Untamed Images Blog

    Adventures in Nature Photography

    Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are launched out of the surf as they return to Steeple Jason Island.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 200 mm, 1/1250 sec at f/8, ISO 400
    Click photo to see high resolution version.

    In my last post, I briefly alluded to spending a very long day on Steeple Jason Island. The day started early with a 5:30 a.m. landing, and was supposed to end with the last zodiac ride back to the ship at 4:00 p.m. The day was a blustery one, but I spent many productive hours at the black-browed albatross colony. The wind gusts continued to increase as the afternoon wore on and I returned to the appointed landing spot to pack up my gear and await the zodiac. It was at that point that one of the onshore staff members informed the assembled expedition members that the landing spot would be relocated to a more sheltered location on the leeward side of the island.

    With all my gear tucked into my dry-bag, I undertook the short hike to the new landing spot, only to learn that the zodiacs could not be deployed from the ship due to the high winds. However, we were asked to stay ready to go at a moment’s notice should the winds subside enough to allow the pick-up to transpire. We hunkered down near the shore, hiding behind rocks and small hillocks to avoid the worst of the wind, which seemed to be getting stronger rather than weaker. We tried to be patient as we gazed toward the ship, searching for any sign that the zodiacs were being launched.

    To our dismay, after an hour or so of waiting, we noticed that the ship appeared to be motoring away from the shore out to deeper waters. It appeared we were being left behind! We could only guess that with no immediate chance to put the zodiacs in the water, it was easier and/or safer for the captain to station the ship further off shore. At this point some of us began to wonder if we might have to spend the night on the island, a rather unsettling proposition considering we lacked provisions and shelter.

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    Albatrosses in Love

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    A pair of black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys) strengthen their pair bond through bill-fencing. These birds were photographed at the edge of the world's largest black-browed albatross colony on Steeple Jason Island in the Falkland Islands.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 560 mm, 1/800 sec at f/8, ISO 800

    My day started early as I boarded one of our ship’s zodiacs at 5:30 am to be ferried to Steeple Jason Island. Steeple Jason is a small island situated in the far northwest reaches of the Falkland Islands. It is the setting for the world’s largest black-browed albatross breeding colony, which recent estimates have pegged at 220,000 breeding pairs. As I stepped ashore that morning I had no idea that high winds would prevent any of the zodiacs from coming to retrieve me (and other members of our expedition) for another fifteen hours, but that is a story for another day.

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    Angular Iceberg

    A large, angular iceberg floats off the coast of South Georgia Island as a strong storm descends.

    Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM at 70 mm, 1/1250 sec at f/8, ISO 400

    I created this image from the starboard side deck of the M/V Ortelius as the ship rounded the southern tip of South Georgia Island into the teeth of a furious storm. When I brought the camera up to my eye, I had to steady myself against the lifeboat support structure to counteract the gusty winds that threatened to tear off my glasses and whisk away my beanie. Rarely, if ever, had I felt the power of such strong winds, but the scene unfolding before me was far too stunning to abandon in favor of shelter. A narrow beam of light had found a gap in the clouds to illuminate the iceberg while the rugged shoreline stood in the background and shockingly dark skies loomed above. I seized upon that moment to capture the photograph featured here.

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    A Pair of Kings


    A pair of king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) preen side-by-side as part of their courtship ritual. These were but two of approximately 500,000 birds found in and around the king penguin breeding colony at Saint Andrews Bay on South Georgia Island.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 232 mm, 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

    Far too much time has passed since I last posted to this blog. The reasons surrounding my absence have been both good and bad. The bad: in early 2014 I was dealing with a health issue that forced me to limit my time at the keyboard. The good: beginning in August of last year, with my health improving, Alison and I began a whirlwind of travel in which we undertook three separate international trips, totaling roughly eleven weeks out of the country. The trips were outstanding and I was presented with (almost) too many photo opportunities!

    It will take some serious effort for me to select all my favorites from the trips, but I must start somewhere, and I feel the image featured above will hold its own among the best. The photo was taken on our most recent journey — one in which we explored the Southern Ocean on a Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris expedition, with the M/V Ortelius serving as our home base for 25 days. I hope to share many more images in the weeks and months to come via blog updates and brand new image galleries, and I invite you to join me as a regular visitor. As always, I welcome your feedback via the Comments section here, or via email.

