Todd Stailey began working at the Tennessee Aquarium in March of 1992, two months before it opened to the public. Originally hired to set up and manage the Aquarium’s mail room, his love of photography came into focus when he was noticed taking pictures of the new exhibits after hours. He was hired to become staff photographer and A/V technician after his talent was recognized. “At the time there wasn’t a network of ‘fish photographers’ in this region with experience photographing large aquariums. You couldn’t go online and ask for technical advice,” said Stailey. “So I had to experiment with a variety of lighting setups. I was shooting film and waiting a few days for processing to see if I got the shot in a challenging environment of reflections and refraction. That foundation helped me become detail oriented.”
Todd mixes art and photo-journalism. His beautiful shots help guests identify species within exhibits, while inspiring wonder and appreciation for a multitude of aquatic and terrestrial creatures. And, he enjoys opportunities to tell freshwater conservation stories through photography when covering the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute’s efforts in the field.
Todd is rarely seen without a camera in hand and enjoys getting out and off the beaten path. He relishes every opportunity to explore wild places independently, capturing stunning landscapes and pictures of reclusive animals such as bobcats and red foxes.
Todd feels privileged to have had some of his images published in scientific journals, conservation publications, educational books and magazines including National Geographic. “The Aquarium has given me a platform to become a better photographer,” said Stailey. “And I appreciate having such a rewarding career working with some truly marvelous animals.”
Todd’s image of the spine-cheeked anemonefish was taken on March 29th, 2013 using a Canon 7D with a 100mm macro lens. “This fish is usually quite shy, but for some reason he decided to come right out and pose for me. Sometimes, catching a great shot involves a little luck.”
To see more photos from the contest, visit CONNECT online, or keep an eye on your mail box for the delivery of your special Photo Contest issue of AZA’s CONNECT magazine.