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Story Behind the Photograph: Kayak at Spur and Groove
Perspective. It can transform an ordinary or beautiful landscape, into an interesting or spectacular one.
I’ve lived by the Belize Barrier Reef for over 40 years. Countless mornings and evenings I’ve stared at the waves breaking, mesmerized by the rhythmic crash of the Caribbean Sea on the coral ridge of the barrier reef. Nearly every day that the weather and tide permit, I will snorkel or dive the break, above the barrier reef, where a whole new morphology will reveal itself.
The Belize Barrier Reef runs for 185 miles from the Mexican border in the north, to the Sapodilla Cayes, a hook shaped formation of islands a scant 18 miles from the coast of Guatemala, in the south. The bathymetry of the coastal zone landward of the barrier reef is wonderfully complex, composed of patch reefs, ringed reefs, deep channels and large marine platforms. The number of habitats is similarly diverse with vast seagrass beds, coral reefs and mangrove islands supporting a seemingly infinite array of marine life.
The structure of the seaward side of the barrier reef is remarkably similar over its entire length. If I approached the reef from the ocean, depending on my location, I would cruise over either gentle upwards slope, or massive vertical cliffs that rise out of the depths to form coral ridges as shallow as 40 feet. From this shallow ridge, the bottom will continue to slope up to a region called the “spur and groove,” seen in this photo, which eventually merges with the barrier reef itself.
The spur and groove is part of the most active section of the barrier reef where tidal flow and wave action carve parallel sand valleys between immense coral mounds and suffuse them in oxygen rich, crystal clear water. The complex architecture of this type of reef provides a multitude of hiding places for all kinds of marine life. Large predators such as tarpon, permit, sharks and dolphins find this a fertile feeding ground. The occasional sea turtle, manatee or jumping eagle ray create a favorite area for snorkelers and kayakers.
From the perspective of sitting on the beach gazing at the reef, you might never realize the complexity of the structures lying right offshore. Drone photography changes that. Flying from the safety of South Water Caye, I have logged hundreds of hours over the Belize coastal zone, bringing a fresh viewpoint and a renewed respect for the marine ecosystems of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere.
About Untamed Photographer
Untamed Photographer is an online art gallery that brings together wildlife photography and stories from a range of international environmental artists, both emerging and established.
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The Nature Trust of the Americas (NTOTA) was founded with the mission to give back. While building awareness for NTOTA’s causes, the founders met talented nature photographers who are passionate not only about photography, but also about saving the planet. Their life’s work and stories are inspiring, and their art, passion and stories deserve to be shared on a platform that benefits the environmental causes they are dedicated to.
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About the Photographer: Tony Rath
Tony Rath is a writer, photojournalist and commercial photographer based along the Caribbean Sea in the picturesque village of Dangriga, Belize.
Tony attended the United States Air Force Academy, where he flew gliders above the Rocky Mountains and trained with Navy SEALS in San Diego. After leaving the military he studied toward a marine biology degree, working as a technician, diver, and underwater photographer for Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Research Station in Belize.
At age 23, Tony took early retirement and for 7 years sailed as either first mate or captain across the Atlantic (twice), Mediterranean, North Sea and the Caribbean. While sailing, he visited over 35 countries, more than 250 ports of call, and sailed over 30,000 miles. Throughout his adventures, Tony always carried a camera, turning professional in the mid-1990s.
Tony's photography is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and featured in the Minnesota Science Museum’s award-winning traveling Maya exhibit. His images have been published in hundreds of magazines and books, such as BBC Wildlife, National Geographic Traveler, Islands, and Smithsonian Magazine. Tony's clients include the United Nations, Government of Belize, and many international environmental NGOs.
Living in Belize since 1988, he documents the natural environment and cultures of his adopted country, above and below water. He has published two photo books on Belize.
Tony volunteers his skills and imagery to countless educational and NGOs to promote culture and conservation. In 2015 he presented one of the first TEDx Talks in Belize.
While known for his natural history imagery, he also covers lifestyle, travel, portraits and culture throughout Belize and neighboring countries.
About the Creator
Tony Rath is a writer photojournalist based along the shore of the Caribbean Sea in the picturesque town of Dangriga, Belize.