    Superb Owl

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    The Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) is a small owl found in the forests of Alaska, Canada, Eurasia, and the mounatins of the Western United States.

    Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, 500.0 mm at 500 mm, 1/8 sec at f/10, ISO 400

    In order to discuss the Big Game on his show without inviting the wrath of the NFL’s litigious attorneys, Steven Colbert covered his butt by shifting one letter and referring to today’s game as “The Superb Owl.” Click here to view some of those funny video clips.

    As usual, I enjoyed Colbert’s silly wordplay, but then thought to myself, “Why not join in the fun?” So in celebration of Super Bowl Sunday, I present my Superb Owl of 2014. The little guy pictured above is a Boreal Owl photographed on Amherst Island in Ontario, Canada.

    The Grevy's Zebra, pictured here, is a endangered species of zebra found only in Northern Kenya and in small pockets within Ethiopia.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x at 700 mm, 1/1600 sec at f/8, ISO 400

    True confession: My latest image gallery comprising pictures from Northern Kenya has been online for a while, but until now I neglected to announce its debut on this blog. So, better late than never, right?

    The gallery includes images of such Northern Kenya specialties as Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, and Somali ostrich. The gallery also features both black and white rhinos, cheetahs, and lions.

    You can see the entire gallery here.

    After hearing the Goldeneye ducks had begun their courtship rituals, last week I decided to spend a morning at Lake Shoreline in Mountain View to see for myself. While I observed a number of half-hearted courtship displays by the males, and a bit of bonding behavior between a few male/female pairs, I didn’t see any really flamboyant displays. Still, I managed to get some nice shots of Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes going through their typical morning routines of feeding and preening. Oh, and the super-cooperative Lesser Yellowlegs was an added bonus.

    Though I spent most of my time focussed on ducks, I could not resist this Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) when it came close and posed in the beautiful early-morning light.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x at 700mm, 1/1600 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800

    A male Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) dries its feathers after preening.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x at 700mm, 1/2500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800

    A Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) drake dives for its breakfast on Lake Shoreline.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x at 700mm, 1/2500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800

    Having retrieved a clam from the lake bed, the Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), amazingly, will swallow it whole.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF500mm f/4L IS USM +2.0x at 1000mm, 1/2000 sec at f/10, ISO 800

    Click on any photo below to access a higher resolution version. Click again (or press the ESC key) to close high res version. Left and right arrow keys allow quick navigation to previous/next picture.

    A leopard lies in the grass digesting a huge meal.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 400 mm, 1/250 sec at f/5, ISO 800

    A leopard endures an onslaught of annoying flies while waiting for hunger to strike again.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 200 mm, 1/400 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

    The pictures below are the graphic ones. You have been warned! Read the entire post…

    Eye of the Leopard

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    A leopard approached our safari vehicle in South Africa's Mala Mala Game Reserve allowing close-up views and point-blank photographs of its intense and intimidating countenance.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 560 mm, 1/100 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800

    On a trip to Southern Africa this September Alison and I were joined by our friends Greg and Meredith. Despite having been on previous safaris in Tanzania and South Africa, Greg and Meredith had never been fortunate enough to see a leopard in the wild. In an attempt to rectify that situation we designed this year’s trip to feature Mala Mala Private Game Reserve as our first camp. As part of the South Africa’s Greater Kruger region, Mala Mala shares an unfenced border with Kruger National Park and is famous for its leopard sightings.

    Of course, sightings of an animal so elusive as the leopard are never guaranteed, even when visiting a locale known as “leopard central.” As we climbed into the vehicle for our very first game drive at Mala Mala, we crossed our fingers and hoped that we’d be rewarded on our leopard quest. Read the entire post…

    A Manta Ray makes a close pass at a dive site appropriately named "Manta Alley" within Komodo National Park.

    Canon EOS 5D, EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM at 16mm, 1/250 sec at f/10, ISO 200, Dual Ikelite Substrobes

    I have just published a new image gallery with photographs from my June trip to Komodo National Park in Indonesia. The primary objective of the trip was to photograph the beautiful reefs and diverse marine life of Komodo, but I also managed to capture a number of landscape images and portraits of local villagers that I think are worth sharing. Oh, and there are several photographs of the dreaded Komodo Dragon in the gallery, too!

    Please click the following link to go to the gallery: Komodo Gallery

    As always, I’m eager to hear your feedback.