Monday, April 18, 2011

The Fitzroy Expedition along the Magellan Straits.

This 8-days seagoing expedition, along the islands of the straits of Magellans, rates among my 3 top adventures of my last 20 years.  It reminded me of my sailing passage of the Galapagos Islands.  They shared navigation among the islands, the tameness of exotic animals found there; but this adventure provided the thrill (or illusion) of being in places never seen by humans before.

Once out of the Straits of Magellans proper, we never saw another boat of signs of human activity. Imagine walking around nameless glaciers and navigating along uncharted narrow channels not knowing if they let to an outlet or a dead end.

Every couple of days or so, the vessel will approach a stream coming off the mountains to refill its bilges with the pristine water running from the melting glaciers. The crew will land with a water pump connected by a hose to the ship bilgesmto replenish the water supply, so clean that not additional treatment was necessary.  During some of these occasions, we went ashore and walked through enchanted forests that had not known the sound of a chopping ax. 
The landings provided outstanding photo opportunities of glaciers, geological formations and marine animals that came ashore to rest.  On one occasion, after landing, safety gear and photo equipment were laid on the beach at what appeared a safe distance from the waves. A small tsunami arrived causing despair among the photographers who rushed to rescue their gear. 

I had the opportunity to photograph King Penguins and Elephant Seals for the first time.  The King penguins just ignored us and in occasions, they were the ones approaching us. I also got shots of Rock Hopper Penguins and of the elusive Giant Kingfisher.

I was amazed at the huge size of the elephant seals and their disdain for the close proximity of humans; they just followed our movements and snorted at us when approached to close.

Most of the participants of this expedition were photographers, among them, some of the top wildlife professionals from Argentina and Chile; I was the only outlier there.  There were also a naturalist guide, a filming team from Chile, as well as the vessels' crew. 

During navigation time, the photographers shared their images and gave informal lessons on basic photo equipment, and Photoshop CS5 techniques.  As for the first image above, where else have you seen a professional photographer providing photo tips to an attentive audience aboard an inflatable boat in frigid waters? Or what about such an awkward position to take a photo; only possible in the southern hemisphere where everything is upside down.

Often while navigating among the channels we ran into whales, orcas, dolphins and sea lions offering great photo opportunities.  In particular, the breaching of aquatic mammals was a challenging activity to capture.  It appeared that I was always in the wrong side of the ship; when a whale breached, all I could catch was the huge splash of water created as they hit the water, but as consolation I got a few images.

The M/V Forrest was a cargo ship recently converted to an adventure vessel capable of carrying about 20 travelers in comfort.  The relaxed environment of the voyage was the results of a highly trained crew whose first duty was safety followed by friendliness, impeccable service.
What about the food?  Well, I have been in luxurious ocean going cruises and honestly, the freshness and gourmet quality offered here, exceeded all others.  Three full courses were served daily, with the option of ordering items other that the regular offerings. All was included in the price of the cruise.  I was not even charged for the pound /day I gained during the cruise
 We were all the best friends of the galley's Master; who could resist such an incentive?  If interested in getting more information regarding this extraordinary ocean going safari go to


jeannette said...

What an incredible journey -each piece of it! Can imagine you had the time of your life - the few photos you could shoot of the whales are good enough, lol, and more than that. Also I love the photos of the glaciers -stunning!

Thanks for the pics of the photo crew too -interesting what you all had to go through too. Hope you can share your story with a magazine, or maybe as a joined effort with the others.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I dont know where to start commenting on this one Jose. No wonder you were away so long and came back with so many pictures as this is certainly a trip of a lifetime.

As always, the pictures are stunning and I like the self portrait. LOL!!

All I am going to add is that this seems like an amazing trip. Thank you for sharing the pictures and the wealth of wonderful information to go with it.

marlis said...

Hooola Don Jose!!!, que buena historia, y que buenas las fotos!!!, decis todo en pocas palabras y encima hay una foto de mi y del chofer, jajaja, nos sentimos muy honrados!!!!!, fuera de broma me encantan las fotos del profesor de CS5!!!, tengo que mandarte una en la que estas enseñando, un abrazo enorme

Anonymous said...

hermosas fotos José...parece que ha sido un viaje inmejorable y lleno de oportunidades, animales y paisajes increíbles para hacer fotos.
me alegro de que haya sido asi y espero que en alguna oportunidad podamos recorrer esos lugares juntos así te doy algunos tips para que mejores como fotógrafo :)
un abrazo desde la patagonia grande

Ken Conger Photography said...

Exceptional post. What a great trip. The King Penguin head shot and out of the water sea lion are my favs. Blue Skies.

Anonymous said...

I have been waiting for your photos for several weeks. Nice to have a look today. Some of them are just amazing. Every day I am thinking about the trip. It was a highlight in my life. Great people, grate food, and amazing nature and animals. I have started to write in English in my blog, so you are welcome to take a look. I looking forward to see more of you photos, from this trip and others. Take Care! Andreas

Tim Rucci said...

Great stuff, Jose. Especially love the penguin shots, but everything is good.
Don't know if Ken told you I've been sick or not, but I haven't been able to get out with the camera in a long time. Things are slowly getting back to normal.

Sverre said...

Hola Jose. estoy de acuerdo con lo que cuentas de nuestro paseo. Era exelente en todos los aspectos, la naturaleza, la comida, la gente, el clima, la cantidad de aves y animales. Era realmente una aventura. Me gustan tus fotos, y me gusta la manera que cuentas la historia. Creo que voy a dar el link a este blog-post a los que visitan mi blog.
Bendiciones de Sverre