This entry is not inspired by a recent shoot, but more by daydreaming about going back to somewhere I’ve been before. As such, I won’t talk much about the amenities and services there as I’m sure that has changed.
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the middle of the Pacific is my favorite location to shoot. I am exceedingly interested in albatross and there are large breeding colonies of two species there; Laysan Albatross and Black-footed Albatross. There is also a small number of Short-tailed Albatross.
You know there are times photographing wildlife when you would like to reduce the challenge of getting close to the critters so that you can concentrate on the creative aspects of making beautiful images. Midway is the pinnacle of this sort of wildlife photography; following are a couple of anecdotes illustrating this.
When I went to Midway, we rented golf carts to make getting around the island quicker. To facilitate this our tour group broke up into two man teams. About half way into the week long shoot my partner and I had most of the photos we felt we needed, so before taking our trip to the other island that morning we planned what we would do when we returned. We decided that the one shot we still needed was a Laysan Albatross feeding its chick. So when we returned from the other island we jumped on our golf cart and headed off to the part of Sand Island where we were fairly certain we could get the shot. When we turned the first corner, we saw a Laysan adult walking up to its chick to begin feeding. This was only a few feet away and just minutes into that morning’s shoot.
The other anecdote took place while I was making the images you see in the above slide show where an albatross is flying very nearby while I am shooting with a wide angle. The wind was blowing pretty well that day and was making the landing approaches of the albatross quite predictable. It dawned on me that if I picked a spot near another albatross on the trail and laid down with a wide angle lens, I could get the shots you see here. The problem was that the Laysan Albatross were quite curious and whenever I got on the ground I would be quickly mobbed by several Albatross. Well, while I was doing this one Albatross got particularly curious and came up to me where his bill was only a few millimeters away from my nose. They do bite sometimes so I tilted my head so that the brim of my hat was between my nose and his. He of course tried to look under the hat and I would occasionally look up to see if he’d moved. On one of the occasions when I looked up he “sneezed” in my face. Sneezing for them is actually a way to get rid of excess salt. Since they drink saltwater they need a way to get rid of salt, otherwise it would be too difficult for their kidneys. They have glands near their eyes that do this for them and drops of high concentration saline will form and run down these grooves on their bill. Sometimes this gets around their nostrils and they will forcibly blow it away, looking and sounding like a human sneeze. This event was something I’ve always been very proud of.
My gallery of seabird, also known as pelagic bird, photos.