Seals of Antarctica by Andy Rouse

Andy Rouse

07 Nov 2016

Seal Safari Blog - part one

One of the best things about working in Antarctica as a photographer is being able to use the stunning environment to show an animal in context. Of course this is usually penguins loitering on icebergs, but seals too make good subjects as they tend to let you get closer and give you some good looks. So I have written this two part blog showing some wonderful images of some great seal encounters I have had in the past for you budding photographers / expeditioners out there. 

I cannot wait for you to see them in person next year!

Leopard Seal Encounter

The leopard seal is the second largest seal in Antarctic waters and a fearsome predator, targeting everything from krill and squid to many species of penguins. Any encounter with one is a real privilege as they are generally quite shy out of the water, a few years ago I was exceptionally lucky with a very chilled one. We set out in the morning to cruise icebergs looking for anything interesting to photograph, I love this kind of photography as you never know what you are gonna find. Clients like it too as we always ensure that they are well briefed and able to maximise their photographic opportunities. Next year Andrew James and I have an extensive photographic training program already written to help prepare our photographers for just such an encounter.

Anyway as we gently glided across the still waters we spied a seal sitting on a small ice flow and sure enough as it came closer it was clearly a leopard seal. A very rare encounter indeed. As an experienced professional I always know that it’s best to get some shots when you can so I stopped the Zodiac from getting closer so that we could shoot some wide angles...

When shooting images like this it’s best to isolate the various compartments of the image i.e the sea, sky and subject so that they blend together in terms of composition. So I shot this from a slightly higher angle than usual to ensure that the leopard seal did not break the horizon. I wasn’t happy with the composition though as I wanted to tell the story of why the seal was there, i.e for lunch, so I got the Zodiac moved into a better position....

Now the seal has a more pleasing angle but more importantly in the background is the penguin colony that it was lurking for. Since the seal was sitting at this lovely angle I put it on the right side of the frame to lean in towards the centre, I felt it gave the image more balance. I think it’s always important to really push for the images that you want rather than just taking potshots, that is what we will be teaching anyway. I know that some of you like settings: EOS 1DS MK2, 16-35mm lens, f11 @ 1/125th hand-held.  

Now that we had the wide angles in the bag we edged carefully closer until we were in good range for some headshots as the leopard seal has a very cool look!

As you can see there is a real personality there, unless you are a penguin of course! For the final shot I used a 70-200mm f2.8L lens with a 1.4x converter and an aperture f11 to get enough detail on the face without bringing the background too much into focus. It’s a compelling portrait and this one has sold a lot worldwide as I used a diagonal composition to engage the viewer with the seal. 

A very cool animal and a great encounter!

More Information

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Comments

Brett

8/11/2016 9:44 AM

Why did you choose such a small apperture as f11? F5.6 wouldnt have given you enough depth of field, since I assume you were pretty close, because you were using the 70-200?

Lorna NWS

7/11/2016 5:40 PM

Fantastic shots Andy! Love those portrait shots, he looks like he's smiling!

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