Sunday, August 03, 2008

Split green soup

January 13, 2008
An overcast day at Olowalu on the west side of Maui - a perfect day to capture an above-and-below type of image since the contrast is not as great as on a sunny day. It actually is a lot harder than it looks to make an image like this inside the camera!

After seeing a lot of above-and-below photos I am quite convinced that many images are the product of two separate photos, each split in half in Photoshop and then brought together. I rather like the results here, within the camera.

Curiosity killed the cat!

January, 2008
Well it may have killed the cat, but curiosity in the form of a humpback whale can be one of the most exciting moments of your lifetime! Here in the AuAu Channel between Maui and Lanai a curious humpback lifts its head and eye out of the sea to get a better look at all the commotion on board this commercial whale watching boat!

I have always wondered what these whales think of us when they spend hours and hours inspecting us. This whale went from boat to boat to boat for almost four hours, never seeming to lose interest in all the different forms and shapes we must represent to them.

With a final fluke-up dive the show came to an abrupt halt and this whale went back to a "normal" humpback routine.

If you are patient and willing to put in the time, mother humpback whales will often bring their calves right to a drifting boat for a closer inspection. Here I am in a 17' inflatable boat just drifting with the motor off and the camera in its housing held over the side of the boat, no threat whatsoever to this cow/calf pair.

Another mother with her newborn baby on slow approach to inspect the boat.

A lone male makes a pass after completing his singing routine.

This humpback almost seems drawn to the camera, curious about the reflected light perhaps?

After studying the camera intently for a few moments he lets out a bubble blast from his blow holes, aimed no doubt at the odd creature with the big eyes in front of him. Just who is watching whom here? It is encounters just like this one that keep me coming back year after year to watch and film humpback whales. You could say that my curiosity gets the best of me!
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Rounding Cape Horn!

December, 2007
A welcome sight at last! Raising land aboard the National Geographic Endeavour after crossing the Drake passage from the Antarctic Peninsula to Cape Horn in a moderate sea. This passage covers the “Roaring Forties” and “Furious Fifties” degrees of latitude, where westerly winds build unimpeded and can create HUGE seas!

I have now crossed the Drake passage fourteen times and have to admit that at times I ask myself is it really worth putting yourself through the tossing and turning, all to visit the coldest, highest, and windiest continent on the planet. In a word...YES! There is no way around it, you just have to go through it. The Drake Passage is the cost of admission to the wonderland of Antarctica. Here an adult black-browed albatross on the wing in the Drake passage.

So go ahead...roll the dice! You might get to cross on one of those marvelous flat-calm runs where you are on the "Drake Lake", and think to yourself "I wonder what all the fuss is about!" It is on these crossings that you truly get to enjoy all the seabirds following the ship, like this southern fulmar and these cape (pintado) petrels.

Or you might get a wild ride where the beauty of the Drake is even more magestic. Watching seabirds like this wandering albatross dip and soar on the waves can take your mind off your own imbalances. Photographically speaking, the challenge of capturing a good image of a bird in high seas on a pitching boat has got to be one of the greatest challenges you can face. Just throw in the mixture of wind, spray, salt, and your own naseau and the challenge is complete!
They say misery loves company and I am no exception. If things go as planned I will be crossing the Drake another 12 times in the 2008/2009 Antarctic season and would love to share the wild ride with you! Visit for more details.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Grumpy Old Men

December, 2007
Newborn southern elephant seal pups on the beach at President Head on Snow Island in the South Shetland Island Group, Antarctica. Newborns exhibit a dark brown "lanugo" coat for about three weeks, which is then replaced by a silver-grey coat.

With their huge, expressive, and dark eyes and their natural curiosity these pups are absolutely a joy to photograph.

Who couldn't love the playful nature and child-like wonder of these pups?

Stretching out on the beach who could know that these cute and cuddly elephant seals will grow into the largest pinnipeds on the planet (even surpassing walrus in size and weight)?

Morphing from beauty to beast an adult male will attain a length of 21 feet and a weight of more than 8,000 lbs! A remarkable diver, adult males have been recorded to depths of 4600 feet with almost 2 hour times submerged.

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Penguin Antics!

December, 2007

Anthropomorphism - the act of assigning human attributes to animal behaviors. With penguins it is almost impossible not to come up with little human captions when you see fun images of penguins. Here are a few of my favorites. E-mail me any suggestions for captions and I may just use them!
"Peek-a-boo" - this chinstrap penguin is actually buried in snow during a gale!

"Maybe if we go by REALLY fast they won't notice us!" - porpoising gentoo penguins with kayakers in the Errera Channel.

"Hey look everybody...I can FLY...PLOP!" - gentoo returning to the sea to feed.

"Penguin piracy - gone in 60 seconds" - while his buddy keeps look out, this gentoo penguin literally leaps into the Zodiac for a quick getaway!
"Hey Mister, watcha doin'?" - expedition leader Bud Lenhausen with a new friend.

"Preaching to the choir" - the cacophony of a chinstrap colony on Barrentos Island.

"Maybe someday I can grow up big and strong too!" - three Adelie penguins with a pair of much larger emperor penguins on an ice floe.

"Lost boy" - this king penguin is over 800 miles from the nearest king penguin colony on South Georgia Island. Perhaps the chinstraps are giving directions home!

"Are you looking at ME?" - Lindblad staff Annie Guill with friendly gentoo photo opp.

"The penguins go marching one by one...hurrah!" - chinstrap colony at Bailey Head.

I will leave this one blank and look forward to your anthropomorphic comments!

Cue music - theme song to "Chariots of Fire" (running in slow motion). These gentoo penguins are actually returning to the sea to feed along "penguin highways" created by constant usage.

"WHEW! He scared the heck out of me...I thought it was a leopard seal!" - Weddell seal slowly cruising by gentoo penguins who leaped onto the ice in a panic when the seal swam close.
Delightful? Absolutely!
Silly? Unquestionably!
Photogenic? Incredibly!
Human? Never!
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Leopards in Antarctica!

December, 2007

Leopards? In Antarctica? Absolutely! And just like the leopards on the savannas of Africa, these leopards are top end predators who can ambush small prey like penguins and other sea birds, as well as even taking on much larger prey like crabeater seals!

This one has gone into stealth mode, looking for that unsuspecting penguin on ice.

Gotcha!! No wonder penguins always appear nervous when they enter or exit the water from ice floes. Leopard seals are masters of ambushing penguins like this unlucky gentoo.

What's to be done after a nice penguin snack? A power nap of course! Leopard seals will spend hours and hours hauled out on an ice floe and resting after a nice meal.

This sleeping leopard didn't even deign to wake up at our slow approach in the Zodiac!

Here's another leopard caught on camera yawning (my, what a HUGE gape and BIG teeth you have!)

Even pups have relatively large teeth and mouth, this one is almost ready to be weened from mom.