Thursday, September 14, 2017

National Geographic Your Shot Selection!

Thrilled to have one of my favorite images selected today by National Geographic editors for Your Shot's "Daily Dozen".  It is quite an honor since thousands of images are submitted daily!  I don't think I would want the job however of sifting through them all on a daily basis, so I thank them for spotting and for selecting mine.

The image was taken at Port Lockroy, Antarctica while on assignment with G Adventures in March. I noticed a pair of gentoo penguins on a rocky area next to the now famous Port Lockroy post office and stood and watched them as a parent was attempting to feed it's persistently begging offspring.  Every now and then however, a pesky sheathbill would swoop down in an attempt to catch a piece of the food the parent would regurgitate.  So how to capture this?

I increased my shutter speed to 1/2000s to freeze the action and made sure I had an aperture of f/8 with a wide enough depth of field to hopefully get both the penguins and the bird in focus.  I made sure I focused on the head of the adult penguin and waited.  Each time the sheathbill flew in, I fired off a few shots.  After several attempts at capturing the repetitive behavior, I managed to get this shot.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

An Encounter to Remember

On a recent month long assignment in Arctic Norway as Photographer in Residence with G Adventures, I had a very unique encounter with a juvenile Arctic (or polar) fox.  It took place in a beautiful area called Alkhornet and one of my favorite locations in Svalbard.

Alkhornet is a striking mountain located on the west coast of Spitsbergen, which is the largest island in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. At 428 meters in height, it towers over the tundra landscape below. It is home to a large bird population, reindeer and the Arctic fox.

In this area and as is the case in most of Svalbard, it is necessary to traverse the landscape in small groups accompanied by a trained member of staff with a firearm.  Polar bears make Svalbard home and although we may assume they are only found out on the sea ice, they are also seen on land during the summer months and at times with their young.  So before we can even go ashore, a scouting team is mobilized to explore the area both on land and in the surrounding waters. Once the area is secured, they remain at strategic locations and always on the lookout until everyone has returned safely to the ship.

As our group slowly meandered our way across the lush, green tundra of summer, a juvenile Arctic fox was spotted in the distance.  So we stopped and waited in the hope it might come closer for a better view. My immediate reaction was to eliminate my obvious presence simply by getting down low to the ground and to just sit quietly and wait. Chasing after wildlife is unethical and ultimately ends up in the animal leaving the scene. Respecting wildlife and its environment, along with a little patience can certainly reap its rewards as was soon to be the case here.  G Adventures makes sure this is adhered to and it is something I emphasize to guests in my on board lectures. 

The Arctic fox is well suited to the harsh environment it inhabits, particularly in the frigid winters when temperatures can easily drop to -58℉. With furry soles, short ears and a short muzzle, they are well adapted to the Arctic climate.  Arctic foxes live in burrows and in the winter will dig a tunnel in the snow to shelter from a blizzard.  

The coat of the Arctic fox changes according to the season and acts as a camouflage in order to effectively hunt for prey.  In winter, the coat is a stark white, so it is well hidden in the snow and ice. As the season changes, the coat adopts a brown or grey appearance in order to blend in with the summer tundra landscape.  

As we watched and waited, the little fox began to play and explore the landscape, but it would occasionally look in our direction. Maybe it saw reflective light in my lens, or was simply curious at the group of onlookers, but whatever the reason, it began to make its way toward us and in particular me!

As it drew near I was continually shooting and it was only when it became impossible to take any more images as my lens would no longer focus due to the close proximity, that I put my gear down and just sat and watched this beautiful, resilient, resident of the Arctic. 

Even though the encounter only lasted a few minutes, it is one I will certainly never forget! Being so close and making eye contact with this amazing creature was one of those moments I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It then turned and went off on its merry way.  

As this was all taking place, another group on the far side were watching this unfold and I was thrilled to receive an image documenting the encounter by Helmut Jacob, one of the guests and also a wonderful photographer.  It is rare to have images of myself in action, so to acquire this really meant a great deal!

Photograph by Helmut Jacob