Visit amosphotography.com to look at more images from Antarctica, including the winning image, of a Leopard Seal about to dine on a penguin. While on the amosphotography.com site, browse through the fine art images and purchase one or more for yourself, or as a gift.
Ready for your own adventure? Capture your own award-winning images on our next expedition to Antarctica.
Meet some superstars above and under the ice in a adventure emulating the unique style and the heroic productions of BBC and National Geographic teams. Ice dive with Leopard seals in an intimate expedition providing maximum time for you to dive along the face of icebergs in search of the Antarctic icefish, observe Crabeater and Weddell seals and, course, the “star of the show,” the Leopard seal, often referred to as “more leopard than seal.”
My guest, Bartosz, is submerged for more than 30 minutes in the cold water of the Okavango Delta. He is diving with our guide Brad on this crocodile expedition in Botswana. Topside, on the boat, Richard and I watch their bubbles surfacing from only one spot. They aren’t moving. This means they have found a croc! (Click on any image to enlarge it .)
The sky is cobalt blue and a light wind rustles the papyrus which glistens in the wind like wheat in the sun. The air is full of sounds: monkeys, river birds and the seductive murmur of water. (Remember, you can click on any image to enlarge.)
When Bartosz finally surfaces and climbs aboard, his eyes are twinkling. Still in his wetsuit and mask he eagerly checks his camera screen. After reviewing his pictures he looks up with a happy grin. He got his croc! Seconds later, Brad surfaces and beckons me into the water. I grab my camera and with the help of my teammates quickly join him in the river. After hours under the African sun, the chill water (55F) seeping into my wetsuit is a welcome relief. Brad leads me under the papyrus canopy into the hidden lair of the crocodiles and turns on the light of his new RED video camera. Illuminated in front of us is a 12 ft. young croc resting on white sand. The darkness around the pool of light is impenetrable and we are only at a depth of 15 ft.
For the next 10 minutes Brad and I photograph the croc. The beast is calm and unmoving. But then things change. Irritated by the strobe lights, or perhaps by our presence around him, the croc rises on his forelegs and like a slow-motion scene in a sci-fi movie lurches towards us. With each step clouds of sand rise and its tail sweeps the silt into a ghastly whiteout. We back off, blinded by sand and satisfied with our encounter.
Most mornings and late afternoons we film the fish eagle’s hunting behavior. Our method is simple and time tested. We catch a few tiger fish in the river. We set up the boat downwind, bracing it against the papyrus. Our guide, Brad, imitates the cry of an eagle and waves the fish up in the air. This brings the Eagle to a tree close by the riverbank. As the predator locks its eyes on the fish, Brad tosses the fish upriver against the wind.
“Are you ready?” Brad asks.
“Wait a minute “ Bartosz replies as he sets up his 400 mm lens mounted on a mini tripod. I scream “Good to go!”
In three seconds or less the eagle spots the bait floating down the river. It spreads its majestic wings and turns into the wind. Then, fighting against the wind, struggling to accelerate, it flies towards the fish. As the eagle turns into the current of air, it dives down, skimming the water with the tip of its wings. It’s talons are now fully extend forward towards the floating fish. We photographers are all tense and silent waiting for Brad’s signal. “NOW!” Brad yells as the eagle start its turn, flying low over the water. There is a cacophony of cameras firing in frenzy—30 and up to 50 frames in less than 4 seconds. There is a sigh as we all exhale at the same time. Frantically we search through our images, focusing on our screens—Did you get? What did you get? Oh yes and oh no…. Let’s do it again and so on…
The sun is setting behind the tall papyrus wetlands and soon we will face the chill of the African night. We tuck our cameras away and speed over the river to our Lodge. Long before we arrive we can smell the welcoming wood fire waiting for us on arrival. After hot tea and coffee we break for hot showers to end another exciting day on the river.
