Despite it’s cold, unwelcoming climate, South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic is one of my favorite places on earth. A remote, hundred-mile whaleback of rock, South Georgia Island resides in the Southern Ocean, more than eight hundred miles southeast of the Falkland Islands. It features glacier-clad mountains rising two vertical miles above the sea. South Georgia is as wild as it gets, hosting one of the largest concentrations of wildlife anywhere. Over four hundred thousand pairs of king penguins walk the beaches and swim in the frigid blue ocean. Seals, albatross, and even reindeer (imported for meat by long-gone Norwegian whalers) also inhabit this isolated island. I used a wide-angle lens to photograph austere landscapes, intimate plant studies, and endearing animal behavior in this wildlife oasis.
On a tiny island near the coast of South Georgia Island, a courting male albatross bonds with it’s potential lifelong mate. The wandering albatross, with an eleven-foot wingspan, is clearly king of ocean birds, but overfishing and destructive longline nets threaten it’s survival in southern oceans. Some nets stretch up to sixty miles and snare fish and birds indiscriminately.
An adolescent king penguin challenges reindeer crossing through a penguin rockery on South Georgia Island. Long gone European brought reindeer to the island as a dietary alternative to whale meat. Reindeer herds continue to roam through the remote island.
Forty-pound king penguins line the shores of South Georgia Island. They are on their way to the rockery where territorial instincts prompt numerous quarrels among the birds. The beach is a respite from the dangers of the ocean and the crabby neighbors on the nests. Although the island experiences some of the worst weather in the world, we were fortunate to shoot in the pink light of a clear sky with the sun hidden behind the horizon.
Want to know more, and see these animals in motion? This episode is featured on Season 1, Episode 4 of Travels to the Edge, available individually, as part of the entire first season, and the full series! Have a great weekend!
Here I am in Dubai, editing photos in sunny climes that are in stark contrast to the cool temperatures of the South Georgia and Falkland islands from where I recently departed. This weeks-long photo expedition led by Tom Mangelsen, Frans Lanting and myself provided plenty of opportunities four our group to capture the variety of species that call these remote islands home. Our accommodations aboard the Polar Pioneer gave us all a chance to get to know one and other – making new friends is always the highlight of any trip.
Frans, Tom and myself were discussing where we might go next; leave a comment below if you have any suggestions! Enjoy the photos, and stay tuned for more as I head off to India!
Today’s high ISO cameras are amazing at freezing motion, a technique I use and love on any wildlife shoot these days I have been capturing images that I couldn’t have imagined in the days of film – or even 8-10 years ago, for that matter. Flying bears, macaws tack sharp against a dark cave, every drop of water perfectly captured from the spray of an elephant – what’s possible now is incredible!
AI often try and remind myself to slow down every now and then; drop the ISO back down to 100 and stop down the aperture and let the motion move across the image. Ernst Haas was one of my early influences, a person who’s work I continue to admire. He was a pioneer of using this technique to show the motion in his subjects.
It takes some experimentation and often you won’t really know if you have any successful images until you’ve edited and evaluated them. Some may still show the eyes of the animal in reasonably sharp contrast to the blurred legs in motion – I like this look – but I also like those images that make me think of ancient drawings on a cave wall, where nothing is particularly defined and the entire animal is abstracted in it’s motion and the background a blurred canvas.
I won’t always see the potential in these images immediately. Some I shot on film many years ago I nearly tossed out but decided to file away at the last second. I pulled them out years later and found a new appreciation for their abstract qualities and I’m glad I did!
You may have guessed that I LIKE BEARS! I have been photographing Alaska’s bears since the early 1980s and I feel this is the best photograph of a brown bear I have ever taken – and that’s just not the adrenaline talking!
When you visit a location as often I have, you begin to recognize the ‘locals’, and I have a history with this bear. She’s a young female I’ve photographed in years past, catching fish like none other. This year she had two cubs demanding her attention and was still the best. As the male bears splashed and thrashed at fish, she was like an efficient machine; feeding her cubs was her prime objective. I knew exactly what she would do and focused on her.
Limited to an edition of 100, #1 is a glorious 40 x 53″, very nearly life size! Be the first to own this archival print and 10% of the retail will be donated in your name to the University of Washington’s Center of Conservation Biology (they’re the scientists who do significant work in the DNA tracking of poached endangered species!).
From Katmai National Park in Alaska to Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya; from the Canadian Arctic, with it’s icy waters, to the smoke and steam of Hawaii and it’s volcanic activity – I’ve quite literally crisscrossed the globe more than once in the third quarter of 2018. I truly feel much of this is some of my best work to date, and it’s going to make the selection process for upcoming book projects a difficult one! I hope you enjoy the photos – leave a comment below if you have any favorites! As always, just about any image you can find on the site can be purchased as a print – just let us know what you’re looking for!
What’s become an annual trip to Namibia was particularly great this year, with different views of Sossusvlei, great wildlife views in Etosha National Park, and fun with abstracts at an old diamond-mining ghost town slowly being inundated with sand. The quiver tree forest was spectacular too, though the moon was full when we were there which somewhat inhibited photographing the Milky Way at night. I also came away with some great new elephant shots for the upcoming book project. Enjoy!
