This article was originally published in the Swedish magazine FOTO
Physically, they look like adults, they have developed their adult plumage, but they are still just as curious as the chicks. As I laid down on the ground, wide angle lens at the ready, it did not take long before some inquisitive Gentoos came up to investigate my equipment. After a few minutes they climbed on to my back. Allan White, who is in charge of the Pebbles Island hostel and who grew up in the Falklands, afterwards excitedly told me that this was the first time he had experienced anything like it.
Canon EOS 1Ds MarkII and a 2470/2.8 with a wide angle setting.
After spending two weeks on the Falklands I am beginning to feel rather desperate. This has been the wettest January ever. The summers are always windy, but I am still suffering from the day when the wind speed reached 60 mph, confining me to my bed for several days with a high fever. I have a deadline, but I am not getting the pictures I want. The book must be ready in three months time, on March 31, including layout and translation of the text that is being produced as I write.
In the United States a new million-dollar film project will soon be showing in theatres, this time it is an animation "Happy feet"; the French film “March of the Penguins�? was recently launched in Sweden.
Since there is only a ferry service every six weeks, you need to use the local operator FIGAS’ small propeller aircraft that are probably flown by former fighter pilots who negotiate the six-seater planes in winds of up to 30 knots, or 35mph. The only day the flight was cancelled there were hurricane force winds. To fly between the islands is rather like catching the bus. Each farm needs to be visited to help bring a cat to the vet or deliver passengers, mail or pharmaceuticals. After five or six stopovers of no more than five minutes each, you finally reach your destination – after two weeks and twenty-five take-offs and landings, you stop worrying about flying.
What do you pack when there is no forwarding service in case your bags get lost? Inside my hard-shell suitcase I pack a soft camera bag, the largest model available, which has so far accommodated all my equipment. Inside the camera bag I put my long 500 mm telephoto lens, 100–400 zoom lens, flash, a spare camera shell (Canon EOS 1 D Mark II), remote control, two external hard discs, etc. A tripod (I do not prefer the super light models) and my Wimberley head for the long telephoto lens is placed next to the soft bag. Some clothes – I forgot my bird book in the rush – and a toilet bag. Despite my efforts to keep within the limit I will have twenty kilos overweight when I board the Falklands plane – fourteen kilos is all you are permitted, not exactly an ideal situation for a photographer.
My hand luggage is a major problem. If my suitcase goes astray, I still have to survive down there. Only seven kilos is out of the question. My cabin bag contains my Canon 1 Ds Mark II shell, which weighs almost two kilos; my large Canon battery charger (I am lost without it); my 70–200 zoom; a wide angle lens and a light 400 mm telephoto lens. Luckily, I have a jacket with huge pockets. My new, tiny Apple laptop with a twelve inch screen fits into one of the large inside pockets. I could get by with this, if I must.
The weather stays clear, and this is the place to be. After shooting for three consecutive hours I realise that I have probably taken about 20 different pictures for the book only during the course of the morning. Not only Kings and Gentoos, but I experience one of the most amazing moments of the entire trip. I almost missed it, but from the corner of my eye, over on my right, I spot something strange going on among the Magellanic penguins. What is happening? How many chicks does that parent have? I crawl closer with my 500 mm and 1.4 converter, ready to shoot. Contrary to the larger species such as the King and Emperor penguins, Magellanic penguins are shy; they tend to disappear down into their burrows as soon as you start getting too close. I count no less than six hungry chicks chasing the poor adult. Magellanic penguins never give birth to more than three. I was more than satisfied with the pictures I had already taken, but I manage to shoot a series of pictures before all the chicks and the adult disappear down the same hole in the ground.
What had I just witnessed? Presumably another parent was incubating down the same burrow, and for some reason this parent had taken on all six chicks. A seventh chick tried to join the company, but was immediately chased away.
Just before the jeep arrives to pick me up I walk down to the long beach. The wind is getting stronger again and the sand is whirling in the air. I notice a group of King penguins at a distance and wait for them to come together. With my 100–400 zoom I manage to take several group pictures with the waves in the background and the sand forming a hazy cloud at the bottom of the picture.
My family will after all not have to wait several more weeks for me to return. And it will be easier for me to deliver the message that I after only a few weeks at home will have to go down to South Africa in order to photograph African penguins …
The cormorant chicks where test flying, and after half a day of trying to document their first, brief attempts I put down my camera, with the remote control switched on, a few yards from the mixed colony. I was hoping to get some wide angle pictures of Rockhopper chicks, but instead this inquisitive cormorant turned up. When it suddenly made a fierce attack at the lens I was forced to rush up and save it.
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II and 2470/2.8.
The wind force was never less than 22 mph during the three weeks I spent on the Falklands and the winds often stirred up the sand. King penguins on the beach at Volunteer Point. I was on my back home to Sweden, waiting for the jeep to get me to the town when I saw this group one mile away, I ran there, got them in a group for just a second, and this spread in the book was the last photo I took.
Canon EOS 1 Ds Mark II and 100400/4.55.6 with Image Stabilizer.
Magellanic penguin with six chicks:
I was busy photographing King penguins in the early morning sun when I from the corner of my eye noticed a small group of Magellanic penguins in the distance. To my surprise, as I got closer I found six chicks and a parent that did everything it could to get away from their overpowering attention. I have heard about and managed to photograph three chicks with a parent, but six I crawled as close as I could and managed to take a whole series of shots with my 500 mm before all six chicks disappeared into the same burrow together with the parent. A seventh chick had also tried to join the company, but the adult penguin had chased it away. I came to the conclusion that two parents must have been incubating together, and that this parent somehow had taken on the others chicks, at least temporarily. Was it a kind of nanny?
Canon EOS 1 Ds Mark II with a 500/4 and a 1.4 times converter.
In just a few minutes the weather is changing, a storm is blowing up and the gentoos are running back to their colony.