For the next 6 days we explore different parts of the river in search of clear water. “Clear water” is a relative term in this kind of river diving; it means 15 to 20 feet visibility. Each section of the river has a different name. One section is called Fat Albert, after a croc by that name. The legend is as follows: this croc was located near a village in another area some 70 miles away. The croc became accustomed to people and boats and frequently would approach them. Everyone was worried he would hurt someone; consequently the croc was relocated down the river. Now we are searching for this beast. It is rumored he is 14 – 15ft long and 50-55 years old.
Fat Albert channel, about 5 miles long, remains clear through the winter long after most others channels turn murky again. We explore this channel which is shallow, 12 to 20 feet deep with a sandy bottom. The contrast between a dark croc against white sand makes our work easier. We see no sign of Fat Albert until one morning someone screams “CROC!” We suit up with lightening speed as the boat moves up current. Together, we enter the water with a back-roll and speedily assemble on the river bottom. We brace ourselves as the current sweeps us forward. Pushing forward with our fins we dig them into the sand using them like brakes. By the time I see Fat Albert resting against the riverbed, I have passed him and am nearly on his tail. Dragging myself, my camera and strobes against the current I maneuver towards his head. I want to photograph this croc head on – looking directly toward its rows of white teeth.
I look straight into the croc’s unmoving eyes. When I realize how big the beast’s head is, I move my camera like a shield in front of me and start shooting. The croc remains immobile. I inch closer and closer until the camera is too close to focus. I have the Canon 14 mm lens, which means I am merely 8 inches in front of dinosaur. Minutes later Fat Albert moves and each step creates a small sand storm. With apparent ease, this 14 feet long croc turns into the current disappears.
We try to follow the beast but cannot battle the strong current. We stop, look at each other with a smile and raise our fist in sheer satisfaction and relief. We did it again, against all odds.
I look forward to seeing Fat Albert and other crocodiles next year. Diving and photographing crocs is exciting and safe providing we use knowledge of the reptiles and their environment. Our guide, Brad, has been diving in the Okavango River for 12 years and is one of the leading experts on crocodiles. From experience he has learned crocs do not see well underwater and therefore feed mostly on the surface. Consequently, it is crucial to stay close to the riverbed while diving. It is also essential to take only 2 guests at a time so as not to crowd the croc and block its escape route.
Pierce Brosnan has narrated a video to call attention to the plight of the last 284 beluga whales of Alaska’s Cook Inlet. According to Brosnan, the actor and ocean activist, and also NRDC, the Apache Alaska Corporation is about to launch a seismic airgun attack that could push the white whales over the brink, into extinction.
The explosive noise of airguns used to explore for oil and gas can deafen, injure and even kill whales.
-Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
According to NRDC, the oil exploration company is planning to launch an “acoustic onslaught in the beluga’s only home in the world” and apparently the Obama Administration has given Apache Alaska Oil the greenlight to go forward. The company, says Brosnan in the video, will use devices that create loud air blasts to explore for oil and gas – blasts that will occur every ten seconds, perhaps for months on end. At a distance, Brosnan says, the blasts can cause the whales to abandon their habitat and stop eating. At close range, they can cause deafness, even death.
“Don’t let the belugas go silent. Help protect them before time runs out.”
… making images has always been easier for me than words to express myself … and at times images are more powerful than words …
We all are informed about shark finning and manta ray killing – but until you look into the dead shark’s eye or into the Manta’s eye drained of life – only then can people understand. This is particularly true because the majority of people in the world (99% of the world’s population) are not diving and never get to the water.
We divers are in the water and we see the killing. We are aware of what’s happening and fight for change, but we are very small in number. We need you, each one of you, who receives this message – to share these words and images widely among your friends who are not divers in the USA, and elsewhere in the world…
Click here for more images of shark finning in a Facebook album.
Click here for images of manta ray killing in a Facebook album.
Click here for images of a tuna harvest in a Facebook album.
