During my expedition to the Subantarctic, my primary ambition was to photograph penguins for my ongoing South Pacific project. Still, I also created dramatic landscape images whenever the opportunities arose. I photographed this scene on remote Auckland Island during a short hike up to the site of an old WWII coast watcher’s position. I can not imagine the hardships that these young men had to endure for years at a time. Clearly, it was incredibly windy when I created this image. I like the movement of the blowing grasses in the gale force winds with the dark clouds in the background. I think that it perfectly captures the extreme isolation of this wilderness landscape.
During my December expedition to the Subantarctic, I visited Enderby Island in the isolated Auckland Islands. This archipelago is home to a variety of unique wildlife, including the endangered yellow eyed penguin. With an estimated population of less than 4000, they are the rarest penguin species. In New Zealand they are called hoiho.
My time ashore was limited, so I made the most of my opportunity to photograph the small colony near our beach landing. I used my telephoto lens to photograph them from a respectful distance, since they are much more sensitive to human disturbance than other penguins. I am especially drawn to this image, because it perfectly captures the penguin’s shy nature as it cautiously emerges from its forest home.
This past December, I continued my explorations of the South Pacific by traveling to New Zealand where I joined an expedition to the Subantarctic. The 13-day voyage allowed me to visit remote Auckland Island, Campbell Island, and Macquarie Island. During the trip, I photographed wilderness landscapes, comical penguins, friendly elephant seals, and majestic albatross. I was prepared for rough ocean crossings, especially after what I experienced sailing to South Georgia Island in 2012. However, instead of the roaring forties and furious fifties, the seas were calm and the weather unusually benign. The highlight of my trip was photographing king penguins, royal penguins, and elephant seals at Sandy Bay.
This is my favorite image of king penguins. They were totally unafraid of me sitting nearby. With the sun shining below puffy clouds, the stunning island landscape provided a perfect background. This image far exceeded what I had hoped to create, especially considering there was no guarantee that I would even be able to get ashore.
Sadly, Macquarie Island set record high temperatures prior to and during my visit. While this allowed me to create some beautiful images, it bodes poorly for wildlife that depend on cool weather.
How is this for a wildlife photo? While visiting Tonga in September, I encountered this curious humpback whale mother and calf underwater. They were initially swimming from my right to left. My guide and friend, Ken Howard, were also in the water just to my left. Suddenly, the whales turned and swam directly towards us. It all happened so fast that I could only point my camera in their general direction and push the shutter release without looking. If I had got any closer using a fisheye lens I would have gotten run over. Oh, wait. That did happen.
I spent most of September visiting the Kingdom of Tonga. This was my second trip to this exotic South Pacific island nation. My first was in 2012 as part of a photo tour that I co-lead with Tony Wu. My primary purpose was to join a private whale watching expedition with 2 of my closest photography friends, Doug Perrine and Ken Howard. However, since I have been focused on documenting the South Pacific the past few years, I decided to devote an additional week before my friends arrived to landscape photography. While planning this adventure, I did some online photo reconnaissance and decided to attempt to photograph the numerous blowholes along the south shore of the main island of Tonga’tapu. The winter weather ended up being incredibly rainy most of that week, but my persistence eventually paid off. This image was created after too many early morning drives to Keleti Beach which featured captivating terraces and unusual structures like this blowhole pedestal. As the incoming waves crashed into the shoreline, the force of the water would erupt several seconds later. I experimented with different shutter speeds, but eventually preferred a fast shutter to freeze the action. I was fortunate that the early morning light was exquisite and the wind blew the geyser away from my precarious camera placement.
During my recent trip to Lord Howe Island, I flew my quadcopter from a dive boat in order to photograph Ball’s Pyramid. It is an erosional remnant of a shield volcano that formed about 6.4 million years ago and the tallest sea stack in the world at 1,844ft (562m). It lies 12 miles (20km) southeast of Lord Howe Island, thus requiring a boat or airplane in order to visit it. While planning my adventure, I had contacted Pro Dive Lord Howe Island and arranged to join their scuba diving trip whenever the weather allowed. Unfortunately, the day that we set out was terribly cloudy and overcast. I did not even bring my dive gear, since I preferred to photograph from the air rather than underwater. I was resigned to not creating a photo and living with the mental image of at least seeing this immense and forbidding monolith. However, Aaron from Pro Dive wanted me to get my shot and went way out of his way to generously offer to take me back on a private trip the next afternoon. Let’s do it! After our 2pm departure and long boat ride in heavy seas, I did not have a lot of time left to fly. Still, I was able to fly one long and one short flight before we had to turn around and hightail it back to Lord Howe before dark. This is my favorite image with the clear blue sky above and beautiful late afternoon light illuminating Ball’s Pyramid. Wow, just wow.
While visiting Lord Howe Island, I became particularly enamored with the mountains towering above the south end of the island. Every afternoon, I rode my bicycle from town past the airport in order to explore the rugged shoreline for compositions. I had intentionally planned my visit for their winter in anticipation of the angle of the sunset being furthest to the north. I had hoped that this angle would illuminate the peaks to the maximum extend possible. For all of my planning and effort, I was rewarded with this intense and dramatic sunset. I love how the dramatic clouds were anchored to the summits as the orange light flooded the entire scene below.
I recently traveled to Australia for the first time in order to visit remote Lord Howe Island. I had a wonderful adventure, though, it was starting to be their winter, so the weather was not as tropical as I would have preferred. I first saw some pictures of Lord Howe Island over a decade ago and have dreamed of photographing it for my South Pacific project ever since. I had originally booked a trip for last September, but had to reschedule after I broke my left small toe a few days before my departure. Fortunately, it was well worth the wait! The island is barely 6 miles long and features the southermost barrier coral reef in the world. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and only allows a maximum of 400 visitors at a time. To explore it, I rented a bicycle and did a lot of hiking in the hills on the north end. One morning, I even flew my quadcopter from the top of these cliffs in order to create this beautiful aerial image. I love the direct overhead light illuminating the turquoise water of the lagoon with the clouds above Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower in the distance.
I just got back from another epic South Pacific photo adventure. I created this image while visiting Christmas Island, which is spelled Kiritimati in the local Gilbertese language. It is a remote Micronesian island that is part of the Republic of Kiribati. I first learned about Christmas Island on my way back from American Samoa in 2010. It is very highly regarded among salt water fly fisherman due to its shallow lagoons and scrappy bonefish. The purpose of my trip was to fly my DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian quadcopter over its surreal landscape in order to photograph abstract patterns. WOW! The photos that I had envisioned with Google Maps paled in comparison to those that I was able to achieve with my drone. I especially love the strange submerged sand islands and bold colors of the water in this scene.
I photographed this scene while visiting exotic Bora Bora in French Polynesia‘s Society Islands this past December. I have never experienced water that was as turquoise as this. I created this image by flying my new DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian drone over the atoll’s outer reef and waiting for the perfect balance of direct sunlight and clouds. The reason that I was visiting Bora Bora was that I had chartered a sailboat with some friends and my father. I grew up sailing with my family on the Great Lakes, so it was special that my dad was able to join me. I especially like the dappled sunlight below the ocean’s surface and the gentle waves washing over the top of the reef. Ahh, paradise.