The scene at the emperor penguin colony was one of beauty but also one of chaos for a photographer. The scenes were stunning, but it was hard to capture artistic and visually-balanced compositions with thousands of birds moving around. After capturing some of the landscape shots with the penguins as shown in my previous post here, I switched to capturing images of the penguins up close. Initially, it was difficult to isolate some of birds and have an appealing background at the same time, but patience paid off. As the penguins got accustomed to us sitting and watching, they began to move around the colony at relative ease. For this post, I am focusing only on the adult Emperor penguins.
The male and females are indistinguishable in terms of their plumage and size so we did not know which gender of bird was caring for the chicks at this time. Both males and females weight 49-99 lbs depending on the season and reach a height of 3.5-4 feet. The majority of the penguins we saw were on the shorter side of that scale. The activity level of the penguins varied greatly in the colony. Some adults slept peacefully, either lying on the ice to cool down during their nap or nodding off vertically, using their body as a cushion.
Other adults spent time preening and scratching during the daylight. They contorted their bodies in many configurations to reach all aspects of their bodies. Not only did this give me a view of all their body parts, but it also allowed me to capture images of the various curves and lines in their coloration.
A few times, I even got lucky enough to capture an image inside their beaks to demonstrate the rearward-facing barbs on the roof of their mouths. These barbs assist them when swallowing the slippery fish they eat.
Occasionally after a preening session, the adults shook their bodies and ruffled up their feathers. I happened to be taking some photos of an adult penguin’s feet at that time and caught the resulting ruffle at its feet. As you can see in the image below, there are extra skin folds at the bottom of the torso that help to shelter the egg and chick from the harsh Antarctic winters.
The patterns in their feathers gave them a look of vibrant elegance. Although we saw some birds with dirty stomachs from sliding on the ice, the majority of them were clean with contrasting black and creamy white pattern on their backsides and flippers.
The coloration of the feathers on their chest was mesmerizing as the creamy white shimmered in the sunlight. I tried to capture this sparkle in the image below but did not do nearly the justice it deserves.
It was often hard to capture the faces of the adults clearly because their eye was so black and matched the feathers on their heads. Occasionally I could capture the white of their eyes if the light hit their face at the correct moment when their head was turned.
One of the more emotional positions of the adults happened when they made their soulful call, as they often bowed their head in almost a reverent gesture.
To hear a little bit of that call and to see how the penguins move in their colony, please click on the video below.
As I process more images, I will continue to post to show more about their behavior and their interactions with their chicks.
You can view these images individually and more not posted here in my portfolio located here.