Encounter with a Leopard Seal, Antarctic Peninsula

Leopard seal resting on ice just off Cuverville Island on the Antarctic PeninsulaCanon 5D Mark III camera 24-105mm f4 L series lens @ 105mm. Exposure Details: 1/400 second f8 ISO 400.

Antarctica is an amazing place. Antarctica is huge, wild and very beautiful. In fact I'd go as far to say that it's a kind of mournful beauty. It is a most alien place and, while you may well experience an affinity with nature and appreciate the good fortune associated with your experience, you'll also likely understand that this is true wilderness where, outside scientific research and low-impact tourism, humans do not belong. 

I was very fortunate to visit the Antarctic peninsula during November 2010 as one of two tutors (the other being David Burren) on an Aurora Expeditions tour which included The Falkland Islands and South Georgia. It was a very special event during which time I made great friends, some of whom I still see on a regular basis.
The above image features a leopard seal sprawled out on a large chunk of ice near Cuverville Island. Check out the weird line running down the seal's back. It seems to be an indentation and/or reflection from the ice on which it had been resting. You might notice how the line along the seals belly is echoed in a distant cloud and along edges of nearby ice formations. 

The leopard seal is an extremely efficient hunter. My colleague David told me it is number two on the food chain in the Antarctic region, where it's only enemy is the Orca (Killer Whale). Some seals are cute, particularly when they're young. Even the weird-looking elephant seals produce beautiful looking pups. Their doe eyes make for very engaging portraits. Apparently they catch penguins by the feet and thrash them around, back and forth, on the surface of the water to skin them. Frankly they scare me. Their jaws are wide and powerful and their teeth sharp.

But, despite my apprehension, I was glad to be able to make this image of a leopard seal at peace in its environment. If ever you have the chance the southern seas, particularly South Georgia and the Antarctic peninsula, are amazing travel destinations offering fantastic opportunities for photography.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru