Photographing Elephant Seals in Antarctica

Andy Rouse

30 Dec 2016

Mr Big Mouth

One of the skills I have always prided myself on as a wildlife photographer, and which I teach all my clients, is good fieldcraft. This means having a healthy respect for your subject, and knowing how to approach it (and whether to approach it) without causing any stress. It’s not only vital in getting great pictures but more so we always as photographers have a moral obligation to ensure that our subjects are unaffected by our actions. It’s a great ethic to live by, sometimes however animals have other ideas!!!

I was on the South Shetland Islands during a Foreign and Commonwealth Office inspection of a public landing site. They do this periodically to monitor the effect of tourism on the environment, which is a vital consideration in such a fragile wilderness as Antarctica. Since they were busy “inspecting” I headed off towards the Southern Elephant Seal colony nearby. These enormous seals are always good subjects for photography as they are great characters, and I always enjoy the sights, sounds......and smells of any seal colony!

Ahead of me I spied a young elephant seal sleeping, so I got down flat on the ground and started to crawl closer. Every ten foot or so I stopped to check that the seal was still sleeping, satisfied I carried on. Eventually I got close enough to get a nice image of it sleeping but just as I was about to take it one eye opened. I quickly ducked down but it was too late...... I had been seen and a head soon raised itself up to look at me.

I took my shots as it was yawning, hence the image that you see here, and trust me I could smell the breath too!

I really like this picture as the low angle really gives it some impact and it also shows exactly what the seal thought of my stealthy approach. Seal colonies are always great fun and I look forward to showing you the awesomeness of Elephant Seals on our adventure down south in November 2017.

MORE PHOTOGRAPHY ADVICE AND TRAINING FROM ANDY ROUSE

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Join us on our next expedition to Wild Antarctica: The Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula in October 2020, where you can hone your photography skills in some of the wildest places on earth. You’ll receive expert, on-the-ground photography coaching and enjoy photography workshops as well as informative lectures whilst exploring tabular icebergs, floating ice sheets and the unique panoramas of the Antarctic and Subantarctic - ideal for landscape photography.

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