The call for action is not against the poor people of the world who hunt the sharks and manta…they hunt because they are proud people and want to feed their family too – the call for action is to the powerful people in the world and government – to offer their people another source of income and employment, to help them to earn fair living and to support their families.
I am not sure what it will take to convince the Eastern and Chinese cultures to stop consuming shark fins and manta gills, and how long it may take to make a change … however, our efforts have to be also in improving the lives of poor people, helping them, guiding them in finding other ways to make a living…if we do so, these fisherman will not go to sea for “fistful of dollars”… we need to start one village at the time, showing them the way, providing them with the expertise, training, and tools. We need to open new labor markets for them. That is how we can stop them from going to sea. They also want to stay home and see their wife and kids grow … just like we do … but starvation and poor conditions make them go where there is an easy dollar to be made … that is where poachers get us… to a fistful of dollars that takes a deep toll on life.
In this well-received TEDx talk in San Francisco, Amos reveals the story of how an image he made of a Great White shark become an icon, and was used to promote a misleading public perception of sharks as “monsters” and “man eaters.” He introduces the Ocean Legacy project, a five-year plan to photographically document the ability of humans to peacefully interact with animals. He will lead an expedition to encounter and photograph 35 of the world’s Ocean Giants and show their connection with humans.
Imagine being under the ice in the White Sea of Northern Russia and feeling warm and cold at the same time. How can this be? Because I was underwater in the company of three Beluga named Yegor, Kuzya and Kesha. The images you see here are of Kuzya. Yes, the water is freezing (29F or -1C) while outside the sun is bright, reflecting off the ice making the outside temperature 20F or 5C.
I found the Beluga welcoming and friendly. They will come within a few a feet of your lens and make faces, blow bubbles and inspect you with their small eyes. However, to arrive at this moment takes time and patience. Incredibly, these gentle whales seem able to sense the diver’s emotional state of mind. I was lucky to get these images….
Maria, the caretaker of the Belugas, (keeper and trainer are very negative words) described this incident. When a Yogi entered the water, the whales dove swiftly away aggressively thrashing their tails. The Yogi exited the water! On the other hand, when I was there two weeks ago, a 12-yr-old Russian girl had a very different experience. She was not a diver, however she stood on the ice and put her hand in the water. Instantly, a Beluga raised its head above the water several times to get her attention. Then she placed her tiny palm on the whale’s melon-head…clearly both felt a sense of connection.
I wonder how the Beluga saw me? What a contrast between their grace and my cumbersome movement: dressed in a dry suit, with a heavy undergarment, dry gloves, 28 lbs around my waist, scuba tank on my back and camera with strobes. I was missing only the kitchen sink!!!
Achieving buoyancy control is a must. Waiting motionless for the whales to scan me builds trust and allows them to feel safe in my presence. Staying still for 10 minutes in frigid water is a long wait. But with each dive our encounters became more intimate. Gradually the Beluga allowed me to get closer to their surface opening in the ice. They are vulnerable near their breathing-hole and may become agitated with strangers present. My patience paid off. I had gained their confidence.
In March 2013, I am planning for a follow up adventure to Russia. The trip will include diving with the Beluga, a visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg, renowned for it’s unique architecture.
There is a controversy regarding these Beluga whales. They are not wild. They are protected in a contained environment in an area where they were once hunted. Prior to my trip I knew these Beluga were raised and maintained in nearly natural conditions. During my investigation in Russia I discovered they are sold to aquariums to mate with captive females, to breed in captivity, in order to minimize future hunting.
I am torn between my responsibility as a photojournalist and a adventure planner. Without first scouting and exploring I could not bring such issues to light. On the other hand, it is almost impossible to get close up images of Beluga in the wild. Does increasing our knowledge and respect for this elusive animal justify keeping it in captivity?
I hope you will join me in exploring this controversy.
