This Christmas I escaped the heat and furore of Central Otago for the cold and wild winds of the SubAntarctic. I have always wanted to venture south, to experience an ocean voyage and to 'meet' the flora and fauna of New Zealand's southern most land masses. Previously I have spent a lot of time hiking on Stewart Island and even had a short stint minding nests (for our famous kakapo) on Whenua Hou / Codfish Island but the myth and legends of the islands further south have always intrigued me.
I was not disappointed. It is hard to put into words the sounds, smell (yes, masses of birds and seals are a bit 'pongy'), and sight of thousands of albatross, penguins, seals and sealions. It is also challenging to capture photographs that represent both the isolation and that also tell the story of islands that are teeming with life.
One of the greatest challenges of wildlife photography is to show dynamic relationships between animals - especially when there are so many of them! Images of Skua (predatory seabirds) hovering around penguin chicks, or giant petrel (another scavenging seabird) eating an injured live elephant seal or skua stealing albatross chicks and dropping them onto rocks were all part of my experience. However, many of these these dynamic experiences don't form part of the type of photography that I want to present to the viewer. While I see no need to sanitise nature I also see little benefit in shocking people and believe that it is too easy to be horrified by nature when a static image is shown. These images don't portray the dynamic, inter-related, and complicated behaviours required for survival.
Should photography shock?