Tag Archives: iceberg

3rd time luckiest…(so far)

Like everyone who attended I suspect, I thoroughly enjoyed the Wild Photos conference in London this last weekend. It was very easy to be inspired by professionals at the very top of the wildlife photography tree as well as heartened to see the next generation coming through.  There were certainly some thoughts, approaches and techniques that I will be considering and building into some of the projects I have planned for the coming weeks and months too.

One of the clear messages that came through though was the need for dedication and what I like to call stickability: others might call it sheer bloody mindedness, but it’s the drive that makes you keep going out in the belief that this time might just be the occasion when something special happens.

Although it pales into insignificance in comparison with a 90 day vigil  in a hide in remote Kamchatka for just 3 images of the incredibly rare Amur Tiger which we heard about at the conference, simply keeping on going back to places that you know work well and have serious potential (especially if you have certain images in your mind that you have pre-visualised there too) is an approach that I have always worked on and encouraged.

On a very small and personal scale, a third visit to the now very popular glacial lagoon at Jokuslaron in southern Iceland earlier this summer proved the benefit of this.

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I first visited here nearly 10 years ago now, and this was my third visit in total.  Like much of Iceland it is now very popular, very well photographed and during the normal working hours of the day also pretty busy with people stopping in on their way round the island.  Fortunately at the time when the light has the potential at least to be at it’s best then it is less so, but it’s not a place you can expect to have to yourself anymore.

In spite of having stayed there for a number of days on both previous visits, I never felt this was a place I had done justice from either a landscape image perspective or with regards to the wildlife to be found in and among the icebergs floating here on their way to the sea having broken off the vast Vatnajokull glacier.

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The quality of images that have been taken here are very high now, and I don’t consider myself really to be a high quality landscape photographer, but on this visit was both determined (and ultimately lucky with the way weather conditions worked out) to at least feel I was doing the place justice when it came to the magical scenes of broken pieces of ice on the black sandy beach at the mouth of the lagoon as well as the incredible colours of the lagoons ice itself.

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Still very much work in progress, but these were certainly the best representation of the nature of the place that I feel I have achieved yet.

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A closer look at this last image reveals a Great Black-backed Gull perched on top of this particular multi-coloured piece of ice; in and around the icebergs were large numbers of Arctic Tern who nest in a large grassy area adjacent to the lagoon and working with the tides, use them as a base to fish from and rest on.  These make a great background and setting for the birds as they go about their business.

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Although I have been lucky with a beautiful male Harlequin duck here in the past, the star bird here though (and more reliably present), for me has always been the Eider.  Emerging from the seeming chaos of ice across the still calm waters of the further reaches of the lagoon, these elegant ducks look very much at home.

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The final morning though this summer offered the best conditions I have had in terms of the different elements that go into the small in frame type of photography that they offer here – mirror calm water, intense colours in the icebergs and the fantastic early morning light that these northern reaches can offer in the early hours of a summers day.

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All you then need is the ducks themselves to swim into exactly the right places and the icing lands well and truly on the cake.

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With the usual resident Snow Bunting also playing ball (albeit briefly) and allowing an iceberg created background I knew this was a special morning.

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None of these images are going to be prize winners – the bar is way way higher these days.  What they are though is a simple reminder that persistence does pay off, and as my autumnal targets are just about to enter my sights then this, along with the messages of the conference, is an always welcome tonic.

Arctic Adventure…Part 1

I’m a few days back from an enjoyable, challenging and ultimately rewarding 3 week trip to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.  It seems that it’s done nothing but rain back here while I’ve been away (and since my return too) and compared to the sustained spells of high pressure that this remote location in the far north normally enjoys and has when I’ve been in the past, the weather gods were looking equally angrily on us.

That said I’d decided to place a lot more emphasis on capturing images that really gave a feel for the location rather than simply concentrating on the wildlife to be found there on this particular trip, and the grey skies leant themselves to a monochrome approach, whether enhanced through processing to that format like above, or left to the natural shades as below.

I was also keen to work on some stitched panoramics too – I know they won’t look their best on the size constraints of the web but it’s a format that really helps to get the size and nature of the mountains and glaciers across in my view – jagged peaks that caused the first Dutch explorers to name the main island here Spitsbergen.

When we did have some occasion to enjoy the beautiful tones that the midnight sun (it never sets here) has to offer we were always keen to take full advantage and the evening spent with this group of young male Walrus in front of a beautiful glacier will long remain with me – it’s an image I think really sums this place up.

We had timed this visit a few weeks earlier this year to give us a better chance of finding the areas in front of the glaciers still frozen over and increasing our chances of Polar Bear sitings, but as here in the UK it had been an unusually mild winter in Svalbard and already this ice had gone.  This process does however leave some beautifully shaped and colourful icebergs behind though and they are another key landscape feature I was keen to work with: this is the same ‘berg from  different angles and demonstrates just how the angle of lighting here can dramatically change an image.

A close look at this last image will show some signs of the seabird life that takes full advantage of their presence – either as a resting place or simply because they can act as a magnet for their food in the surrounding seas: we would regularly look to explore them for Kittiwakes and Fulmar especially.

The colours at times were simply stunning and leaving the subject small in the frame really allowed the landscape to dominate, and the same approach worked well when we spent a beautiful evening on a true gem of an island, full of tundra-based breeding birds including the elegant Red-Throated Diver.

It was also an approach I enjoyed trying out with the main target for the trip Polar Bears as well and this very simple composition is one that I particularly like.

I begun by saying it was a challenging trip because the weather wasn’t on our side, and this came to a real head when for the basis of comfort, safety and also in an attempt to ensure we could maximise photographic time we had to give up our original goal of heading to the pack ice that residers to the north of the archipelago.  It is traditionally the best place to see Bears, but with a combination of good luck, perseverance and patience we ended up enjoying some amazing encounters with in particular this extremely relaxed young male, and I’ll look to share some more images of him and also some more of the wildlife in a Part 2 to follow next week: there’s just too much to share in one post from a 3 week trip!!