Archive for January, 2013

Passing through

Posted in antarctica, Leopard seal, photography, tourism, travel, wildlife on January 31, 2013 by polarguide

I am in Ushuia today.  I just finished a 12 day voyage to the Antarctic peninsula.  The entire voyage was sub-chartered by a group of British photographers.  We had great weather and amazing wildlife encounters. The most notable was curious humpback whale that swam with our zodiacs and played with us as if we were toys in a bath tub.

I have some outstanding under water video of the evenr, if I can figure out how to down load it to this site I will.

In the mean time here are a few of my favorite images from the last voyage.

I will be leaving in two hours for another voyage to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica.

Iceberg

Iceberg

Leapord seal on ice

Leapord seal on ice

vernad_leapordresize2

Leapord seal on ice

Iceberg

Iceberg

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Antarctic Ice

Posted in antarctica, icebergs, photography, tourism, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2013 by polarguide

borice

The ice in Antarctica can reflect some of the most intense shades of blue I have ever seen.  Its a color seen almost nowhere else in nature.  High over cast days are the best to try and capture the deepest blues.  The blue coupled with the textures created by erosion of the ice from water and wind make icebergs limitless subject for photographic exploration. These are two of my favorite iceberg photos from my last Antarctic voyage.

ice

South Georgia Island Reindeer

Posted in South Georgia Island, travel, Uncategorized, wildlife with tags , , , , on January 18, 2013 by polarguide
Reindeer and king penguin

Reindeer and king penguin

Between 1911 and 1912  seventeen Norwegian reindeer were introduced to South Georgia Island as a food source for whalers working on the Island.  This introduction is one of only two successfull introductions of reindeer to the southern hemisphere.

By the 1950s the population of reindeer had risen to over 3000 animals.  With most of the island being comprised of high mountains covered by glacial ice the foraging area available to the deer is limited.  Over the decades the reindeer have over grazed most of the available food source causing significant erosion.  The erosion and over grazing caused by the reindeer has had a significant negative impact on the native ground nesting bird populations.

The South Georgia government has planned the eradication of the reindeer.  Using traditional Sami’ herdring methods and sharp shooters to kill the inaccessible animals they plan to cull the entire herd by the end of this austral summer season.

Upon landing on South Georgia Island last week I came upon one of the largest herds on the island in Fortuna bay.  I sat quietly as the entire group surrounded me while grazing not far from the beach.

The eradication of the alien reindeer is necessary to return the island to its natural ecological state. But I  admit I have enjoy seeing them share the beach with fur seals and penguins.   I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph these species that are ecological polar opposites thriving in the wilderness and beauty of south georgia island, for the last time.  The ship carrying the eradication team floated offshore as I shot these photos.  I will be back on South Georgia in late january, by then all of the reindeer will have already been removed.

southern fur seal and reindeer

southern fur seal and reindeer

The herd

The herd

sharing uncommon space

sharing uncommon space

Photographing Birds in Flight

Posted in antarctica, Falkland Islands, guiding, photography, South Georgia Island, tourism, travel, Uncategorized, whales, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by polarguide
Giant Petrel

Giant Petrel
F5 1/1250

I wrote previously about my mild obsession of photographing birds in flight.  Particularly sea birds flying over the ocean. Shooting Prions, Albatross and Petrels soaring over the southern ocean from the bow of a ship is exciting and challenging.  I have thousands of images of birds in flight but only a handful that are worthwhile.  Capturing pin sharp images of flying birds from the rail of a moving ship on a stormy sea is very difficult.

My goal is to get the sharpest image possible.  I want to photograph the bird in a banking turn to capture the entire upper or lower surface of the bird to show off detail and patterns in the feathers with the head turned slightly and at least one eye visible. If I am shooting with the ocean as my back ground I try to include a cresting wave to show the drama and motion of the life of a sea bird.  With the sky as background I slightly over expose the shot to pull the bird out of the background and open up the shadows on the bird created by the highlights in the sky.

There are probably lots of ways to increase you chances of success.  This is how I do it, or at least how I try to do it.  If anyone has suggestions on techniques I would love to hear about it:

First I watch.  I stand on the bow of the ship or on the shore and spend ten or fifteen minutes observing .  Each species has its own technique and generally fly in a patten that is somewhat dictated by the speed and direction of the wind and also the waves when at sea.

Once I have a general idea of what species I will be shooting and the direction of the wind and the birds flight pattern around my position I set a few camera functions that help maximize my ability to focus on the moving bird.

I shoot on aperture priority and I find in most cases a shutter speed of at least 1/1250 is necessary to freeze motion, which means I am almost always shooting at iso 400. I rarely go higher than iso 400, for me the pixel grain is too obvious. I try to have as small an aperture as possible.  My largest lens is 200mm and at f7 or less if your auto focus locks on the wing the eye of the bird will be soft and for me the eye has to be sharp.  I think f8 is best but I am often forced to shoot at  f5.6 or less to keep the shutter speed over 1/1250.

I lock my focal point in the center and have nine points active, I set my autofocus on continuous.  Then I choose one bird to focus on and observe. When I have an idea of its flight pattern I lock my autofocus on it and pan with it until it flies into position and I fire.  Sometimes I shoot on burst and sometimes I try and capture one image at just the right moment, it depends on my mood and what species I am shooting, the windspeed and the wave height.

On rare occasions the ocean is glassy calm and capturing the flight of the bird and its reflection mirrored on the sea surface is possible, these are some the most coveted images.

Here are some examples from the last two weeks and my most previous voyage to South Georgia Island and the Antarctic continent.

Light Mantled Sooty Albatross

Light Mantled Sooty Albatross
F3.5 1/2000

Light Mantled Sooty Abatross

Light Mantled Sooty Albatross
F3.5 1/2000

Blue Eyed Shag with nest material

Blue Eyed Shag with nest material

Antarctic Prion

Antarctic Prion
F8 1/800