South Georgia, 2009, Phase One 645AF, Phase One P65+ back, 300mm lens
1/200 second @ f6.3, ISO 50, hand-held, no filter
Taking this photograph was the easy bit. I just sat down on the ground and waited. Eventually, curiosity brought the penguins to me! They are just as interested in us as we are in them. Our visit to St Andrews Bay and the large colony of King Peguins was only by chance because the location is so exposed to the weather and the seas.
While many of the locations on South Georgia are tucked away in protected bays, St Andrews is open to swells from many directions, so unless
the ocean is relatively calm, it can be difficult to land a Zodiac.
The trip into St Andrews was pretty easy. The trip back was more exciting. The waves had increased on the shore and this made jumping back into the Zodiac a matter of timing and luck. Timing was important because, having knee-high Wellington boots meant protection only so long as the water wasn’t more than knee-deep. As a large wave surged forwards, the water level surpassed my knee as it sank into the black sand and I felt a cool wash around my toes.
Once on the Zodiac itself, you’re sitting comfortably on the sides, but it’s relatively low and if a large wave hits the beach before you push off, you can find the inside awash with water. This happened to us as we left St Andrews and I lifted my camera bag up onto my knee so it didn’t float around in the Zodiac bath!
And on the way back, the ship would often disappear from view as we dropped into the troughs between waves. This isn’t unusual from a sitting position, but when our skipper who was standing also lost sight of the ship, we agreed that the swell was building and it would be interesting transferring from the Zodiac to the gangway on the ship.
The trick for keeping your equipment safe is to put your camera bag inside a dry bag. Often you leave the ship in benign conditions, only to return three or four hours later in what might be considered testing waters. Having said that, in over a dozen ventures into polar regions, this has only happened the once - but it pays to be ready!
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