How BAD can it get?

I wanted to explain today how it works if you want to photograph penguins. This is what happens.

1) Sit down (or lie down if you are younger than I am)

2) Wait.

3) Penguins will come and say hello.AJH and pengunsThat is how difficult it is.  And yes that is indeed me with 2 of my chums. What you can’t do is find a penguin and walk up to it and say “do you mind if I take your photograph?”  Well, I guess if you are more than 5m away you can shout and use a longer lens but the chances are the Ps are going to form a Q to come and chat anyway. As you can see, you need to be a very accomplished photographer with advanced fieldcraft to master this technique.

Some of the locals get a bit overwhelmed at all the attention.

ExhaustionPerhaps a little too much vino collapso with lunch? So what is today’s bird? We must have a proper bird. Not a penguin. Well today’s choice is (I hope) White-chinned Petrel. I have no idea where I took this. I suspect it was on the crossing from The Falklands to South Georgia  but I’m not sure. And whenever it was and for that matter whatever it is it is certainly a high octane petrel. Going like the proverbial wind.WhitechinnedPetrel2If I haven’t convinced you to go South by now, I never will. But if you still need an extra incentive, this could be you:


Alas poor Hannes….





B is for Black

No birds that I noticed today. Sorry. I am still captivated by my look back at our Antarctica trip. Most of my bird shots were taken with DSLRs. However it is fair to say that many times it was incredibly useful to have a pocket camera. Many landscapes / seascapes were taken with what is rather disparagingly called a Point and Shoot. These are nowadays anything but P&S. They have the capacity to produce RAW files, they have good lenses and they are often highly customisable. Indeed one blogger I follow bemoans the end of the ‘simple’ camera, the one without all the bells and whistles. Their failing continues to be poor image quality at higher ISOs. This is gradually changing. My Fuji X100s has excellent high ISO image quality but has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens. But for Antarctica I took a camera that was not new. The thinking being that I was likely to expose it to seawater and sub-zero temperatures. If it packed up, so be it. I took my Lumix DMC LX5. Made my Panasonic but with a very decent Leica lens built in.

I set it to take RAW and jpeg files of each shot so if Mrs. Ha wanted to nip down to Fotomax to get some printed she could do so without waiting 3 years for me to process them. When I looked at the RAW files I decided they were a little grainy. That meant of course they were ideal for the black and white conversion treatment. So to prove that you don’t need super-expensive gear to take half decent scenic shots, here are 4 I chose this afternoon.

BW-landscape Outlook-BW Whaling-station-BW BWseascapeAnd finally, if you got this far……….. drum roll:




Oh for the wings of a petrel?

One of the easiest birds to photograph on our trip down South was the Giant Petrel. GP comes in two flavours, Northern and Southern. The easiest differentiating feature is the bill tip. In NGP it is a reddish colour and SGP shows a dull green hue. Of course this presupposes that you are close enough to offer it a handkerchief. Blow into that sir or madam.  It is not that difficult to get so close as they circle the boats, or rather they seemed to fly a figure of eight. The photographer’s job was simple. Work out the best position relative to the light and proximity to the boat. If you got it wrong there was an outside risk of being dinged on the head by a bird with a 6′ wingspan, tipping the scales at almost 5kg. That is like being hit over the head with 2 Lulus. Except that the dog doesn’t have a 6′ wingspan.  But the weight is about right.

Despite this ease of snapping on board ship I could not resist the temptation to capture them when we were on land. One decided to glide down to take a look at us. Possibly it thought Mrs. Ha would make a decent snack. Anyway I was ready to take photographs for the identification parade if a crime was committed and I present to the jury, Exhibit A – incoming bandit at 3 o’clock.

Giant-PetrelThis was a somewhat closer view of a different bird; Northern GP or halli‘s comet perhaps…..

Northern-giant-petrelAnd this was my favourite:

Sharpened-versionYou just can’t beat a good silhouette.  Either that or my flash failed.

Neither flavour of GP has visited our garden yet. We did have an Osprey flying near the house this morning so we put Lulu inside. You can never be too careful. Fish. Dog. Dog. Fish. How good is an Osprey at telling the difference? We just can’t take the risk. All these birds look so innocent but they are not. I am contemplating introducing you to the South Polar Skua but it is pretty hardcore stuff and this is a family blog. I need to mull this over a while yet.