Home From the Sea Ice. The First Emperor. And Did We Make it to the Exalted Penguin Colony by Icebreaker and Helicopter? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Home From the Sea Ice. The First Emperor. And Did We Make it to the Exalted Penguin Colony by Icebreaker and Helicopter?

Stuff

I got off the ship on the morning of Wednesday, October 31. I had two hours to kill before the bus would take my group to the airport. Amazingly, there were 4-8 Southern Giant Petrels feeding near shore and displaying aggressively. I grabbed the 500 PF and a D850 and sat on a rock for 105 minutes photographing them. Checking in at the Ushuaia airport was a nightmare for photographers with carry-ons. My X-tra hand vest saved me. I will share the details in a future blog post … The one-stop flight to Buenos Aires left me with a 3+ hour layover, then the red-eye to Miami. I slept a lot in 45-60 minute segments 🙂 The final leg was MIA to MCO where I was met by my dependable friend and employee, my right-hand man Jim Litzenberg.

Only two folks are signed up for the Early Winter DeSoto IPT; do consider joining us on that or another IPT. You can see all the current offerings here.

If you have any Used Photo Gear page business, please shoot me an e-mail.

Galapagos Photo-Cruise of a Lifetime/Limit 12/Openings: 3

Right now I have nine folks committed to the 2019 Galapagos Photo Cruise. A friend who had committed to the trip learned that he and his wife might not be able to attend. Thus, I have room for a couple or for two same-sex roommates, and for a male single. If the archipelago is on your bucket list, please get in touch via e-mail asap with questions. If you might be registering with a friend or a spouse do ask about the two at a time discount. See the complete details here.

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Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking here or on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Steve currently has several D850s in stock along with a Nikon 600mm f/4 VR. He is taking pre-orders for the new Nikon 500 P and the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera body.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

sea-ice-patterns-_BUP4922-Antarctic-Sound,-Antarctica

This image was created on October 23, 2018 on the recently concluded Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island expedition via icebreaker. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens (at 80mm) with my back-up Nikon D850. ISO 1000. Matrix metering plus 2/3 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode. (Should have been plus at least 1 1/3 stops.) AUTO 1 WB on a cloudy afternoon.

One AF point down from the center AF point/Single/Shutter button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure.

My rig was on my shoulder via an RS-7 Curve Breathe Strap to make sure that I did not drop it overboard.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +5. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Image #1: Sea Ice Patterns

The Drake Passage

From the trip advertisement:

DATE DESCRIPTION

Oct 19 Board the Khlebnikov.
Oct 20 – 21 Cross the famous Drake Passage to the Weddell Sea.
Oct 22 – 28 Six to seven days of opportunities for excursions to the emperor penguin colony of Snow Hill Island.
Oct 29 – 30 Cruise northward across the Drake Passage, returning to Ushuaia.

We did board the Kapitan Khlebnikov on the afternoon of October 19 as scheduled. So far so good. The first night, some of it in the Beagle Channel, was not bad. It was a bit rougher on our first full day As noted previously, icebreakers do not have a keel and thus roll significantly in all but very calm seas. They suggest at least “one hand for the ship.” I always went with two hands for the ship. It got very rough on the second night. There were winds in excess of 70mph with 20-25 foot seas. My roommate was thrown out of her bed across the room, fortunately without injury. Others did not fare as well. The biggest roll was =/- 35 degrees in a span of 11 seconds. (If anyone knows the correct technical term for the duration of a single roll, the 11 seconds above, please leave a comment. I am thinking that period might be correct …) With the still-large waves coming from the east, we spent almost all of day 2 heading east by slightly north to avoid rolling severely in a beam sea (with the waves at a right angle to the course of the vessel). In other words, we were sailing away from Antarctica … It took us three full days to cross the Drake. We got into the sea ice on the 23rd, a full two days behind schedule.

After attending a neat lecture on how icebreakers work by one of the Quark staff, I spent the afternoon on the bow looking for and photographing neat patterns in the sea ice.

So this turned out to be the reality:

Oct 19 Board the Khlebnikov.
Oct 20 – 24 Cross the famous Drake Passage to the Weddell Sea.

cracked-ice-patterns-_BUP4927Antarctic-Sound,-Antarctica

This image was also created on October 23, 2018 on the recently concluded Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island expedition via icebreaker. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens (at 98mm) with my back-up Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering plus 1 2/3 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/8 in A (Aperture Priority) mode. AUTO 1 WB on a cloudy day. AUTO 1 WB on a cloudy day.

