During my visit to the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, I captured a photo of a unique turtle species, which I later identified as an Ouachita Map Turtle after conducting some research. This particular turtle was perched on a log, basking in the sun, and making for a great photographic opportunity.
What sets the Ouachita Map Turtle apart from other map turtles is the three large blotches on each side of its head. One is located behind the eye, another below the eye, and the third below the line of the mouth. This distinction is important, as it helps differentiate the Ouachita Map Turtle from the similar-looking False Map Turtle, which has a thick yellow line behind each eye that forms a backward L shape.
Like many turtles, the Ouachita Map Turtle spends a majority of its day basking in the sun, often far from the shore. While basking, they are cautious and difficult to approach, and any disturbance can cause them to quickly retreat into the water.
To capture the shot of this beautiful turtle, I found it in the Arkansas River, west of the Tuff Boat Ramp. I parked my vehicle on the side of the tour road, allowing me to photograph the turtle without causing any disturbance.
For this shot, I used my Fujifilm X-T3 camera with a Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens attached with a Fringer EF-FX Pro. I rested the camera on a bean bag draped over the open window of my pickup to keep it steady. I shot in aperture priority mode (AV) with a shutter speed of 1/680 of a second at f8, and the ISO set at 800, with a 0.3 exposure value. I left the white balance on auto to ensure accurate color representation.
Observing and photographing wildlife like the Ouachita Map Turtle is a privilege, and it’s important to respect their natural habitat and behaviors. By taking the necessary precautions and using the right equipment, we can capture stunning images of these magnificent creatures while also preserving their delicate ecosystems.