Aqua Vita

Thirty six hours after my arrival in Genoa the weather changed from crisp sunshine to cold, wet misery, so my exploration turned to indoor options. Those options are limited at night but there’s one notable exception. Where else do you go in Genoa when it’s wet; L’Acquario.

As I mentioned in my piece about the redevelopment of the old port, the aquarium is a flagship attraction, though being designed to resemble a ship’s superstructure, anything attractive is reserved for the inside; a series of adjoining grey boxes lacks impact in this visually busy environment.

I’d shot some pictures of the aquarium in Dubrovnik when I visited it with my daughters but was unhappy with the results, so had done a little research on how to achieve good results in these settings.  The challenges aren’t immediately obvious to we humans but to a camera aquaria are bad news.  To our eyes the exhibits are glowing pools of colour and life, but of course we can adjust to the darkness of the surroundings whereas a camera can’t.  Its sees very little in the dimness unless you compensate in one of three ways:

  • Use a tripod for steadiness and shoot long exposures.  No use for the subject matter here; the fish and other denizens of the deep are not going to cooperate with your need for stillness.  Might produce some colourful abstracts though!
  • Use a flash to give more lighting.  Again a no; startling for the creatures and likely to result in a great white reflection from the glass that obscures all behind it.
  • Ramp up the ISO setting for the sensor’s sensitivity to levels you normally wouldn’t dream of using.  Noisy images guaranteed.

At least at that time of night it was relatively quiet, so I didn’t have to vie with other visitors to find good places to shoot from and avoid the reflections of signage and other lighting in the building.

But that wasn’t my biggest problem with it.  The handful of dolphins there have a large enclosure that is open to the outdoors (I’m assuming so they can entertain daytime visitors as well as access fresh air), but then large is such a subjective word.  If you or I were going swimming and diving we’d find it more than adequate, but these magnificent beasts can circumnavigate it in three dimensions in a matter of seconds.  They are capable of matching Usain Bolt for speed and diving to 1000m so is there any pool large enough for them?  There were other large mammals here too; seals and manatee, and whilst the latter aren’t know for speed they are sizeable creatures.

It’s easy to be sympathetic to fellow mammalia of course, but how much room does a fish need?  Just because they have small brains we give them less consideration, but I suspect this specimen at least roams much further in the wild.  There are amphibia and reptiles present too, and while the displays around the walls tell stories of conservation and environmental concern I was left feeling just as ambivalent as I did at Dublin Zoo.

How far do you take this concern I wonder?  Do jellies have feelings?