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Albatrosses, fulmars, shearwaters, storm petrels…

During the trip to Antarctica I was able to photograph several species of albatrosses and other birds. While shooting these beautiful, majestic birds I encountered some difficulties. The first was the Drake Passage. When crossing the strait from Ushuaia in Patagonia to Antarctica, even though we could tell that the waters were calm, it did not mean that the ship was upright and was not leaning on one side. Even when the weather was good walking on the deck was a problem. It was not easy, especially with photographic equipment, to move to the stern – the most stable place on the ship, sheltered from the wind. Additionally, working with the camera on a tripod, with the birds moving so quickly and in a small number, it was another trouble to tackle with. Albatrosses, petrels, fulmars were coming into sight every half an hour and I could make several attempts to take pictures. It was a question what lens would be the best in this situation. Once the birds were a few hundred meters away from the ship and after a while they were so close that it was impossible to capture their larger than three-meter wings. Northern giant-petrels and cape petrels happened to approach too close for me to focus well and take pictures, it was a distance of about  4 - 5 meters. It was an amazing impression made by so close contact with wild birds, hundreds of kilometers from the mainland. However, in spite of all obstacles, my patience and tenacity in trying for hours produced the desired results, at least in my opinion. I have finally taken not only the images of albatrosses but also northern giant-petrels, fulmars, cape petrels, white-chinned petrels and storm petrels. It was several hundred kilometers from the coast, and it seemed that the windier there was, the more numerous and the closer the birds were getting. It looked like that especially with albatrosses and petrels, as cape petrels were present  almost  always. Unfortunately, the likelihood of taking good pictures was inversely proportional to the weather conditions. The worse it was in terms of weather and more difficult to obtain focused photos, and to keep standing on board, the more birds and opportunities to take pictures. When the sea calmed down a bit and it was technically easier to take a good picture, the birds appeared extremely rare. On the way back the weather conditions got worse to the point that going out was forbidden because it was simply dangerous (winds reaching force 7-8 on the Beaufort scale, waves of 4-5 meter). Such a prohibition lasted for more than a day and then we could admire albatrosses through windows, with no chance to take satisfying images. After all, it was technically impossible to take pictures because of the water overflowing the deck and significant ship heeling. Moreover, the temperature a little above or below zero, with a very strong wind, in these weather conditions it was physically impossible for me to wait for the birds soaring beautifully. Of course admiring them behind the glass of the ship it is not the same as from the deck. Antarctic cold air noise and the birds emerging from time to time, all this has its own unique and memorable climate. When we can watch the precision and ease the birds are soaring with, the speed of their flight and given the conditions in which they do, we appreciate it and feel respect and admiration for them. The birds can soar with high speed a few centimeters above the waves of the ocean, taking account of the uneven and dynamic surface, disappearing now and then out of the sight of the camera, "covered" or in fact for a moment hidden behind waves. Although I wore multi-layered clothes, after an hour or two I needed to take a half-hour break and warm up.

This description will be added to all these galleries that are connected with the ship, actually ship and boat, because I photographed not only on trip to Antarctica but for a few hours also on coastal waters of Ushuaia. I did not manage to take any photos of albatrosses and other listed species when on shore, with the exception of one shot of a giant petrel. The following is a brief information about each species.

Cape petrels accompanied us on a cruise to Antarctica almost all the time. Little flock of petrels was gliding by several ore more minutes not far from the ship, to rest then on the water for several minutes drifting on it. Then they were out of the sight. But then again, they caught up with the ship and it was another opportunity to take more photos. Taking pictures of this species it was no problem because they were constantly with us. They were changing the direction of flight quite dynamically, but often approached the ship for a few meters. Their distribution range is significant, but limited to the southern hemisphere. The wingspan is about 90 centimeters, and weight is less than half a kilogram.

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