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    Adventures in Nature Photography

    Browsing Posts tagged South Georgia Island


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    These separator tanks, found at the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken on South Georgia Island, were once used in the whale oil purification process.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 182 mm, 1/200 sec at f/14, ISO 200

    My recent visit to the Southern Ocean included a landing at Grytviken on South Georgia Island, the site of a whaling station that was in operation from 1904 until 1962. During that time more than 50,000 whales were butchered at Grytviken where their body parts were processed to extract oil and to produce fertilizer and fodder. As a devoted animal lover, and given Grytviken’s brutal history, I cannot say that I was looking forward to this landing. Nevertheless, I went ashore with my fellow passengers, raised a glass in honor of explorer Ernest Shackleton at his gravesite, and looked around the fine museum documenting Grytviken’s past. So ambivalent was I about the landing, I did the unthinkable: I went ashore without my camera.

    Grytviken, an abandoned whaling station on South Georgia Island, sits on the shore of King Edward Cove below rugged cliffs.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM +1.4x at 98 mm, 1/800 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

    After exiting the museum, my eyes were drawn to the boilers set amongst the rusting ruins of the whaling station’s buildings and machinery. The sinuous curves and the repeating patterns were crying out to be photographed and I could not resist. If I were able to convince one of the zodiac drivers to ferry me back to the ship to grab my camera, I’d have about an hour to spend photographing the decaying machinery before our time for the landing would run out.

    A close-up look at a section of a boiler assembly at the Grytviken whaling station on South Georgia Island reveals serpentine countours in ochre hues.

    EOS-1D Mk IV, 70-200mm f/2.8L II at 90 mm, 1/80 sec at f/14, ISO 200

    About fifteen minutes later, camera in hand, I thanked Elise for the shuttle service, stepped off the zodiac, and began photographing furiously. It seemed that wherever I placed my gaze, I saw another image just dying to be created. I have not worked much with subjects in this genre, but in that hour I was completely lost in the creative possibilities. Wonderful colors, strong repeating visual elements, and oxidized old-fashioned machinery all vied for my attention. Caught up in the moment I wished for more time, but in hindsight, it might not have been such a memorable experience if I’d been able to linger.

    Grytviken may have a past that is hard to stomach, but what remains of that horrible whaling operation is a present-day treat for photographers.

    Pressure cookers and a bucket-conveyer, once used to boil whale blubber, now stand rusting in the harsh weather of Grytviken, South Georgia Island.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM at 123 mm, 1/100 sec at f/14, ISO 200

    At Grytviken, whale oil storage tanks create a colorful palette as paint gives way to rust.

    EOS-1D Mk IV, 70-200mm f/2.8L II at 90 mm, 1/10 sec at f/14, ISO 200

    Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear your feedback.

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    Juvenile and adult king penguins mingle in a large breeding colony below a backdrop of tussock grass and a hanging glacier at Gold Harbour on South Georgia Island.

    Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, EF200-400mm f/4L IS USM at 200 mm, 1/30 sec at f/16, ISO 200
    Click photo to see high resolution version.

    The image featured in this post is one of my favorites from a landing on South Georgia Island last December. I used a telephoto lens to compress the dominant elements of the landscape into layers of varying color and texture. When standing on the shore at Gold Harbour, I could not help being struck by the awesome sight of glacial ice hanging from sheer rocky cliffs, while rivers of penguins flowed between hills covered in bright-green tussock grass. With this image, I hoped to capture the essence of the place in a semi-abstract composition of those dominant elements.

    If you’d like to read more about the effects of perspective compression, or telephoto distortion, check out this wikipedia page.

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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

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    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.

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