Photography Travelogues: Black-Browed Albatross
February 16, 2012 5 Comments
West Point Island, Falklands
I’m not an expert wildlife photographer, but I love photographing wildlife! And they say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I know enough to know I’m just a beginner when it comes to fauna and flora.
As with so many genres of photography, to be a true expert requires thousands of hours in the field and, for wildlife, a good understanding and knowledge of your subject is a great help. I know next to nothing about birds, least of all the majestic Black-Browed Albatross. Its huge wing span is deceptive and it isn’t until you’re up close to these birds that you realise just how large and impressive they really are.
As part of my Antarctica circuit with Peregrine Expeditions, we left Ushuaia in Argentina and sailed north east to the Falkland Islands. The Falklands is an amazing group of hundreds of tiny islets, many only a kilometre or so wide. Some are almost completely flat, others have towering cliffs, many are inhabited. One wonders what people do to survive as the nearest town (Stanley, the capital of the Falklands) can be easily a day away by boat!
And the weather is so changeable that you simply can’t predict it. During our few hours on West Point Island, we experienced rain, hail, snow and brilliant sunshine. It was wonderful!
West Point Island has a generous harbour around which the four or so farm dwellings stand, but it is on the other side of the island where the Black-Browed Albatross has its colony. It’s possible to get remarkably close to the birds’ nests, but there are strict rules against approaching too closely.
One thing that’s certain on these expeditions is that you can never get intentionally lost. This is because most of the passengers are wearing bright red suits to keep out the elements. I guess the birds have become used to the strange crimson characters that walk carefully around the outskirts of their colony!
I found a spot on the edge of a cliff looking over the colony and the sea below. Every now and then an albatross would glide effortlessly past and so I set myself the task of tracking the birds with my camera and lens. I used a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with a 300mm f2.8 telephoto. The combination feels a little heavy towards the end of the day, but the results are spectacularly good.
What I enjoyed the most sitting on the cliff edge was the opportunity from time to time to look down on the albatross. So rarely am I above birds that I found myself intentionally waiting for one of the huge albatross to soar below. It’s not the perfect shot, but I like the way the broken water and cliff edges are slightly blurred. The only element within the frame that is tack sharp is the albatross – the 300mm f2.8 is very good wide-open and the 1/2500 second shutter speed (helped with the lens’s Image Stabilization) ensured there was no motion blur either.
Of course, not every photograph I took was a winner. In fact, my success ratio was particularly poor, which is why I like the Filmstrip Viewer in Capture One – it lets me slide through my photos and I press ‘3’ every time I think I have a good one. Once rated, I can have a closer look later on!
To show how I worked on this file in Capture One, I’ve made a little video which you can access here on the Better Photography website.
Peter Eastway is a professional photographer and photography magazine publisher based in Sydney, Australia. To see more of his photography, visit http://www.petereastway.com. Peter also offers an online Landscape Photography MasterClass. Details can be found at http://www.betterphotography.com.