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Behind The Shot: The Poser

Near Petermann Island, Antarctica

The Poser By David C. Schultz—Near Petermann Island, Antarctica

With Zodiacs launched from our ship, the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, we headed out for a morning of cruising and photographing near Petermann Island along the Antarctic Peninsula. Not long into the morning, we came around a spit of land to find a small cluster of beautifully sculpted icebergs. It was one of those rare days in this part of the world where we enjoyed exceptionally nice weather, and the ice under the calm water reflected the vivid blues of the sky.

We spent about half an hour at this location photographing both the ice and the surrounding glacier-covered mountains. Just as we were about to move on, a single Adélie penguin suddenly popped out of the water, leaping onto the ice right in front of us. It immediately made its way to the top of the ‘berg, which was made even more interesting due to the hole in it at the waterline and the long tongue of ice just below the surface. This bird just seemed to have a bit of attitude, and it appeared to be posing for us as we circled its perch many times.

At one point, the Adélie disappeared back into the sea only to reappear on another close-by chunk of ice, but this time it had company. It was rather comical to witness as they came out on different ‘bergs that were slowing parting as they stared at each other. This also made for some interesting photos.

When giving lessons or leading these polar tours, one thing that I stress right away is to be prepared for the unexpected shot as we’re moving around. This would include things like setting a higher ISO, depending on lighting conditions; mounting a longer focal length lens, preferably a zoom; and having image stabilization turned on, if that’s an option. This is especially the case when handholding a longer telephoto and or when in something as unstable as a Zodiac. Initially, I had my camera out with an 80-400mm mounted, but since we were able to get so close to the icebergs, I switched to my other camera with a wide angle attached.

This image was captured during one of my earlier voyages south (hence the dated camera gear). I’ve been to Antarctica 14 times now, and, as a result, I’ve captured many thousands of images of penguins. This is truly one of my favorites. In this shot, it’s the curve of the body and the outstretched flippers that set it apart, in my opinion, from the hundreds of images I captured that morning. Recalling the moment still brings a smile to my face, and it’s that emotional connection as well as the visual aspect of the shot that makes a difference in what I display. OP

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Nikon D2X, AF NIKKOR 24mm f/2.8D. Exposure: 1/2000 sec., ƒ/7.1, ISO 200.