caused injuries. We, humans, are their biggest threat!”, writes Jessica.
- OUR NEWS30/11/2023
Summer 2024: Come back to sea turtle conservation as a leader!
Joining or returning to ARCHELON’s sea turtle projects as a Field Leader will give you the opportunity to lead specific activities as well as train and help others in the projects. These positions provide a higher level of experience in nature conservation/ environment protection, as well as improved communication and leadership skills. Hurry and apply now! Only a limited number of experienced and skilled volunteers are selected to serve as leaders in each project.
- OUR NEWS23/11/2023
The establishment of the “Amvrakikos Alliance”
The Alliance's vision in collaboration with the local community is to highlight the unique ecological value and the natural and cultural heritage of Amvrakikos, for the most effective management, restoration, and protection of its ecosystems and biodiversity.
- OUR NEWS16/11/2023
Kids Beach Competition 2023: Turtles made of natural materials that stole our hearts!
The little friends of ARCHELON who participated in the Kids Beach Competition 2023 formed turtles from pebbles, sand, water, rocks, sticks, leaves and shells, spreading the message of protecting sea turtles on the various beaches of Greece. Angeliki's (7 years old) little turtle on top of the big rock stole 694 hearts and became the winner!
- OUR NEWS15/11/2023
The Field Leaders of 2023 and their role
Matthew from the UK, Noha from France, David from the Netherlands, Aris from Greece started one summer as volunteers knowing little about turtles and their protection. Their experience made them return to the conservation projects as Field Leaders to take on more responsibilities, as trainers and mentors for new volunteers.