All good things must come to an end

January. Half the month in the frozen South, half the month blogging about it. With a few days birding thrown in here at home. Blog stats off (my) scale. Thank you penguins.

There is good news and alas, as always, bad news. I leave you to decide which is which. February will start a period of reduced output from the resident scribe. The dog may substitute now and again as she has in the past. We are still in contract negotiations. There are lots more holiday snaps to show but retirement and blogging bring in no money so I have succumbed to the temptation of filthy lucre and agreed to do some work over the next quarter. Who knows it may pay for the next big expedition. Mrs. Ha has whispered both Arctic and Galapagos in my ear since we returned. The only condition set by Mrs. Ha is that I do turn up for daughter number 1’s wedding. I think I shall manage that.

And so to today’s offerings. Three black and white landscapes, one of which was given a sneak preview on Flickr yesterday to rave reviews. Well…..six to be precise. Thank you all. And today there is a quiz attached. Because one of them was taken by Mrs. Ha and you are invited to guess which one. Can you tell the difference between a canon 5D3 shot and a Canon SX50 HS? Here’s your chance.






And that concludes January 2013. Thank you so much for following me as I meander through the almost 6000 files we shot. I feel I should have presented things in a more organised and coherent matter but I didn’t and I apologise. Maybe next time.

Happy February everyone.



The Big Picture

Alas you have not landed at Barry Ritholtz‘s splendid blog (arguably the only blog more worth reading than mine) but my humble glissade into oblivion. We have not yet, I am glad to say, left Antarctica in our minds even if our bodies are now a full 2 weeks removed. There are plenty of images left in the cookie jar.

I did go out this morning to my local patch in the hope of finding something decent to shoot with my macro lens. I saw a few good birds – both male and female Grey-backed thrush, Red-throated flycatcher, Common kingfisher (a nice female), some Hair-crested drongos and a selection of the local lags. Nothing though worth posting. The bonus was meeting someone I had previously known only through online exchanges about photography. A genuine pleasure and enjoyable time to pass an unproductive morning.

And so to the images for today:

the first is rather subfusc and the white background doesn’t do it justice so I shall also post it to Flickr where you can see it in a Lightbox. I’m afraid I could not resist the lure of black & white.


The next one I called The Jaggies, which sounds like a 1980s Scottish rock band but probably isn’t.


And finally one that justifies The Big Picture title, in content if not in size. Sadly again the white background does it less justice than I hoped.


Those are some of our landing party approaching the ridge, a clear sign that Mrs. Ha and I were lagging whilst others led the charge. In fact we made it no further than the huts. Up close the hut on the right looks like this:


It is the Damoy Hut, a restored refuge that now functions as a museum. We were therefore at Dorian Bay, Wiencke Island at this time. I shall have to raid Mrs. Ha’s pantry of internal shots to show you what it looks like inside. Or perhaps my own….. I think some of these may just be past their sell-by date.


It does prove however that tins ain’t wot they used to be (groan). And I think I shall quit whilst I am (possibly) ahead. I’m off to Flickr to post some white-outs.

À bientôt!

What colour is ice?

The two biggest problems I have had processing images from our trip have been scale and colour. Let me start with an example.


I called this whale scale. Looking at this it is easy to overlook the fact that centre mid-foreground are two cruising humpback whales. The iceberg right background is the size of a skyscraper. We took the zodiacs as close to this berg as we dare. Before I illustrate the size I come onto the captioned question. What colour is ice. We left the Vavilov as far as I recall around 5.30am. We were out for about three hours. Longer than that and the biting cold chills through your multiple clothing layers, primarily due to inactivity. Walking you stay warm. Sitting in a zodiac you chill. During those three hours my perception of the colour of the environment changed dramatically. When I process the images there is a balance to be chosen between authenticity and interpretation. Shooting RAW allows me to make the changes I want but they may not reflect the memories others have of those moments in time. And so my shot taken of the iceberg below was probably at the end of the trip as we cruised back to the boat whereas the shot above was taken early on as we negotiated the floe ice. One Ocean were always alert to the danger of the way the ice can shift with current and wind so we were always checking to see if we had a route, however indirect, back to safety.


Those dots on the lower left shelf are penguins. So compare the scale – whales, icebergs, penguins….. And the shades run from a washed out grey to a beautiful blue.

To demonstrate the consistency of my memory, here is another shot I took early in the cruise.


This is certainly substantially bluer than the first shot but lacks the glow of the later image.

I also tried processing these scenes in monochrome but sadly I could not find an effective tone. The ice looks either dirty grey or, if pushed, almost black. Completely unrealistic. Arguably they look good as an image but who thinks of icebergs as black? To me that was pushing beyond an interpretation and straying into converting for the sake of converting.

Once again you can see the huge iceberg against the coastline. Such distances are hard to judge but the ice made it too risky for us to attempt our planned landing. This was to have been I think our main target for Adelie penguins and hence the paucity of our sightings for the trip. The compensation was more Chinstraps on ice. And so to round off this post, here are two more chinnies for your enjoyment (and mine).

Welcome to Antarctica, says Chinny.


And then, when we don’t throw him any krill, he slopes off dejectedly.


So that’s it. Any suggestions how to deal with colour and scale would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Oh and thank you for making this my best month ever for stats – and in only half a month. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, penguins bring home the bacon.