Amazing and Beautiful Cuverville Island

The dramatic and harsh beauty of Cuverville Island, Antarctica.

Cuverville Island is an extraordinary place for photography off the Antarctic Peninsula. An extreme environment Cuverville Island is covered in deep snow and surrounded by water, icebergs and abundant wildlife.

 

A Gentoo penguin, standing alert on the steep slopes of Cuverville Island, Antarctica.

 

Gentoo Penguins on Cuverville Island

This dark, brooding and rocky island sits off the West coast of Graham Land in Antarctica and hosts a breeding colony of around 6,500 gentoo penguins as well as southern giant petrels and Antarctic shags.

We had great fun photographing groups of gentoo penguins as they promenaded along the shore line and climbed up the steep, mountainous slope above our zodiac disembarking point.

Making the photos was easy, given how relaxed the penguins were to our presence. As a rule you’re supposed to keep a reasonable distance from wildlife like penguins and seals.

Due to their size and aggressive nature you’d want to keep further back from large male southern elephant seals, which you’ll likely have the opportunity to photograph at subantarctic environs such as South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands.

On our tour we were told not to come any closer than 5 meters when viewing or photographing wildlife like penguins and seals.

However, there’s a good chance that curiosity will cause some of these criters to move within that range.

That’s considered acceptable which should emphasize the need to approach wildlife in a quiet and non-threatening way.

If you don’t invade their personal space you may just be rewarded with a visit from a curious and cute individual.

Telephoto Lenses for Wildlife Photography

When you do find yourself photographing wildlife from a greater distance a telephoto zoom lens will often be required.

The relatively narrow angle of view from a telephoto focal length will concentrate attention on your subject, by excluding much of the surroundings from your composition.

What’s more the greater magnification provided by the telephoto focal length will provide the impression that you’re closer to the subject than you actually are.

This greater magnification is likely to produce a more intimate result as it concentrates attention on the subject, particular when you’ve focused upon their eyes.

A dramatic sky and calm waters frame masses of ice and snow off Cuverville Island, Antarctica.

Photos From A Zodiac - Cuverville Island

I landed on Cuverville Island after a fabulous off shore zodiac exploration with participants on board the Aurora Expeditions operated Polar Pioneer on a photography tour I ran with fellow photographer and tutor David Burren.

It was exciting floating, almost silently, between the icebergs in the large bay off the coast of Cuverville Island.

The weather was bleak and the light cold, but we passed over the calm waters and worked hard to make some really lovely photos from the relative safety of our zodiac.

I was really proud of the images members of our tour group produced.

Photographing from a zodiac is great fun. It’s an activity I think all enthusiastic photographers should experience at least once in their lives.

The zodiac provides a relatively stable base helping to ensure sharper and better composed photos.

The fact that the zodiac is so close to the water provides a really interesting perspective that helps to monumentalize even relatively small subjects.

 
View towards Curverville Island, Antarctica

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The Mournful Beauty Of Antarctica

Most folks probably think of Antarctica as being a world of white. With all that ice and snow it’s not unreasonable to form that opinion, particularly for those folk viewing it from the air.

But Antarctica really is a world of blue. And you’ll discover lots of variation in the color blue during your Antarctica adventure.

It’s not hard to imagine blue sky and blue water acting to frame a mostly white landscape of ice and snow.

Icebergs in Antarctica are often an aqua blue color. They’re really quite amazing and make for fantastic subject matter in landscape photography.

The top of an Iceberg on aqua waters under a mournful sky off Cuverville Island in Antarctica.

What Color Are Icebergs In Antarctica?

Incidentally, icebergs are calved off glaciers. Apparently the icebergs that have come from older glaciers hold little internal air within the ice.

This results in the red portion of sunlight being absorbed by the iceberg. The light that’s actually transmitted through or reflected off the ice, therefore, displays a blue or aqua (i.e., blue/green) color.

You see white light consists of equal amounts of red, green and blue light. If you filter out the red portion of the light you’ll be left with green and blue light which, when mixed together, produce the aqua color that’s reflected off these icebergs.

So, are these icebergs actually aqua in color? That depends upon how you look at it. What we perceive as an aqua colored iceberg is actually a white iceberg that reflects aqua (i.e., blue and green) light.

Does that challenge your notion of reality?

Old school photographers might be upset that I’m using the word aqua rather than cyan.

Strictly speaking they’re not quite the same hue but, as most folks don’t know what the color cyan actually looks like, it’s not unreasonable to replace it with the word aqua in this context.

Add to that the fact that the Lightroom application has renamed any sliders formerly referred to as cyan with the word aqua and I think you’ll understand why I’m less likely to use the word cyan these days.

During my time in Antarctica there weren’t that many blue skies. It was cloudy and the light coming through the clouds was a cool blue grey color. That light reflected off the water coloring it with a similar hue.

That cold, bluish light is perfect for the mournful beauty of Antarctica. My impression of the place was that of a totally alien landscape, one on which we humans need to tread with great care.

We don't belong in Antarctica, but I feel it's fine to visit so as to appreciate its unique, wild beauty and, as a consequence, better understand the need to protect wild places on our planet.

That’s why I support responsible, eco-friendly tourism. And, of course, the photography opportunities in places like Cuverville Island are spectacular.

A dramatic cloudscape off Cuverville Island in Antarctica.

The Definition Of Photography

This photo shows a distant view of Cuverville Island that hints at the island's terrain. This is useful as there’s value in descriptive photos.

Above all else the success of this image is dependent upon light. The light, breaking through the clouds, seems to kiss areas of the landscape and foreground water highlighting shape and subtle textures.

I'd go so far to say that, as a metaphor, the light provides a sense of hope to this otherwise bleak landscape.

Ultimately it's not the landscape, but how we perceive it that should determine the way we choose to represent it. To my mind it’s the defining factor that separates the snap shooter from the artist.

The word photography comes to us from Ancient Greek: photo means light and graphy translates as writing, drawing or painting.

Simply put photography is to write with light.

While it’s great to have an interesting subject and great camera and post processing skills, the defining factor that allows one image to stand out from another is, more often than not, light.

And it’s the transient, transformative and transcendental nature of light that most attracts me.

 
Chaos and Abstraction, Curverville Island, Antarctica

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Cuverville island - Why We Travel To Antarctica

No matter where in Antarctica you’re going it’s a long way from any major city. Travelling to the region involves time, significant expense and, unless you take a special flight to Antarctica, long days at sea.

But the opportunities for great photography and real adventure have to be earned. Don’t you think?

From my perspective if you can afford to travel to Antarctica and are prepared for a little hardship, you'll love it. Needless to say comfort on board varies from ship to ship and according to how much you’re prepared to spend.

I was fortunate indeed to have had the opportunity to work and visit the region and very much look forward to my next visit to the breathtakingly beautiful Cuverville Island.

But even better than the wildlife and sublime scenery offered at Antarctic locations such as Cuverville Island was the opportunity to work and socialize with really interesting and good natured people.

And that goes as much for the amazing crew and staff as it does for the paying customers, some of which have become very dear friends of mine.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru