Monthly Archives

May 2010

Sun and Water Beget the Summer Girl

Haiku

Ferris wheel and fair rides at sunset, blurring due to long exposure, Del Mar Fair

Ferris wheel and fair rides at sunset, blurring due to long exposure.
Image ID: 20872
Location: Del Mar Fair, California, USA

I am readying gear for a bit of diving, so I had to drag the camera out of deep storage and call upon one of my two favorite fitness models for a few test shots. Summer is almost here. I can tell by watching my girls. One was on the beach playing a volleyball tournament today, the other swimming in the pool. Life is good.

(Note to photographers: I am again reminded today that Canon’s 15mm fisheye is the sharpest lens for underwater purposes I have ever used. Due to its curved-field nature, and the fact that a camera behind a spherical dome underwater is forced to focus on a curved-field virtual image, a good fisheye lens holds sharpness further into the corners while flat field lenses break down and go soft. I have been a sucker for very wide lenses since I first picked up a camera — why the hell would anyone waste their time on macro when the big picture is out there waiting to be told? — and the Canon 15mm and Nikon 16mm fisheye lenses are two of my favorites.)

Young girl swimming in a pool

Young girl swimming in a pool
Image ID: 25286

Young girl swimming in a pool

Young girl swimming in a pool
Image ID: 25287

Young girl swimming in a pool

Young girl swimming in a pool
Image ID: 25290

Can you blow a perfect bubble ring underwater? I can. That’s right. This is a bubble that I made, like a smoke ring, except I blew it underwater. There’s a trick to making them, a way to snap your lips in a snarky, La-Jolla-socialite sort of way while exhaling that results in the bubble organizing itself into a ring. Once in a while I get a really perfect ring, a thing of beauty. A bubble ring is a stable toroidal air pocket that maintains its shape — even growing in diameter and rotating along its axis — as it ascends to the surface.

Underwater bubble ring, a stable toroidal pocket of air

Underwater bubble ring, a stable toroidal pocket of air.
Image ID: 25282

Milky Way Time Lapse Movie

Death Valley, National Parks, Time Lapse, Video

This is a time lapse video of the Milky Way rising in the south east sky, viewed from Death Valley. The Milky Way is our own galaxy, a thick spinning disc of stars with arms that thin as they spiral outward. Our Sun is located in one of the arms. When viewed from our Sun’s location, the Milky Way is viewed “on edge” and so appears as a broad band across the sky. The Milky Way is not aligned with the plane of the ecliptic, so it is not parallel with the paths that the moon and Sun follow across our sky. The central core of the Milky Way, which is the thick disc-like center of the galaxy, lies on the right side of this video. Some satellites and planes can be seen briefly in the video, along with a few shooting stars (meteors) near the bottom of the frame just before dawn. This was shot with two Canon digital SLR cameras over a period of about six hours, and is composed of about 500 photographs.

Pack Ice at the Edge of the Weddell Sea

Antarctica, Southern Ocean, Video

Photos of the Weddell Sea, approaching the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The Weddell Sea is, according to the testimony of all who have sailed through its berg-filled waters, the most treacherous and dismal region on earth.” — from The White Continent by Thomas R. Henry (1950).

This morning finds us on the northern edge of the Weddell Sea, approaching the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula from the northeast. We had been told that these waters can be choked with ice. The ice originates in the Weddell Sea, where enormous ice shelves produce tabular icebergs which in turn break apart into vast spreads of ice pieces. I wake up about 5am and peek outside the window and see nothing but ice. Big chunks, small chunks, periodic chunks big enough to be called bergs, and a few huge distant tabular bergs. I have waited a long time to see a seascape like this, and the sight of this much ice is awesome.

Pack ice, a combination of sea ice and pieces of icebergs, Weddell Sea

Pack ice, a combination of sea ice and pieces of icebergs, Weddell Sea.
Image ID: 25025
Location: Weddell Sea, Southern Ocean

I go out on deck. It is quite cold. I walk up to the bow and take some fisheye photos, and shoot some video clips, including a time lapse of the boat pushing through the ice. (The resulting video is interesting but if watched too many times the novelty wears thin and the jitteriness becomes irritating.) We are moving somewhat more slowly than yesterday, but nevertheless the icebreaker M/V Polar Star is able to push aside or split the ice pieces easily, and it seems to me that we make good progress through the morning.

Video made with Canon 5D Mark II and 15mm fisheye lens.

However, we have a long way to go yet before reaching Paulet Island in the Weddell Sea, and the captain decides to speed our passage by avoiding the pack ice, changing course to take us through the Antarctic Sound to reach Paulet from the west (rather than the more direct approach through the Weddell Sea from the northeast). Eventually our course change takes us out of the pack ice and our speed increases. We continue to see occasional tabular bergs, along with a few whales including two orca. Albatross sightings are now on the wane, and we won’t see many more until the Drake Passage at the end of the trip.

Next: Nature’s Best Photography Cover Shot
Previous: Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkneys
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkneys

Elephant Seal, Penguin, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Photos of Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands

Midway through our crossing from South Georgia Island to Antarctica we pass the South Orkney Islands, a small group of islands that lie almost exactly between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, making them a natural place to pause during our crossing and make a landing to stretch our legs a little. After our sunrise approach to Coronation Island, the icebreaker ship M/V Polar Star anchors and we go ashore at Shingle Cove to visit a colony of Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae). The colony is set atop a bluff above the ocean, subject to blasting wind and snow. The wind is so strong that it knocks a chick over now and then.

Adelie penguin chicks, huddle together in a snowstorm for warmth and protection.  This group of chicks is known as a creche, Pygoscelis adeliae, Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Adelie penguin chicks, huddle together in a snowstorm for warmth and protection. This group of chicks is known as a creche.
Image ID: 25026
Species: Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
Location: Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Many of the chicks are huddled together for warmth in creches. Adjacent to the bluff is a snow covered slope that the penguins descend to reach a cobblestone beach. The thousands of birds in the colony have worn dirty winding poop-covered paths in the snow. I spend most of my time on the cobblestones, watching the penguins pass back and forth. Entering the water is a dangerous proposition for a penguin, since leopard seals often patrol the shallows waiting to strike.

Adelie penguins rush into the water en masse, from the cobblestone beach at Shingle Cove on Coronation Island, Pygoscelis adeliae

Adelie penguins rush into the water en masse, from the cobblestone beach at Shingle Cove on Coronation Island.
Image ID: 25028
Species: Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
Location: Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

So the penguins gather in nervous groups at the water’s edge, making a few false starts before one of the braver individuals finally commits and dives in. Immediately the rest of the group follows suit, rushing into the water in a chaotic sprint. As the waves washing in and out are hard to judge, some penguins mistime their dives and land head first on the rocks, only to pop back up quickly and try again. In a few seconds it is over – the rocks are empty. The departing penguins can now be seen porpoising at great speed out to sea to spend time foraging for food. Penguins returning to shore arrive in smaller groups or individually, but speed through the water in the same nervous way, ending their swim with a leap and an agile stand-up landing onto the rocks.

Southern elephant seal, juvenile. The southern elephant seal is the largest pinniped, and the largest member of order Carnivora, ever to have existed. It gets its name from the large proboscis (nose) it has when it has grown to adulthood, Mirounga leonina, Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Southern elephant seal, juvenile. The southern elephant seal is the largest pinniped, and the largest member of order Carnivora, ever to have existed. It gets its name from the large proboscis (nose) it has when it has grown to adulthood.
Image ID: 25029
Species: Southern elephant seal, Mirounga leonina
Location: Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

After a while I spot an elephant seal lounging in a pool on rocky reef. I spend some time laying on the rocks (uncomfortable) trying to photograph it at its eye level. I’m not sure I succeeded. After that, a visit to the nesting area is in order, to see the chicks and especially the adults feeding their young. On the snowy slope between the beach and the rookery I witness a southern giant petrel’s attack on a chick that ventured too far from the nest. The result is gory and tough to watch. The giant petrel does not dispatch its catch quickly. It takes about 10 minutes for the chick to die, during which time the skua consumes a good part of it.

Southern giant petrel kills and eats an Adelie penguin chick, Shingle Cove, Macronectes giganteus, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Southern giant petrel kills and eats an Adelie penguin chick, Shingle Cove.
Image ID: 25027
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Afterward, all that is left is a tattered penguin carcass lying on the dirty snow and a blood-covered skua guarding its kill. The scene is not enjoyable to watch, but I do feel privileged to have witnessed it. It drives home the fact that the dramatic wildlife spectacles we are here to observe are a perpetual and unforgiving struggle for the participants. We leave Shingle Cove about midday, sailing along the South Orkney Islands for a while. Icebergs large and small pass by, set against the snow covered mountains of Coronation Island. One tabular berg that we encounter is measured by the ship’s radar at over 3 miles long. The thing is so large that it takes much longer to reach that expected, distance and size being quite difficult to judge in the clear dry air.

Adelie penguin, adult feeding chick by regurgitating partially digested food into the chick's mouth.  The pink food bolus, probably consisting of krill and marine invertebrates, can be seen being between the adult and chick's beaks, Pygoscelis adeliae, Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Adelie penguin, adult feeding chick by regurgitating partially digested food into the chick’s mouth. The pink food bolus, probably consisting of krill and marine invertebrates, can be seen being between the adult and chick’s beaks.
Image ID: 25008
Species: Adelie Penguin, Pygoscelis adeliae
Location: Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Next: Pack Ice at the Edge of the Weddell Sea
Previous: Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands

South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Photos of the Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands

We arrive at Coronation Island, the largest of the South Orkney Islands, around dawn. This is our first opportunity to really see some impressive icebergs at close range. While we are here to visit Shingle Cove, the approach to the island on its own is magnificent. Coronation Island is largely covered in snow and glaciers, with mountainous slopes and jagged peaks, reaching 4,153′ above sea levels at its summit. It is really a rugged place.

Coronation Island, is the largest of the South Orkney Islands, reaching 4,153' (1,266m) above sea level.  While it is largely covered by ice, Coronation Island also is home to some tundra habitat, and is inhabited by many seals, penguins and seabirds

Coronation Island, is the largest of the South Orkney Islands, reaching 4,153′ (1,266m) above sea level. While it is largely covered by ice, Coronation Island also is home to some tundra habitat, and is inhabited by many seals, penguins and seabirds.
Image ID: 24850
Location: Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Iceberg, ocean, light and clouds.  Light plays over icebergs and the ocean near Coronation Island

Iceberg, ocean, light and clouds. Light plays over icebergs and the ocean near Coronation Island.
Image ID: 24779
Location: Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Iceberg detail, at sea among the South Orkney Islands, Coronation Island, Southern Ocean

Iceberg detail, at sea among the South Orkney Islands.
Image ID: 24794
Location: Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Iceberg detail, at sea among the South Orkney Islands, Coronation Island, Southern Ocean

Iceberg detail, at sea among the South Orkney Islands.
Image ID: 24795
Location: Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Iceberg, ocean, light and clouds.  Light plays over icebergs and the ocean near Coronation Island

Iceberg, ocean, light and clouds. Light plays over icebergs and the ocean near Coronation Island.
Image ID: 24796
Location: Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands, Southern Ocean

Next: Shingle Cove, Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands
Previous: Scotia Sea, En Route to South Orkney Islands
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Scotia Sea, En Route to South Orkney Islands

Antarctica, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

Photos of the Scotia Sea, en route to the South Orkney Islands

Soon after ending our land visit at Cooper Bay, we leave South Georgia Island in our wake and begin sailing southwest towards the Antarctic Peninsula and the Weddell Sea. I am somewhat melancholy. South Georgia Island is fantastic, rich with wildlife and spectacular terrain, surrounded by open ocean on all sides, and so remote. I will return. There is so much I have not seen here that I am already thinking about when I can schedule the time for another trip out to this remarkable island.

Our next destination is the South Orkney Islands, a natural stopping point since it is almost directly inline with our route to Antarctica and roughly halfway. We should be there in about 36 hours. As we sail, we are passing through some significant open ocean weather, which means clouds! There are beautiful, ever-changing cloud formations on all points of the compass, some dark, ominous and threatening. We also begin to see our first icebergs of the trip, massive tabular bergs that hint at the riot of ice that is to come as we make our way south in the days ahead. I spend much of my time on deck, bundled up against the wind and increasing chilly weather, trying to make appealing photographs of the clouds, icebergs, sea and sky.

Clouds, weather and light mix in neverending forms over the open ocean of Scotia Sea, in the Southern Ocean

Clouds, weather and light mix in neverending forms over the open ocean of Scotia Sea, in the Southern Ocean.
Image ID: 24758
Location: Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

Tabular iceberg.  The edge of a huge tabular iceberg.  Tabular icebergs can be dozens or hundreds of miles in size, have flat tops and sheer sides, Scotia Sea

Tabular iceberg. The edge of a huge tabular iceberg. Tabular icebergs can be dozens or hundreds of miles in size, have flat tops and sheer sides.
Image ID: 24793
Location: Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

Clouds, weather and light mix in neverending forms over the open ocean of Scotia Sea, in the Southern Ocean

Clouds, weather and light mix in neverending forms over the open ocean of Scotia Sea, in the Southern Ocean.
Image ID: 24756
Location: Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

Clouds, weather and light mix in neverending forms over the open ocean of Scotia Sea, in the Southern Ocean

Clouds, weather and light mix in neverending forms over the open ocean of Scotia Sea, in the Southern Ocean.
Image ID: 24757
Location: Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

Iceberg, Scotia Sea

Iceberg.
Image ID: 24848
Location: Scotia Sea, Southern Ocean

Next: Coronation Island, South Orkney Islands
Previous: Cooper Bay, South Georgia Island
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Cooper Bay, South Georgia Island

Penguin, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

Photos of Cooper Bay and Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia Island

This morning we are again presented with difficult weather. Our plans had originally been to visit Gold Harbor or St. Andrews Bay, two of the most notable and popular locations on South Georgia Island, but these locations are exposed to open ocean wave energy and we are thwarted by rough seas. Ultimately will not see either one this trip, but not for lack of trying. The staff makes the decision to try for Cooper Bay. Conditions are marginal, but because they know how disappointed we are at missing Gold Harbor and St. Andrews, the staff and crew work very hard, coping with large swells at the gangway, to ferry those who wish to go ashore. Some choose not to make the landing, staying onboard for the morning. I know that I will probably not see anything this morning that I have not already seen elsewhere on the island, and there is a good chance it will be too snowy and wet for me to do any meaningful photography. I will not pass up this landing, or any landing on this trip, as the exhiliration of simply being ashore in such a wild and remote place is too good to pass up. I love being on this island, and only wish we had more time here. After a bumpy and very wet zodiac ride, we arrive in a pocket cove protected by rocky outcroppings and covered with cobblestones. Wave energy surges into the cove so timing the landing of the zodiac is important, and we quickly scramble out of the inflatable before the next wave arrives. The shore and slopes of Cooper Bay are covered with snow. It is beautiful. It is snowing, a wet and heavy snow, and it is cold.

Snow covers tussock grass and macaroni penguins, above Cooper Bay, Eudyptes chrysolophus

Snow covers tussock grass and macaroni penguins, above Cooper Bay.
Image ID: 24695
Species: Macaroni penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus
Location: Cooper Bay, South Georgia Island

Macaroni penguin, amid tall tussock grass, Cooper Bay, South Georgia Island, Eudyptes chrysolophus

Macaroni penguin, amid tall tussock grass, Cooper Bay, South Georgia Island.
Image ID: 24733
Species: Macaroni penguin, Eudyptes chrysolophus
Location: Cooper Bay, South Georgia Island

We make a short hike to a bluff-top colony of Macaroni Penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus). The birds are preening and resting, singly or in pairs. They are nestled in — what else? –waist-high tussac grass. I do not see any nests or chicks and suspect they are hidden by the snow and grass. We are on a shoulder of the island, looking down at the colony below. Beyond the penguins and grass is a rocky promontory covered with many more macaroni penguins that overlooks the sea. M/V Polar Star is anchored a ways out, and periodically a zodiac passes between the landing cove and the big boat. The inflatables sure look small in these conditions. This is a short visit since the weather continues to worsen, and I am thankful we came ashore when we did or we may have had no opportunity to visit here at all today. When I return to the beach to return my gear back into my dry bag, I find a fur seal pup lying atop it. The tiny furball, which looks like a sweet little stuffed animal, may grow into a big gnarly bull one day. Once back onboard, the staff decides to leave South Georgia. It is not clear that we will gain any additional time on the Antarctica Peninsula by leaving South Georgia early, but the weather is such that there is no point is staying the remainder of the day. So off we go, heading south for our long-awaited introduction to Antarctica.

Next: Scotia Sea, En Route to South Orkney Islands
Previous: Drygalski Fjord, South Georgia Island
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Hammerhead Shark Cover Photo, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology

Sharks

The latest issue of Physiological and Biochemical Zoology uses a hammerhead shark photo of mine on the cover to accompany the article Temporal Resolution and Spectral Sensitivity of the Visual System of Three Coastal Shark Species from Different Light Environments (McComb, Frank, Hueter and Kajiura). This is at least the fourth hammerhead shark photo of mine that has been used for the cover of a peer-reviewed scientific journal, previous examples being the cover of Zoology, the cover of the Journal of Morphology and the cover of Ecology Letters. I’ve had a couple of other marine photos on academic journal covers as well, including the cover of Nature. The folks at such brainiac journals have much better minds than I, so if they like my photos I must be doing ok!

Hammerhead shark cover photo, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, March/April 2010

Hammerhead shark cover photo, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, March/April 2010

See lots more scalloped hammerhead photos (Sphyrna lewini). The above photograph was taken underwater at Wolf Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, one of the finest places in the world to see scalloped hammerhead sharks.