Photographers' Blog

Wildlife of Farne

Farne Islands

By Nigel Roddis

The Farne Islands, a cluster of rocky outcrops in the windswept ocean off the northeastern English coast, might not sound like a particularly welcoming destination. But although they are a harsh environment for humans, they are a haven for wildlife, from grey seals to some 23 types of seabird.

I had been to the islands many times before to go diving, but this time I wanted to shoot an extended story about the many species that live there. Over the course of the project, which ran from May to November 2013, I spent seven days both on the islands themselves and under the sea that surrounds them, photographing the teeming wildlife.

This was a fascinating year to document one of the Farne Islands’ most distinctive inhabitants: puffins. Every five years, UK conservation charity the National Trust conducts a census of this strange-looking seabird, with its black-and-white body and colorful bill. The latest one began in May this year.

The rangers who carry out the survey have to search some 90,000 burrows on the islands, where electricity is scarce and running water non-existent. They have just one day off a week to go back to the mainland, but if weather conditions are poor they can be left stranded. Once this year they were stuck on the islands for 17 days.

Yet the rangers who work on the census are extremely dedicated and this year they got good news. The survey showed there were almost 40,000 pairs of nesting puffins on the islands, a significant increase from 2008 when the number was just 36,835.

Under the ice

Lake Weissensee, Austria

By Michael Dalder

I’ve been diving for almost 15 years, but due to family matters it has fallen off my list lately. So a new picture assignment at Lake Weissensee in mid-February 2013 just came right to my diver’s heart: The Underwater Ice hockey Championships.

Underwater Ice hockey is not played on top of the ice like ice hockey is usually played but underneath it. That’s where diving comes into the game because the underwater ice hockey players are in fact apnea divers who want to give their sports an additional sportive kick.

My day started early when I met with the men and women from the Vienna rescue divers’ squad ASBOe – Moedling. These dive enthusiasts are responsible for safety and security during the whole tournament. If you dive under ice you can’t go straight to the surface to breath if you have an emergency. Thus ice diving is, together with cave diving, considered to be the most dangerous diving discipline. For that reason I listened to the security briefing attentively.

Underwater Olympics

By Michael Dalder

After shooting 15 days of swimming, diving and synchronized swimming, the staff of Simons Dive Lodge helped me with the final dive into the Olympic pool. We went down to take our remote controlled robotic underwater camera out of the water.

To get this special perspective from below, we brought 6 Peli Cases containing some 200 kg (440 pounds) of equipment including 150 meters (yards) of power and network cables to the Aquatics Centre to place the underwater camera in the water.

Covering swimming with the underwater unit guarantees long work days as the camera can only be accessed early in the morning or after 10pm at night after the last swimming competition is over.

Learning the ropes of Olympic sailing

By Pascal Lauener

When Switzerland suddenly became a sailing nation after Alinghi won the 2003 America’s Cup for the first time and then had to defend the Cup in Valencia, I had the chance to cover sailing. Since a young boy, I have been attracted to boats, more so to container vessels rather then sailing ships. However after covering the America’s Cup in Valencia, I became fascinated by sailing. Challenged by the elements (wind, weather and water) and on a shaking rib (boat) it’s not so easy to get a good shoot of the action. But with the help of my Spanish colleagues and some old sailing photography professionals I made my way to the Olympic sailing in Quindao followed by another America’s Cup and now to the sailing event at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Benoit Tessier, a Reuters photographer from Paris, and I arrived in Weymouth on July 23 and started our coverage of the games with press conferences and training sessions of the different sailing classes. Every morning on our way to the ribs (boats for the media) with our heavy Peli cases, mentally checking that you have packed everything for a day out at sea, the sun cream and the oil gear for the sea spray and rain, you hope you will return with some cool frames.

On board the rib the first thing I do is to get my underwaterhousing and my cameras ready for action. I put the underwaterhousing on the floor of the rib so it’s ready whenever we have the chance to come as close as possible to a sailor. I also have the two cameras one on a 500mm and the other on a 28-300mm lens back in the Pelicase. On the way out of the port you make your plans together with the captain of the rib and your colleagues on board. But as they are also your competitors you need to find a way so that everyone gets the things they need as there is no place for dispute on a moving rib.

Awed underwater

By David Loh

Anticipation was high as we started up our boat in the capital, Male, and headed to Maldives’ remote northern Baa atoll. Our destination; the geologically unique Hanifaru Bay. The bay is so small that you could walk around the island in a ten-minute stroll. Every year, hundreds of manta rays and a handful of whale sharks gather for their annual feeding frenzy of plankton in July and August.

Baa Atoll was recently declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and for reasons of conservation, word has it that the Maldives is likely to shut down Hanifaru Bay to divers. This season might just be the last chance to dive inside the bay. That’s where Tan Shung Sin, my colleague from the Singapore Global Pictures desk, and I ventured to capture images.

Thomas Peschak of the “Save Our Seas Foundation” made Hanifaru famous overnight when he shot the feeding frenzy in the summer of 2009 for National Geographic. Preparing for a topside news assignment is easy for me (I’ve been doing it for over 16 years with Reuters) but shooting underwater is a new ball game; and trying to make it into a multimedia project? Where do I start? How does one plan to cover an event like this?

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