Macquarie Island King Penguins 14

Macquarie Island King Penguins 14

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.

Ball's Pyramid Aerial 6

Ball’s Pyramid Aerial 6

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.

Lord Howe Island Sunset 4

Lord Howe Island Sunset 4

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.

Lord Howe Island Aerial 4

Lord Howe Island Aerial 4

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.

Bora Bora Aerial 1

Bora Bora Aerial 1

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.

Mataiva Motus 3

Mataiva Motus 3

While the main purpose of my travel to Mataiva in French Polynesia‘s Tuamotus was to photograph the unique lagoon structure using my drone, I could not resist also photographing more traditional landscapes. This beautiful tropical lagoon is one of the five channels between the motus on the south side of the atoll. I love how the coconut palm leaves lean out over the shoreline and cast shadows on the sand and rocks below. Most of the photos that I am creating in the South Pacific that include stunning turquoise water require me to shoot around mid-day when the sun is high in the sky. This isn’t the time of day that I normally photograph landscapes, but I am learning to appreciate the results.

Mataiva Lagoon Aerial 1

Mataiva Lagoon Aerial 1

In December, I photographed French Polynesia for the first time. All I can say is, “WOW!” I have always dreamed of visiting remote islands in the South Pacific and have recently focused my photography ambitions on this area of the world. I began my adventure by flying to Tahiti and then up to the remote atoll of Mataiva in the Tuamotus. My main ambition was to fly my new DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian over the incredible lagoon landscape that I had envisioned using Google Maps. Mataiva’s interior lagoon is composed of decaying coral morphed into linear rocky structures. Some of these coral structures peak above the surface, forming about 70 basins. The varying depths of these basins and the clear water gives the lagoon a blue and green tesselated appearance when viewed from above. I thought that it looked like a landscape photographer’s abstract fantasy. The challenges that I had to overcome to create this image were the strong winds and waiting for clear blue sky, because even the smallest clouds left dark shadows traversing across the scene. Mauruuru and enjoy.

Tanna Island Dance 2

Tanna Island Dance 2

I have not photographed a lot of people over the years. It is not that I do not know how, it is just that I have only done it for my family and friends since I focus on landscape and wildlife photography. However, during my recent travels to Vanuatu, I had several opportunities to photograph the beautiful people of Tanna Island. I created this slow shutter image on a day when I was invited to attend a traditional ceremony of three tribes gathering to celebrate their young boys entering manhood. It was a beautiful but hot afternoon filled with singing and dancing. I was honored that I was even allowed to celebrate with them, let alone be able to take photos.

Rainbow Reef 1

Rainbow Reef 1

I have to admit that it was wonderful to get back in the water scuba diving during my recent South Pacific adventure. All the transitions and disruptions in my life the last few years simply did not leave me with any time to be able to dive. The last time I really dove was 4 years ago when I first visited Fiji. Fortunately, my recent trip to Vanuatu required me to fly through Fiji, so I planned a week of diving on the Rainbow Reef in the Somosomo Straits. This was an area that I had not visited during my previous trip, but had always heard fantastic things about. I flew up to Taveuni and stayed at a wonderful resort for 10 days. I ended up diving with another resort than where I was staying, but it all worked out. Over the course of 9 days of diving, I got to know a few sites exceptionally well and planned my subsequent dives around the ideal currents. The current was totally ripping when I created this image, so it was challenging to say the least. This is one of my favorite bommies which was covered in soft corals while being enveloped in clouds of colorful anthias.

Yasur Volcano Eruption 1

Yasur Volcano Eruption 1

I recently returned from an adventure that I had been dreaming about and attempting to do for over a decade. Years ago when I first started photographing lava, I learned about the Yasur Volcano located on remote Tanna Island in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. It is not the easiest place to get to and the amenities won’t meet most people’s requirements, but it is an incredibly accessible and rewarding location to shoot. I spent a week working with a local chief which allowed me and my frequent travel partner Steve Levi special access to the volcano.

The first time we approached the crater rim via the relatively short but steep hike from the parking area, the deafening explosions and sulfur filled air overwhelmed my already excited senses. When I finally observed my first strombolian eruption, I began to question my sanity. I had heard stories about lava flying through the air and impacting way too close for comfort. Of course, one of the two times this happened to me was during my very first visit to the caldera. It was one of the most brief and horrifying moments of my life, but fortunately the lava landed safely to my left. At least I had gotten that experience out of the way.

Over the course of my week long exploration, I visited the volcano 9 times. Sometimes it was cloudy, sometimes it was clear. There were even a few times where it was raining so hard, that there was no point in even trying. I had a lot of 4am and 4pm starts with all of my best images created during the 30 minutes before the sun rose or after the sun set during the beautiful twilight light. The volcano exploded about every 5 minutes on average. I can not adequately describe the incredible experience of glimpsing and then being blasted with the shock wave while standing in this location with my camera set up on my tripod. I pushed my camera’s shutter button on every explosion, but it was the extraordinary large ones like this that allowed me to create my best images.