I am leading another Namibia tour in August 2020. You can get on the preregistration list now to be the first notified when trip details are posted. This trip will sell out, don’t miss out!
I had an amazing session with Elephants a few days ago in Botswana! I spent hours in a stuffy, sunken blind, but was rewarded late in the afternoon when several elephant herds began to show up for a drink and a splash. It was about ninety degrees here, and they played in the cooling waters just five feet in front of us. The elephants were very aware of us and we were splashed intentionally many times – we had a major cleaning session afterwards since the churned water had turned to liquid mud.
This lasted for over an hour and I shot thousands of frames; the results are full of the personality and affection these amazing animals possess.
The task of editing has been daunting to say the least. I am working on a book with fellow UW alum & biologist Sam Wasser, who has been instrumental in using DNA to track endangered species, especially orcas and elephants, and now Dr. Wasser is trying to use DNA to track illegal shipments of ivory and shut down major poaching cartels. It makes my work look easy by comparison, and those of us who work with and care for the well being of these animals and their place in the world are so very grateful for his work.
September finds me spending the month in Africa with good friends and plenty of subjects. We’re currently in the midst of our Namibia photo journey after having spent some time in various locations around the southern regions of the continent. We began our travels in Kenya, where we were able to capture much of the region’s wildlife over the course of several days spent at Maasai Mara National Reserve; lions, zebra, cheetah – and much, much more. This location also provided several shots that will look great in the book on elephants I’m currently working on! Giraffes and several species of birds were on display as well. Derived from the Maasai language, the term “Mara” describes the flora and fauna spotted nature of the wide open spaces, and wildebeest mingled with the other wildlife in the area to dapple the landscape.
Enjoy the new photos, and check back on the block soon for more photos from Namibia!
This coming February, I’m proud to present the Japan Photo Journey – an intensive photography workshop and journey to one of the great places to visit in the winter time for truly unique photo opportunities. Both myself and Gavriel Jecan will be with you and 9 other participants over the course of an 11-day workshop that begins in Tokyo before heading to the mountains to photograph the snow monkeys enjoying their hot springs.
Once the monkeys have had their fill of our small group, we will head to Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. In the winter here, the days are short – but the stunning sunrises and sunsets can be lengthy, making this an ideal shooting location with expanded periods of time to shoot in ideal lighting conditions. The rich forests and mountains here provide the perfect backdrop to photograph the many bird species that congregate here, here including the symbolic Japanese Crane, whooper swans, and the very large Steller’s sea eagle.
The days may be a bit shorter, but they will be full of adventures and opportunities. By the time the sun goes down there will be plenty of time for everyone to enjoy a nice warm bath before we have a meal together, after which we will engage in lectures, critiques, and of course cheerful banter. Though our day shooting may be over, teaching is my passion and it’s in these moments where we regroup and discuss the day where perhaps the most knowledge is gained and shared.
This excerpt is from “Photographs from the Edge”, which not only details the stories behind some of my most well-known captures from across the globe and throughout my career, but is also filled with tips and tricks and equipment information.
July 2014: Rufous Hummingbird and Chick, Seattle, Washington, USA Canon EOS-1D X, EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM EXT lens +1.4x, ƒ/20 for 1/125 sec., ISO 4000
The nature of the photo: All hummingbirds are remarkable birds for their amazing flight abilities. However, the rufous hummingbird, a bird about three-inches long and weighing about a tenth of an ounce, has the longest migration of any U.S. bird its size. It may go the distance from Alaska to well into Mexico, and some scientists think it may go as far as Panama.
I have spent 30 years developing and cultivating a Japanese-inspired garden around my house in Seattle. It has filled in nicely, creating a wild space by my home. I planted some black pines in my garden early on to provide year-round structure and color, besides refuge for birds and other wildlife. I have steadily shaped and pruned them bonsai style to help them fit into the space of my garden.
In 2014 as I was working on my trees, I found a bird staring me in the face. As I looked down past the bird, there was the nest. A rufous female hummingbird had chosen to nest in my beloved black pines! That sort of discovery still excites me after so many years connecting with nature.
A hummingbird nest is so tiny, no more than 2 inches across. The bird covers her nest with lichen, so it is easy to miss in the lichen-covered black pine. But luck had been with me, so I quickly descended from my stepladder and forgot about pruning the trees that day.
I wanted to photograph the mother as it raised its young, so I set up my camera about 10 feet away from the nest. Even that close, hummingbirds are really small, so I needed to use a 200-400mm lens at 400mm plus a 1.4x converter. I could then take pictures from the lawn chair without being so close to the nest as to disturb the mother. I had a field day for the next two weeks as this hummingbird raised its young.
Photo tip: Wildlife photography is rarely about just capturing the animal in a photograph. Timing can be critical to getting the remarkable, striking shot. You have to keep shooting, always paying attention, to be sure you do get that shot. Shooting your camera continuously will not necessarily get the shot, though, because the key moment may be between frames.