As a wildlife photographer, some of my favorite subjects to photograph are reptiles and amphibians. During a recent trip to the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, I had the pleasure of encountering and photographing one of my favorite turtle species – the three-toed box turtle.

Box Turtle On The Rocks

Box Turtle On The Rocks

I was driving along the auto tour road in the refuge when I spotted a box turtle attempting to cross the gravel road. I stopped my truck and got out as quietly as possible, trying not to startle the turtle. The rocks on the road make quite a bit of noise when driving over them, so I knew I had to be cautious in my approach.

Getting low to the ground, I slowly moved toward the turtle with my camera and lens in hand. The three-toed box turtle is a shy species and will often retreat into its shell when approached. I didn’t want to stress the turtle, so I made sure to keep my distance while positioning myself for some photographs.

As I composed my shots, I was struck by the turtle’s beautifully colored shell and intricate patterns on its skin. The three-toed box turtle gets its name from having just three toes on its hind feet, unlike other box turtle species. Its top shell is olive to brown in color with a variable pattern of blotches.

I feel grateful to have encountered this special turtle in its natural habitat. Seeing unique wildlife like the three-toed box turtle is one of the greatest rewards of being a nature photographer. I’m thrilled to have captured images of this turtle living its life amidst the refuge landscape. Spotting wildlife while driving the auto tour can be hit or miss, so this was a lucky find!

Photographing reptiles and amphibians requires patience and care. I’m always respectful to not disrupt or stress the animals during a photoshoot. Getting eye level with small creatures like turtles gives such a unique perspective to highlight their beauty. I can’t wait to return to the refuge soon in search of more incredible wildlife encounters!

Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer

Gear Used:

  • Camera: Fujifilm X-T3
  • Lens: Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II (attached with a Fringer EF-FX Pro)


  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: August 21, 2021 (8:07 A.M.)
  • Program Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f8
  • Shutter speed: 1/640
  • ISO: 2000
  • Exposure Compensation: 0
  • Focal Length: 400 mm