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  • I was on my honeymoon in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, staying at a bed and breakfast when the proprietor gave us a tip:

    Walk down the street to the beach at midnight, go to the edge of the cliff and look down at the beach - sea turtles are sometimes known to come up on land to dig holes and lay their eggs.

    So, of course at midnight we went down to check it out. Nothing for twenty minutes. But then we spotted a sea turtle! then another, then another! It was pretty incredible. The only thing was that we were told we could not use a flashlight or flash photography, since that would scare them off and disrupt their birthing ritual.

    After several moderately successful attempts at some time lapse photography without a tripod, a turtle conservationist official, who worked for the city, approached me. There was nobody else around (my wife had called it a night and went to bed, but I was just too fascinated by the events unfolding). The conservationist proceeded to educate me in all things sea turtle. It turned out that it was his job to steal the turtle eggs from the mother, rush them to the turtle conservatory at the other end of the tiny island, and bury them in their protected sanctuary. He does this so people can't illegally steal the eggs and use them for soup or sell them (apparently a serious problem in Mexico).

    We stood together watching one turtle from the top of the cliff. The turtle began making a different movement than she had been. "Ok, it's time, the turtle is laying the eggs", the conservationist said. "Let me go check it out and confirm that is what is going on", he continued, "please look after my things for a minute, if you don't mind".

    I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. Somehow the thought of watching the conservationist do his thing was more exciting to me than the turtle doing her thing.

    He came back to the top of the cliff. "Hand me the bucket. Would you like to come with me?" What?! I tried to contain my excitement. I felt like I was taking part in a Nat Geo exploration. As we hiked down the cliff to the beach, dozens of questions began flooding my mind. I attempted to narrow them down to questions that he might enjoy talking about. Then the thought of my camera began to overtake the questions I had.

    "Can I take photos?", I asked. "Yes", he replied, "but let me make sure she has fully started the process, then you can use the flash." He told me that the lights will make her leave if she hasn't began laying the eggs, but once she has started, she can't stop and won't go anywhere.

    I respectively kept the photography to a minimum. She gave me the gift of the experience and the honor to photograph her during an intimate moment. In return, I vow to help educate and do what I can to save the sea turtles.
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