Perfecting The Penguin Portrait

August 12, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Adelie Penguin, Paulet Island. Photographed with a Canon EOS-1D X and the 200-400mm 1.4x super zoom. When you get in close to your subject (relatively speaking), the background is thrown well out of focus and the 'blurring' or 'bokeh' is glorious!

Lying flat on my stomach, I'm sure I didn't look like a penguin. Mind you, I hopefully didn't look like a beached whale either, although with the amount of warm clothing on, I was well padded from the rocky shore below me.

I'm no wildlife expert, by which I mean I'm not a naturalist nor an animal behaviour specialist. However, when it comes to photographing wildlife, I like to think the principles of portraiture and landscape photography apply in equal measure - with one important addition: patience. The more wildlife photography I do, the more I realise that it is time in the field that gets you great shots. Yes, this one's not bad, but there are aspects that could be improved.

For instance, the penguins on the right don't have heads - they might be better out of the way completely, or at least showing a bit more of a bump so animal rights zealots don't accuse me of cruelty. The penguin on the left is not cropped off the best either. Similarly, the penguin partly obscuring the chick isn't in the best position. Unfortunately, when the hero of the photo did its thing, this is how it was, but I'm sure if I had another hour or so, I could have nailed similar antics with a better arrangement of the supporting cast.

Does this make sense? I mean, I love this photo and the moment it has captured, but I can see how it could be better still. And once you've photographed a few hundred penguins, you start to refine your vision. They are still incredibly photogenic, it's just a matter of having all the elements come together at the one time.

Easy for me to say because I'm heading down to Antarctica and South Georgia in November and I will have many more opportunities to perfect my penguin portrait technique. Mind you, Aurora tells me there are still spots available on the Polar Pioneer if you'd like to come with me, plus they are offering to fly your partner to South America and back for free! I guess that means there will be two of you coming along!

For more information, visit or click here. And mention the special 'partner flies free' offer (assuming you're taking your partner, of course!)


No comments posted.