Two AF points down from the center AF point/d-25/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure.

My rig was on my shoulder via an RS-7 Curve Breathe Strap to make sure that I did not drop it overboard.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +5. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Image #2: Cracked Ice Patterns

Seeing the Sea Ice Patterns

I shared my images with lots of folks on the ship. To a person, all were amazed by the sea ice images presented here, even those who had spent hours on deck photographing the ice. As with all nature photography with a zoom lens, here were my thought processes:

#1: Figure out a good exposure system as I did with images #2-4. Image #1 was a poor guess.

#2: Keep your eyes open and see what interests you.

#3: Once you see something interesting, zoom to the approximate focal length that you will need.

#4: Quickly move the AF point so that you can capture your vision on the card with the stuff that needs to be sharp in sharp focus.

Most of the boys and girls were looking out and seeing ice. I was looking for patterns …

Were We Gonna Make it to Snow Hill?

I had realized from the get-go that there was a least a chance that we would not be able to get to Snow Hill to photograph the Emperor Penguin colony. The first group, 12 days ahead of us, had gotten to the colony three times in very tough conditions with the air temps as low as -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) with winds gusting to beyond 30 knots. But there were no guarantees for us. If the ice had shifted we might not be able to get close enough to Snow Hill Island so that we were within helicopter range. If the winds were too high or there was fog, the copters could not fly. On the afternoon of day 4 it seemed that we were hopelessly stuck in the ice as the captain moved the ship forward and then back for hours without making any forward progress.

Word spread that we were about 20 miles from Snow Hill and that if we could not get closer that only half of the 100 passengers could get to the colony each day. If the weather was good. My attitude was that whatever happens would happen. Keep tuned in here to see if we made it to the Emperors or if the trip was a total bust …

ice-with-lead-and-crack-_BUP4977Antarctic-Sound,-Antarctica

This image was also created on October 23, 2018 on the recently concluded Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island expedition via icebreaker. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens (at 98mm) with my back-up Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering plus 2 stops: 1/400 sec. at f/7.1 in A (Aperture Priority) mode. AUTO 1 WB on a cloudy day.

Four AF points down and two to the left of the center AF point/d-25/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was placed on the corner of the crack in the lower left.

My rig was on my shoulder via an RS-7 Curve Breathe Strap to make sure that I did not drop it overboard.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +5. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Image #3: Sea Ice with Lead and Crack

Your Favorite?

Which of the three featured images above do you like best? Why?

The First Distant Emperor …

Emperor-Penguin-on-ice-_BUP4959Antarctic-Sound,-Antarctica

This image was also created on October 23, 2018 on the recently concluded Emperor Penguins of Snow Hill Island expedition via icebreaker. I used the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens (at 98mm) with my back-up Nikon D850. ISO 800. Matrix metering plus 2 stops: 1/500 sec. at f/7.1 in A (Aperture Priority) mode. AUTO 1 WB on a cloudy day.

Three AF points down and four to the left of the center AF point/d-25/Shutter button AF was active at the moment of exposure. The selected AF point was placed on the penguin as originally framed.

My rig was on my shoulder via an RS-7 Curve Breathe Strap to make sure that I did not drop it overboard.

Focus peaking AF Fine-tune: +5. See the Nikon AF Fine-tune e-Guide here.

Image 4: Adult Emperor Penguin on Sea Ice

The First Emperor

When the ship sailed past this adult Emperor Penguin on the sea ice, I figured that I better make an image in case it was the only one that we would see. So I did.


desoto-fall-card-b

Fort DeSoto in early winter is rife with tame birds. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, Caspian Tern, Great Egret, Sandwich Tern with fish, Willet, Black-bellied Plover threat display, Snowy Egret, 2-year old Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron.

The 2018 Fort DeSoto Early Winter IPT/Thursday December 7 through the morning session on Monday December 10, 2018: 3 1/2 DAYS: $1549. Limit 8/Openings: 6.

