Views: 2257927.11.2009 15:27:07
A Camera Trip to the Falkland Islands: How it looks


I would compare the appearance of the Falkland Islands to something between Ireland and Iceland. The North German coast or Ruyana, although it maybe does not sound that romantic does look very similar and also the weather is, considering that the geographical latitude is approximately the same. Only the Falklands are a little bit more to the south from the Czech Republic than Ruyana to the north. From Madrid to Santiago de Chile is the same distance as from Madrid to Tokio.
I will skip the meteorological guides about weather on the Falklands, which you can find on the web, we had had quite pleasant weather with temperatures between 10 and 25 degrees centigrade. No wonder, there is summer in January on the Falkland Islands. To sum up: there was sometimes rain, often sun, a dense fog once, but there was always the wind.

Gypsy Cove. Falkland Islands 2009.

The wind

The wind. For your imagination: I have a Gitzo 5540 tripod with a Wimberley head, it weighs altogether 4.5 kg. I think it is a very stable assembly, nevertheless it was blown down by wind twice and I am glad that it did not fall down from the cliff. If the wind was stronger, it lowered the temperature considerably. Thanks to the wind the weather changed a lot during the day. But the worst for a photographer is wind and sand combined. It happened a lot that there was a continual flowing layer of sand on the beach, which reached almost 50 cm height. The sand was getting in every void space, so we were afraid to photo from the ground, regarding the phototechnique. Surprisingly, the both photo brands (I will not tell which camera I used, because they refused to lend me one) survived it. What is more, I took photos with zoom, which I think is even more vulnerable to untightness than fixed glass. The extra chapter of equilibristics were attempts to put on the teleconvertor in the fastest way in those conditions. In the evening, after a day like that, it was necessary to beat-out everything, and first get rid of all the sand and after that an aggradation of salt. Salt had crystalized on our cameras and lenses in very interesting compositions, especially on the front objective lenses of our telephoto objectives. The structure of cleaning – damp cloth – dry cloth – wiping cloth from Schneider – has proven to be a good way for me.

Ondra Prosický. Volunteer Point. Falkladn Islands 2009

“The Air Photograph”

We didn’t take cameras on our first flight, I don’t know why (“…there’s no point…”).
The seats in the plane were appointed according to an actual weight of every passanger and I sat just behind the pilot, watching over his shoulder. That’s how I know we were flying in 100-150 metres. You can’t take a picture of the whole island from this height, of course, but you can get quite a good idea of how the Islands look like.
Everything looks very pretty, neatly, from the above. But the landscape looks completely different on the ground, especially, if there is a need to get to the locality, which is 6 km distant and you have 20 kg of a bag with photographic equipment, tripod, the overweight you carrying along, water, and in Ondra’s case – tons of food. There’s no trace of the neat landscape you had seen from the bird’s eye view. There is just wavy tundra, clad with 20 cm high and soft “cranberries” (didle-dee) or grass on a peatland, which sags with every step. In the direct sunlight and with a headwind, the way seems endless. And there’s something else, it happened that when we were returning from the locality, we could see the settlement, where the dinner was awaiting us, from the start. After a 30 minutes long walk, we could still see the settlement, no bigger than at the beginning, so seemingly as distant as ever.

Areas clad or more precisely overgrown with Tussac grass look also very interesting from afar. If you come closer though, you see that these clusters of grass are the same height as you are and only from from those, often interconnected clusters the grass is growing, usually reaching about 2.5 metres. To get through was a little test of navigation in which Ondra failed once and I literally fell. I ended up bottom up and with the bag on my head. I stayed in this attitude quite a long time, I couldn’t set my legs free, because I had to wait until I would stop laughing maniacally over my helpless situation.

Carcass Island. Falkland Islands 2009.

The Beaches

It was very sunny and also very warm day for the Falklands. We had just arrived with a Landcruiser (it is more suitable than Landrover, because of its wide tyres, which do not sag so much into the peat) to the Volunteer Point. We set out to see the penguins at once. There is a colony of big king penguins, so our haste was not surprising. We photographed in the colony and then followed the penguins to the ocean, to the beach. It occurred to us later, that the beach looked similar as for example one on Bali (without the palms, of course). The beach was beautiful with fine white sand, the sea was boasting with all shades of turquoise and above it all there was sky as blue as from some advertisment. At first it didn’t feel right, this beach and the penguins. Not every day is like that one, of course, but the point is that the most of 17 kinds of penguins, though they are very tough, nest out off the arctic ice and you can find only four kinds of penguins behind the South Polar Circle.
The omnipresent wind which blew the white sand across the beach, blinding sun and three species of penguins that pattered in a glittering tide, they all created an air in which we forgot all about antartic plains very soon.

Quite typical sandy beaches were often full of heaps of seaweed. The Tussac grass growing on the dunes of sand next to the beach as we saw it on the north-east of Sea Lion Island, was reminding me strongly of Ruyana, which I had mentioned already. Well, if you omit the nesting nellies, of course.

The Neck. Saunders Island. Falkland Islands 2009.

The Cliffs

You can find two thirds of global population of Rockhopper penguin on the Falkland Islands. Our first encounter with these species was on the cliffs of the Sea Lion Island. The cliffs are towering above the ocean to the 30 metres of height and they are crowned on the top with a big colony of cormorant mixed up densely with Rockhoppers which belong to the cliffs if just because of their name. The view of the colony is amazing and if you saw it in the evening sun, when the colony had calmed down a little and the birds stood relatively still but thick everywhere on the cliffs, you would remember.
I got alarmed every time I saw the young cormorants, still not able to fly, how they were chasing their parents for feeding on the edge of the cliff. Parents who couldn’t get rid of the greedy offspring took off the cliff and the youngling stopped just in nick of time, as if you were watching some cartoon.
If the sea was rough, sprays of water would fly to the top of these 30 metres cliffs. I witnessed once that one of the big sprays swept two careless cormorants down.
On the Sea Lion Island at the Rockhopper Point locality, there is a cross on the hilltop over the cliff. It is a memorial to sailors of HMS Sheffield, who died there when their ship had been sunk by an Argentinian rocket of French origin.
If you go a little bit on, you’ll come across a deserted colony of cormorants, inhabited now by the sole sheep on the Sea Lion Island and a pack of Rockhoppers, who seem to have some kind of mystical relationship to the sheep.

Rockhopper Point. Sea lion Island. Falkland Islands 2009

Bohdan Němec, Pilsen, February 2009

Translation from czech original version by Tereza Němcová: gwareth@seznam.cz
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