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.

I used to be a were-penguin

but I’m all right no-owwww!


OK, I know that penguins are off, Steve is sated with them and at least one reader has morphed them into Caguins ( a must read). But never mind they make decent blogging material.

How about these two having a right old splish splash?


Of course not only penguins go splish splash – whales do it too!

Humpback-whale-1 HBW-Fluke-2 HBW-Fluke

Sadly the closest we got to a whale went unrecorded as it was only about 2m down and about 2m away – a humpback went under and around our zodiac. And I mean right underneath. One person was trying to take video with a Go-Pro camera attached to a gripper rod. The rest of us sat open-mouthed in amazement as the creature checked us out. Nobody had a lens wide enough as we were all shooting with longer zooms or primes. So be content with more distant shots. Apologies for the quality but zodiacs move to start with and when people are standing up and changing lenses etc its hard to get a stable image – my 400mm prime does not have IS or VR.

Next a couple of seal shots. I think they are both Crabeaters but I stand ready to be corrected.



And to round things off, a Restricted rated shot of a pair of Skuas and just to prove that we did see some, an iceberg (detail).



And that’s it for today. I had lunch with my old work chums and enjoyed it as always. I also saw an elusive thrush in the garden. This is my 3rd sighting of this bird without a photo. It is so skittish it flies in seconds. Today it was spooked when a nearby Blackbird coughed gently. It is not the Wimp Thrush however but Brown-headed, Turdus chrysolaus,  of that ilk and it is decidedly unusual hereabouts so I want a record shot as proof. I also added Black-faced bunting, Emberiza spodocephala, to the garden list also without a photo. They are common though and I am sure a photographable one will linger sooner or later.

And so to bed……………… good night.

Ice show…….

A shag on ice. Stop smirking, Jones minor.

Antarctic shag, Phalacrocorax [atriceps] bransfieldensis (per Shirihai).


And a couple of seals to go with it:


And as it is a fine photo indeed, a guest appearance from Mrs. Ha’s collection, the stunningly beautiful Weddell seal, Leptonychotes wedellii.


Hers was taken with the Canon SX50 HS. This was my interpretation(s) with canon 5D3:


Weddell in curious mode. Who woke me up?


And back to sleep with feet in the air.

These were taken at Larsen Harbour and we fell in love with the place and the seals. Quite enchanting. It caused a minor spat with the “Photographer in Residence”. I took a shot of the environment (with my little Lumix LX5) and developed it in 2 ways – a B&W conversion and an interpretation that was very blue. Just before I showed him the shot we discussed how sensors interpret colour and the blues in our images. Was it really so blue? His reaction was “I hate it when people exaggerate the blue. It is so unnatural”. Then he looked at my blue version and said – “That’s dreadful!! I have no idea what it is supposed to be”. I pointed it out it wasn’t an attempt to portray Larsen harbour as it is but as I wanted to show it. By validation I showed him the B&W version. “Now that’s fine”, he said. So there we have it. Black & white are in, blue is out. What colours will you be wearing this season? Not blue I hope.



And before my language turns blue, that’s your lot for today.