Tag Archives: Elephant Island

Videos – and learnings – from the Southern Ocean

Sunday 31 March 2024 – I’m pretty happy with the way that the images that Jane and I captured during our time on Hondius convey the look and feel of the places we visited and the sights we saw.  However, there’s the small matter of the 460 video files that we accumulated during the trip, so I have spent the last couple of days trawling through that mass of content – about 100GB – for sequences that supplement or complement the images which you’ve already seen.

To be honest, the pickings are much slimmer than I’d anticipated.

It’s not that I’m dissatisfied with the videos.  Though many are utterly unusable, there are a good number of clips which will serve brilliantly in the future to remind us of the dynamism and variety of the scenes that unfolded before us. But I think you might find them dull, because of the lack of context; and buried within that bald assertion is the first learning.

For example, at Port Charcot, I took a video panorama from the ship

and it gives a nice impression of the place, the weather conditions and the scenery.  But from the point of view of showing you, dear reader, what the place was like, it’s not really any better than the photos I included in the blog posting about it.

The learning?  That sort of video has a place on Instagram in showing where I am and what it’s like there. But the restrictions on using internet bandwidth (oh, OK, the expense) meant that its value, as an ephemeral “Instagram-look-at-me” kind of post was negated. So I have several of these panoramas, but will keep them to myself for now.

That said, there were a couple of video pans that I think worthy of noting (as opposed to nothing) here: the view of Elephant Island, which was just, basically, lovely in the sunshine;

and the rather contrasting view of the south end of South Georgia.

So: no more landscape video pans, then;  I have numerous ones of bays, waterfalls or rivers, but their relevance is only to our memories, not to your insight.

I rather like, though, this view of Grytviken, on South Georgia, as we approached it from the water.

and, as a scenery/landscape topic, I thought the general amazingness of some of the icescapes was worth a collage, too.

Oh – and there was that spectacular crumbling glacier in King Haakon Bay, which makes for good viewing, I think.

So, enough of the scenery, already. What does that leave us then?  The wildlife, of course. It was a very rewarding trip for me, photographically, as I got several still images that I’m pleased with, and most of which you’ll already have seen, having assiduously read all my previous posts, you wonderful reader, you. But there are some times when a still image simply won’t do to capture or convey a scene.  Sighting a leopard seal, for example, gave me some good stills, but seeing it come under our Zodiac is a sight which stays with one.

(I have to credit one of our guides, Aitana, with the footage of the seal swimming underwater; I was unable to capture that, so I’m glad to have her snippet as a record.

Penguins, too, are very cute and photogenic even in stills. But one needs to see them doing penguinish things to get the full charm.

It was generally more rewarding to encounter wildlife on land – it gives one a better feeling of connection to what’s going on.  That sense of connection was a bit tenuous in places.  The Falklands, for example, was so windy that at times one felt one was going to be blown off the cliff face.  Here, video can give a sense of what it was like.

It was fucking windy.  I managed to get a vantage point elsewhere which felt a bit less dangerous, to capture a bit of albatross behaviour – feeding a chick until there was no more food, then flying away to get more…a parent’s work is never done.

Capturing footage like that is quite rewarding even if it feels a little perilous at some times. I suspect I’d have been OK; there were plenty of other photographers around to break my fall if I’d stumbled.

There was a second and third learning from gaining this footage. One is to listen to the experts; Ursula was nearby and told me that the parent albatross would fly when it had finished feeding.  All I had to do was to keep an eye out and I would be able to capture the decisive moments.  The other was – patience.  I had to stand and try to keep my camera trained on a particular parent-and-chick for quite some time (whilst being blown to buggery by the winds) in order to get the footage I wanted.

One development of my skill, such as it is, over the trip was to become more interested in behaviours, rather than simply seeking to get a good sharp close-up of an animal. Jane helped me a lot, and having the guides around for extra information and education was excellent, too.

Close-to was definitely the place to be for most photography purposes. But it was possible to see wildlife from the ship.  Most of the time, someone would shout “whale!” and there would be a surge of people to one side or other stare out of the windows or to rush on deck, there to catch (if lucky) the disappearing fin of a humpback some fair distance from the ship.  Having had a very rewarding whale watching experience in New England recently, I tended to stay in my place rather than join the giddy throng.  But there were some occasions where the sights were excellent even from on board. Here are a few: particularly, the fin whale feeding sequence is something that no still photography could do justice to.

And so ends our South America and Southern Ocean Odyssey, a very intense month in our lives, probably never to be repeated.  We might try an expedition cruise to the Arctic at some stage, which will be similarly intense and challenging, but I doubt we could ever be so lucky again as to the weather we had when Due South; the weather gods were incredibly kind to us and our experience was the richer for that.

That’s it for the pages about this expedition. There will be others; in the current plan we have one not-so-ambitious outing and one which could be astonishingly varied and content-rich.  As ever, an internet being available, I will write about them here, so Stay Tuned!