World Photography Day

August 20, 2015
Arctic fox pup

Arctic fox pup in Svalbard

 I’ve had a passion for fascinating images of wildlife and wild places for as long as I can remember. I can recall my angry parents walking into my childhood bedroom while I zealously stapled wildlife photos from magazines and calendars across an entire wall, floor to ceiling. I only wish I had an image from my old bedroom to share.

Before I had my own camera I quietly watched and admired my father as he meticulously lined up every shot with his 35 mm Minolta; albeit to the aggravation of the rest of the family. Long before I had my own first camera, the idea of being able to freeze a moment in time became an obsession for me. I began to use both fingers and thumbs to create a viewfinder and could be found squinting with one eye open clucking my tongue to mimic the shutter. I was quite a sight I’m sure.

At university I explored other avenues and while my interest in photography and wildlife always lingered, I found myself in job roles that numbed my soul. Ultimately, and very fortunately, I have come full circle to find myself fully immersed in what I love the most. Today I spoke with a man who referred to scuba diving as his religion. While I feel very strongly about scuba diving and the oceans and definitely agree with his statement, I feel compelled to expand on it a bit to include the rest of the natural world as well. Wilderness is my religion. I feel at peace there. It is what fills me with joy. And photography is the medium I use to convey my love for it.

Happy Photo Day!

Elysium Artists for the Arctic: Raffle for the Last Team Member

May 2, 2015

Exciting news everyone! Ocean Geographic has decided to raffle off the final spot on the 3-week long Elysium Artists for the Arctic expedition (8/29-9/16) for only $50 a ticket. All money raised goes towards making the journey carbon neutral, and one lucky winner will get to go on the trip of a lifetime for only $50! Runner up goes to Cuba with OG early next year. Enter now for your chance to join the Elysium Team: Who’s coming with us??

Polar Bear

Gozo: The Isle of Calypso

April 29, 2015
Inland Sea | Gozo, Malta

Inland Sea

      A couple of weeks ago I finally got a chance to make it to the island of Gozo for some diving. For those unfamiliar with Gozo, it is one of the three inhabited Maltese Islands, which are situated in the southern Mediterranean Sea 300km north of Africa. Only accessible from the main island by ferry, Gozo has avoided overdevelopment and retained a lot more of its natural beauty both above and below sea level than it’s parent island, Malta.
Boat at Inland Sea Tunnel, Inland Sea | Gozo, Malta

Inland Sea Tunnel

The islands have been home to many feature films such as Gladiator, Troy, and Alexander; as well as scenes from the T.V. series Game of Thrones. Furthermore, it was exciting to learn that recently Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were filming the movie, By the Sea, in the same picturesque bay, Mgarr ix-Xini, that I explored underwater.

Snorkeler at the Blue Hole | Gozo, Malta

Snorkeler at Blue Hole

The geography topside consists of a hilly, terraced landscape which in April is littered with a colourful array of wildflowers. Olive, citrus, and pine trees thrive on the rocky, limestone earth. Grape vines also seem to fare well here as the sun can be relied on to shine 300 days of the year. Vast cave systems can be explored topside as well as underwater. And as you can see from the images the topography is rather magnificent. Diving through the many underwater tunnels was certainly a highlight for me.

Xlendi Tunnel, Xlendi Bay | Gozo, Malta

Xlendi Tunnel, Xlendi Bay

My partner and I arrived in Gozo during the second week of April with the plan to spend the next seven days becoming familiar with our new dry suits.  We positioned ourselves in the charming nook of Xlendi Bay, just ten minutes from the capital, Victoria. Xlendi Bay is the type of place I could easily find myself relocating to one day. It’s quaint yet visually stunning, intimate yet breathtakingly expansive. In fact, that’s exactly how Neil and Sally, the owners of Utina Diving College felt when they took over their dive shop in this seaside town.

Xlendi Tunnel, Xlendi Bay | Gozo, Malta

My Zen Place | Xlendi Tunnel

We couldn’t have been more pleased with the time we spent diving with Utina, and were certainly very well looked after while we got acclimated to our new Santi dry suits. Learning to dive in a drysuit truly is like learning to dive all over again and they were more than patient with us. Adding my camera to the mix after only three dives certainly increased the learning curve. While I am happy with the shots I took I know they could have been a whole lot better had I felt more confident diving. I suppose good old fashioned practice is the only way to improve! With diving plans for cold water lakes in Austria and Norway, and open water dives in Iceland, the practice will certainly need to continue to re-master the art of buoyancy control to the point of instinct.