BigAnimals expeditions travels the world to find the most memorable underwater adventures, and we find so much passion about the value of the nature and the importance of ocean conservation among our guests. Of course, we aren’t the only ones thinking about the human connection to nature, both with what we do to help nature and, unfortunately, what we might do to hurt it. Filmmakers have looked at this also.
Here is some of their work about the human connection with oceans that are worth catching on DVD.
Bag It traces the journey of a plastic bag. It may seem like a small thing, but when you consider how many plastic bags we use and throw away, it becomes a huge factor in the health of the earth and its oceans. Bag It shows how these bags eventually end up in landfills, get stuck in trees, and pollute the ocean. An area of the Pacific Ocean has been nicknamed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; parts of this “garbage patch” contain concentrations of plastic that are 40 times greater than that of plankton. Plastic is not biodegradable in water. It gets broken down into smaller and smaller pieces causing fish to confuse this plastic with food. The result – many species of fish have been found with large amounts of plastic in their stomachs.
Tapped follows a similar storyline, but instead focuses on plastic water bottles. Many people rarely think about the environmental impact of grabbing a fresh bottle of water. But that impact is huge – there is an equivalent to 9 million football fields of plastic in the ocean – and chemicals in plastic, like BPA, have adverse effects on humans.
While Tapped and Bag It relate indirectly to the ocean, two films, The End of the Line and A Sea Change, are more directly significant. They explore the devastating consequences to marine life of overfishing and ocean acidification.
The End of the Line investigates current fishing methods and dramatically shows how, if we continue fishing as we do and eating unsustainable fish, scientists estimate that we will run out of fish by 2048. However, there is a silver lining in this film, and that is – the solutions to overfishing are simple and doable. They include:
• reducing the number of fishing boats across the world
• protecting large areas of the ocean through a network of marine reserves off limits to fishing
• educating consumers that they have a choice by purchasing fish from independently certified sustainable fisheries
A Sea Change hones in on ocean acidification and the effects of excess carbon dioxide and global warming on our oceans, fish, and marine life.
Each of these films are eye-opening portraits of human activities leading to the demise of our oceans, the animals and fish that live in them, and eventually the circular effect these practices will have on humans in the future. Have a look at them and see why people have learned to love the world’s oceans and all the animals that inhabit them.
Reefs have had it tough in recent times. Pollution, overfishing, and global warming have all taken their toll, as msnbc.com’s Future of Technology reported recently. Higher water temperatures, for example, can result in something called coral bleaching. Warmer water causes some of the algae that sustains a reef to leave. An sustained event like this in 1998 killed one sixth of the world’s tropical reefs.
But there’s new hope for the world’s reefs, and the process might shock you. Actually, it will send an electric current through the waters where reefs need help A technology called the Biorock Process runs low-voltage electric currents through seawater. This causes dissolved minerals in the water to crystallize metal frames place near reefs, growing a white limestone similar to that which makes up a coral reef. According to the Global Coral Reef Alliance, the artificial reef grows quickly. A Biorock project needs electricity, of course, and that can come from solar panels or tidal current generators.
If you want to support this work you can sponsor a baby reef through the Biorock group. There are other ways you can help, too, because reefs are negatively affected by pollution from runoff. The Nature Conservancy provides some suggestions, like supporting reef-friendly businesses and practicing safe and responsible diving and snorkeling. (You know that touching a reef is bad, right? And you should never anchor your boat near it.) More tips from the Nature Conservancy at this link.
Another giant has left us. The International Union for Conservation of Nature said that the Western Black Rhino of Africa was officially extinct, and two other subspecies were close to the same fate. Amazing to consider also that a quarter of all mammals are at risk of extinction. But there is also a ray of light: the IUCN said that the Southern White Rhino and Przewalski’s Horse have been saved from extinction. Why? Successful conservation programs.
