We have been at sea for almost a day now after leaving Ushuaia, Argentina. The ship has been swaying quite a bit and there are several people on board who will be happy to be on dry land again – the sea sickness is really getting to them. Even our ship’s doctor is suffering from it.
The medication (Phenergan) that I took is doing the trick, but I am semi-lucid (OK, I am high as a kite) and just feel like sleeping. Some people are using a patch (Scopolamine) and it seems to be working well for them.
After we set sail yesterday, we were told that we were welcome to visit the bridge at anytime, so we decided to check it out:
I don’t think passengers are supposed to make long distance calls from the bridge (hee hee)! Actually, it was really interesting hearing about all of the ship’s controls, radar and navigation equipment. The crew were incredibly friendly and they really knew their stuff! (good thing too)
Now, where did that little birdie go?
I spent my time at sea trying to practise my bird photography technique. When you are (1) on the back of a ship in rough seas (2) bobbing up and down (3) with birds soaring past you (4) while drugged out of your head, it is a challenge to take an in-focus photo of a bird in flight. Fortunately (for me), my Nikon D3‘s AF (AF-C continuous mode, 21 points) was up to the task and I was able to get my first in-focus shot of this Black Browed Albatross:
We also encountered dozens of Giant Petrels following the ship. They had about a 2.5m wingspan. I could not believe how many of these large birds were flying around (or more accurately, gliding) in the open ocean as the nearest land is hundreds of kilometers away. Our resident ornithologist (the bird guy) told us that they actually spend most of their time at sea.
One of things I really appreciated about the Quark voyage was that the expedition staff were extremely knowledgeable about ornithology, geology, marine biology, Antarctic history and glaciology (the bartender was pretty cool too). They gave us daily lectures about what we were about to see, which made the voyage even more interesting and educational.
The next shot is of a Cape Petrel. They are really beautiful and are also called, “Pintado” which means “painted” in Spanish. The are amazing birds to watch in flight.
Another member of the same bird family is the Snow Petrel… they are about the size of a pigeon and were much more difficult to photograph since they are really fast and small (aside: an all white bird against an all white background is, well, really hard to photograph). They are pretty rugged creatures considering how small they are and that they can survive the harsh Antarctic climate.
How did he do it?
All of the above bird photos were taken with my Nikon D3 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II AF-S lens which was a lightening fast combination, provided could I actually see the bird in the viewfinder to lock focus on it (it was pretty rough on the open ocean). I also used the Nikon TC-20E III AF-S 2x Teleconverter when I needed to double my focal length. I typically stopped the zoom plus teleconverter combination down to f/7.1, shot at ISO 400 (or higher) and used a shutter speed of at least 1/1600th of a second to freeze the action and keep the image sharp. Nikon’s implementation of Auto ISO is very handy for situations like this.
When you are using a telephoto zoom at 200mm, you need pretty steady hands and good long lens technique. And that is ten times more important when you double your focal length to 400mm, even if you have VR (or Image Stabilisation for you Canon guys). Obviously, the sea conditions made taking a steady, in-focus shot really, really hard. But if you practise enough, you will ultimately get the hang of it (or else your camera + lens will fall into the ocean… kidding!).
We will be arriving in the Falkland Islands tomorrow and will have our first wet landing using the zodiacs. That should be fun and for some people, getting off the ship can’t come soon enough.
Meanwhile, I look forward to not being medicated. I am really having a hard time staying awake. My wife says I am walking around like a zombie, but how she could tell the difference from my normal state, I have no idea. The old appetite, however, seems to be intact and very healthy. (BTW, the food on board is excellent – kudos to the catering staff).
I guess I have been reduced to eating, sleeping… and taking photos! Not a bad way to live.
BTW, the following book was fantastic for identifying wildlife in the Antarctic. Very highly recommended.
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