Fort DeSoto, located just south of St. Petersburg, FL, is a mecca for migrant shorebirds and terns in early winter. There they join hundreds of egrets, herons, night-herons, and gulls that winter on the T-shaped peninsula. With luck, we may get to photograph two of Florida’s most desirable shorebird species: Marbled Godwit and the spectacular Long-billed Curlew. Black-bellied Plover and Willet are easy, American Oystercatcher almost guaranteed. Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and White Ibis are easy as well and we will almost surely come up with a tame Yellow-crowned Night-Heron or two. We may very well get to see and photograph the amazing heron/egret hybrid that has been present for three year. And we should get to do some Brown Pelican flight photography. In addition, Royal, Sandwich, Forster’s, and Caspian Terns will likely provide us with some good flight opportunities as well. Though not guaranteed, Roseate Spoonbill and Wood Stork might well be expected. And we will be on the lookout for a migrant passerine fallout in the event of a thunderstorm or two.

On the IPT you will learn basics and fine points of digital exposure and to get the right exposure every time after making a single test exposure, how to approach free and wild birds without disturbing them, to understand and predict bird behavior, to identify many species of shorebirds, to spot the good situations, to choose the best perspective, to see and understand the light, and to design pleasing images by mastering your camera’s AF system. Most importantly you will surely learn to evaluate wind and sky conditions and understand how they affect bird photography. And you will learn how and why to work in Manual mode (even if you’re scared of it).

There will be a Photoshop/image review session after lunch (included) each day. That will be followed by Instructor Nap Time.

As with the fall IPT, this one will run with only a single registrant. The best airport is Tampa (TPA). Once you register, you will receive an e-mail with the hotel information. Do know that it is always best if IPT folks stay in the same hotel (rather than at home or at a friend’s place).

A $500 deposit is due when you sign up and is payable by credit card. Balances must be paid by check after you register. Your deposit is non-refundable unless the IPT sells out with eight folks so please check your plans carefully before committing. You can register by calling Jim or Jennifer during weekday business hours at 863-692-0906 with a credit card in hand or by sending a check as follows: make the check out to: BIRDS AS ART and send it via US mail here: BIRDS AS ART, PO BOX 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL 33855. You will receive a confirmation e-mail with detailed instructions, clothing, and gear advice. Please remember that the meet and greet will take place at 7:30 on the evening of Sunday, September 23. Please shoot me an e-mail if you plan to register or if you have any questions.


desoto-fall-card-a-layers

Obviously folks attending the IPT will be out in the field early and stay late to take advantage of sunrise and sunset colors. The good news is that the days are relatively short in late September. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Clockwise from upper left to center: Long-billed Curlew, juvenile Tricolored Heron, Marbled Godwits, Great Blue Heron, juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Stork, smiling Sea Scallop, Ruddy Turnstone scavenging needlefish, Great Blue Heron sunset silhouette at my secret spot, and southbound migrant tern flock blur.

Early and Late

Getting up early and staying out late is pretty much a staple on all BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tours; on this particular trip we will get lots of sleep as the days are short. Being in the field well before the sun comes up and staying out until sunset will often present unique photographic opportunities, opportunities that will be missed by those who need their beauty rest. I really love it when I am leaving the beach on a sunny morning after a great session just as a carful or two of well-rested photographers arrive.

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

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Typos

In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

7 comments to Home From the Sea Ice. The First Emperor. And Did We Make it to the Exalted Penguin Colony by Icebreaker and Helicopter?

  • avatar CRAIG WIESE

    Like #3. The pattern is so simple and dramatic. Reminds me of Japanese calligraphy.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Welcome back and congratulations on making it across the Drake Passage and seeing at least one emperor penguin. I love photographing patterns in sea ice; I’ve done it in New England. I like all of yours, probably the first two a bit better than the third. The conditions you describe sound like our return from the Falklands to Ushuaia 2 years ago–70 mph winds and 20-25-foot seas. But that for sure didn’t last three days! Glad you’re in one piece and look forward to seeing closer images of emperors and other good things.

  • avatar Tony Z

    I do really like that third image. Looks like a capital R.

    The passage sounds like it was really rough.
    The “period” is the inverse of the frequency of a wave.
    11 seconds to change 35 degrees is pretty fast for a boat.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Tony. The boat actually rolled 70 degrees in the 11 seconds! It was a big boat and there was lots of momentum …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Bob Morton

    i am sure you mean 23rd OCTOBER for your dates not 23rd November – easy typo after a long journey. Best wishes and keep up the good work.

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