Exit of Xlendi Tunnel, Xlendi Bay | Gozo, Malta

Xlendi Tunnel, Xlendi Bay

Mggar-ix-Xini | Gozo, Malta

Mggar-ix-Xini | The movie, By the Sea, was Shot in this Bay

Octopus | Gozo, Malta

On the Last Dive of the Trip, and Moments Away from Surfacing this Huge Octopus Appeared out of Nowhere in Front of Me

Note: I should point out that while we wore our drysuits for our personal and training reasons, others managed with 5-7mm wetsuits. The Spring in Malta is a little chilly underwater although temperatures only ranged between 15 and 18 degrees centigrade while we were there. Not too bad! Of course with the strength of the sun the water warms quite quickly and only a few weeks from now most divers will be wearing wetsuits.
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Snow Geese Migration

April 6, 2015

Snow Geese

A few weeks ago, on what had to be one of the windiest days of the year, I was crazy enough to attempt photographing seabirds along the New Jersey coast. Armed with some new telephoto equipment, I was adamant about shooting some birds. But as I was trying to steady myself in the violent wind, I began to question the sanity of this endeavor. At that same moment, a car pulled up directly in my line of sight. I recognized the driver as we ​had spoken casually several times along the trail; however, this time she had something interesting to share with me. Devastated by wind chill factor, I listened to her explain how her husband, an avid birder,​ had driven five hours west of where we were standing to see an enormous migration of snow geese. Roughly 110,000 in fact! On their way home to the Arctic tundra to breed, the snow geese had apparently stopped to take a breather in Middle Creek, Pennsylvania and it sounded like quite a spectacle to behold.

Snow Geese Migration

Grateful for this piece of information, I made the swift decision to put my camera away and do some quick research. As I surfed the web, I became exhilarated by the idea of a hundred thousand birds as I realized I had never seen so many in my life. I grew increasingly eager at the prospect of witnessing such an event. However, by the time I was able to make it to Middle Creek (two days later), the park rangers informed me that the snow geese population had decreased by half. Eventually more would arrive from the south but I only had the one afternoon so 55,000 geese and a few thousand tundra swan would have to suffice.

Snow Geese in Cornfield

I arrived by early afternoon and the air was a bit frigid. Despite the cold, it was lovely to find a large group of birders, photographers, and families just as excited about the migration as I was. Everyone had gathered around the edge of Middle Creek Lake where they waited patiently for any sign of activity from the napping geese. I looked for a spot to get set up but prime real estate was difficult to secure. As I got situated and pulled out my new gear, I noticed a bit of commotion out on the lake. What started with the honking of a few geese quickly grew into a chorus and eventually a magnificent blanket of white peeling off the frozen earth and into flight. I found myself awe-struck and only half-heartedly took a few shots as my concentration was elsewhere. With an eye glued to my viewfinder, I could only see a fraction of the scene. It felt as though I were inside a giant snow globe and the snowflakes dancing all around me were in fact snow geese.

Snow Geese

I spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening at the water’s edge playing around with my new equipment and chatting it up with some locals. From time to time small flocks of geese would fly north, however their exits were not nearly as grand as the first one I had encountered. As the sun inched its way towards the horizon, luckily I got one final chance to witness another mass flight exodus which was at least as impressive as the first. With just a small population of geese left on the lake, I was easily tempted to tag along with another photographer to a cornfield north of the lake. Very happy with the decision to leave the lake, I was able to get within ten feet of thousands of snow geese eating their dinner in a beautiful, rolling field as the sun set behind me. This final close encounter kissed by dapple sunlight made for the most special part of a special day providing a wonderful swan song for my avian afternoon.

*All images taken on a Canon 5D MKIII  

An Adoption Story: African Penguins

February 22, 2015

The idea to adopt an African penguin came to me after visiting two wild penguin colonies in South Africa – the first at Boulder’s Beach (False Bay) and the other at Stony Point (Betty’s Bay). It was my first time witnessing penguins in their natural habitat and I loved every second of it. After learning that their population has gone from a staggering four million in the early 1900’s to just 21,000 breeding pairs left in the wild today (South Africa & Namibia) I felt compelled to help.

African penguins are interesting little creatures to watch and photograph, each with their own distinct personality. But I noticed a common theme amongst the colonies. Nervousness. These are astutely aware creatures. Perhaps, they are even cognisant of their declining population and endangered status.

Penguin AdoptionPenguin Adoption

So in lieu of chocolates, and a romantic dinner for two, this year my partner and I opted for a rather unorthodox Valentine’s Day gift to one another. As I wrote about in my last post, African penguins are a monogamous species. Usually, male and female penguins mate for life and for this reason (among others) I thought adopting a pair would be a much more appropriate way to celebrate the day.

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