Photographing Penguins on Icebergs

Andy Rouse

20 Jan 2017

Zodiac cruising

One of the real joys of Zodiac cruising in Antarctica is that, in the words of Forrest Gump, “you never know what you’re gonna get”. It’s always a voyage into the unknown and for me that is what I love, as I think it makes any successful photography all the more pleasurable.

Over the years I’ve had many successful Zodiac cruises, but there is one special one that really stays in my mind. We’d moored just outside a bay that had a lot of floating icebergs, some of which had little black dots on which I hoped were our flippered friends. I’d always wanted to photograph penguins on icebergs so had my fingers, and everything else, crossed as we headed out in the Zodiacs. Sure enough as we got closer I could see that indeed there were many penguins on the icebergs and they were my favourite chaps, Gentoos! 

I love these comical penguins so much, they always make me smile.

Somehow on this day the Gentoos had managed to scramble some 20 ft up the iceberg, a feat which none of us watching them could have repeated. We killed the engines and drifted slowly closer, I guided the driver to bring us round on a small group of three that were nicely sat against the blue ice...

It’s been one of my most successful penguin images, appearing on many calendars including the BBC Wildlife one a couple of years ago. There are several factors that make this image work well. First: it’s got penguins!!! Second: it has nice composition, nice and wide to let the penguins breathe in space and to show the beauty of the iceberg. And finally: it’s the moment I caught the lead penguin stretching out, which just adds something extra to the image. I love this image and always will.

After a few minutes we drifted by the penguins and onto another iceberg where again, we found three penguins lurking. My first shot was this....

I timed this image so they all looked the same way, it’s pointless doing anything else as it would look odd. The iceberg in the background provided a great backdrop too, but soon we had drifted by this....

Here you see the problem of working with animals, they never do what you want or expect!! The middle one stuck it’s head down, which actually gave the final image some balance. I deliberately left a lot of space to the right of the image to balance up the awkward composition to give something worthwhile. As we watched they started to walk down the iceberg.....

I got really excited as I thought they were going to jump off. So we waited and waited and waited. Then we waited and waited and waited. They moved.....back upwards!!! Bah, that’s wildlife for you, perhaps in November I will get to see some leaping penguins. Fingers crossed!

I can always find something magical on any Zodiac cruise and on our forthcoming cruise with Natural World Safaris, fellow mentor Andrew James and myself will be inspiring everyone to get the most from every cruise. Our nightly light-hearted picture critiques, with appropriate refreshment in hand, will hopefully show the results and inspire our passengers to really love their Antarctic photography. Come with us!

MORE PHOTOGRAPHY ADVICE AND TRAINING FROM ANDY ROUSE

You can read more of Andy's Antarctica photography blogs here:

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.

Cabins are booking fast. Please get in touch if you want to reserve your place today on this amazing photographic adventure.

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To find out mote about travelling with Andy on board the Akademik Ioffe, or to book your place on the Ultimate Antarctica Photography Safari in 2017, click the button below to get in touch.

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