This is why I believe that the battle to save Big Animals from extinction begins with experiencing them first hand. You need to be in the presence of a rhino, a lion, a gorilla or a whale to fully comprehend its power, grace and magnificence. Conservation measures are the answer, as Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission said: “In the case of both the Western Black Rhino and the Northern White Rhino, the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented.” Getting people and governments to take those measures means they have to experience, appreciate and make an emotional connection to Big Animals. I’d like to offer you a way to do that, yourself, and have the experience of a lifetime.
Big 7 African Safari
Nobody ever said getting spectacular images of the world’s iconic animals was easy, but I want to offer you a way for your personal photos of lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, cape buffalo and mountain gorillas to be worthy of a spread in your favorite nature magazine. Come with me to Africa June 2 through 24, 2012 and I will be at your side to coach your camera work, show you how to work with various lenses and telling you about the best ways to shoot in natural light. On the expedition we’ll avoid the usual tourist destinations so you can get a sense of Africa at its most welcoming and magnificent. The grand finale is to strap on some scuba tanks and swim with Nile Crocodiles in the Okavango Delta. We’ll be in the Nxamaseri Lodge, a unique African experience on an island in the delta. We make the trip doing the best time to be in the water – June and July when the water is clear (visibility 15-20 feet) and cold (55-60 degrees F) which brings the crocs to the surface for great viewing and interaction.
There is hope for Big Animals. Sperm whales were among the world’s most hunted animals – almost driven to extinction. But how they have made the best comeback in the history of wildlife with almost as many now as there were a hundred years ago. Will you join me on our next adventure to Africa?
According to NBC News, a pair of 40-ton giants got dangerously close to a surfer in Santa Cruz, California. The US Coast Guard isn’t saying for sure, but there are many reports of more humpbacks coming closer to shore than ever. Some whale experts, like those at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, say this is something to worry about. They’re concerned about people getting hurt.
NBC quoted Kera Mathes of the Aquarium as saying “Being that close to an 80,000-pound whale when it’s coming up and looking for food isn’t safe,” she said. “When these surfers and kayakers are so close, it definitely poses a danger to the whale and those in the water.”
She’s right… but I believe it’s possible to get close to this remarkable animals, and get close safely.
They belong to the same family as the blue whale, fin whale, Bryde’s whale, sei whale and minke whale.
The females are bigger than the males: from 45-50 feet to the males’ 40-48.
Humpbacks feed on krill, small shrimp-like animals, and small fish and eat up to 1.5 tons of food a day.
Baleen plates, not teeth, trap their food to be swallowed.
Humpbacks are acrobatic, breeching their 40 tons completely out of the water.
They sing, and their songs are complex with each population singing its own unique song.
Their songs are not inborn – they learn them from each other.
The are capable or migrating the globe, from Antartica to the Pacific.
They breed, give birth and care for their newborn calves in the warm waters of Tonga.
If you want the best pictures of them, you’ll need a wide angle lens and will need to learn how to safely swim close to them.
I’ve got dozens of years’ experience photographing Humpback whales, and I know the way to get the best photograph is to treat them respectfully and free dive close. I’ve trained adventurers to do this over 10-day expeditions that I lead, and I have picked the tropical paradise of Tonga for this. Not only is it the very definition of an island paradise, but it is prime territory for the Humpbacks during their breeding period. As you free dive among them on this adventure, you’ll see mother and calf interacting and the bulls tail-slapping and breeching. Would you like to join me? My next Humpback whale adventure departs August 20, 2012.
Coming up right away next year is my adventure in the Carribean to see the largest carnivore in the world – the Sperm whale. There are only a few spaces left, so get in touch with me to reserve yours. Sperm whales were among the world’s most hunted animals – almost driven to extinction. But how they have made the best comeback in the history of wildlife with almost as many now as there were a hundred years ago. Sperm whales are the easiest whales to approach – they are curious and friendly as they socialize in pods of five to thirty. For this encounter, Big Animals Expeditions has teamed with Andrew Armour, known in the diving commmunity as the ‘whale whisperer.’ We will be on his boat, the Domnik. Download the PDF flyer now.