Emperors on their feet

Image: An adult Emperor penguin, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 280 mm, f/8, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

On their feet, the adult Emperors stood 3.5-4 feet tall. We often found them resting upright and observing the scene of the colony. It was an incredible sight to see on the pure white ice with blue icebergs in the background. Their method of transitioning from gliding on their stomach to standing was quite comical. They often put their beaks into the ice to brace themselves and then used their flippers to push against the ice until they could generate enough force to lift their bellies.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin trying to stand up, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 240 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

They then lifted their head and rocked back onto their feet, occasionally taking a mouthful of ice with them as they stood upright.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin trying to stand up, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 300 mm, f/8, 1/3200 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Sometimes when they had enough strength, they were able to push themselves vertical without the use of their beak or head. You can see this process in the video below.

Once they made it on their feet, they frequently stretched fully, allowing us to get a true grasp of their 4-foot stature.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin stretching tall, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 200 mm, f/8, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

We also captured glimpses of them shaking and ruffling their feathers. It was quite a sight as they turned their heads back and forth several times with their wings spread out to the sides.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin shaking, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 340 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

As described in an earlier post, there was a lot of preening time, typically when standing. It gave me an opportunity to photograph the beautiful curves in their feather coloration.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin preening, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 250 mm, f/8, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Their balancing acts were quite impressive as well. I never saw one fall during these preening sessions although I did see some stumble a few times when traversing the sea ice.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin preening, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 230 mm, f/8, 1/2500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

When they walked, it wasn’t always with the grace of some of their poses. At times, they were hunched over as if in deep thought.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin walking, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 210 mm, f/8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Other times, they were a bit more upright. When the background scene added to the overall composition, I zoomed out a little and waited for just the right moment to capture them with their foot out during a step.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin walking, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 250 mm, f/8, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

When the penguins paused in their walks, I watched for pleasing backgrounds to add to the images. It gave me a chance to include some of the actual land of Antarctica, as you can see on the left in the image below. Although we were walking around on a hard surface, I had to keep reminding myself that I was walking on water and that the ocean was beneath me.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 270 mm, f/8, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

At times, the penguins climbed the icebergs and posed on them. Although the Emperors were the highlight and main reason I was there, I enjoyed the textures in the ice and tried to capture that in my images.

Image: An adult Emperor penguin on an iceberg, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/8, 1/2000 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

Despite their down-to-earth manner of getting up and walking, they were truly majestic.

You can view these images individually and more not posted here in my portfolio located here.

Author: Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

10 thoughts on “Emperors on their feet”

    1. Thanks Leisa,

      The yellow feathers are thought to attract mates. Scientists believe that the yellow pigment is made internally in penguins versus in other birds where their feather colors are determined by their diet. 😊

      Like

  1. Beautiful pictures Amy!

    On Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 7:55 AM Amy’s Impressions wrote:

    > Amy Novotny posted: ” Image: An adult Emperor penguin, Snow Hill Island, > Antarctica. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 280 mm, f/8, 1/2500 sec, ISO > 400, hand-held. On their feet, the adult Emperors stood 3.5-4 feet tall. We > often found them resting upright and observing th” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So many amazing photos, Amy! It’s hard to pick a favorite. Maybe the one where the penguin is stretching, followed by the third to last where you can see his little foot sticking out as he moves.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.