The big and the small

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This photograph of a Southern Royal albatross and a Black-bellied Storm petrel is one of my favourite images. Not because it’s a particularly stunning image, it’s quite ordinary in every aspect except, perhaps, for the subjects. While not the largest or smallest seabirds, these two are pretty close to either end of the Procellariiformes spectrum – the group of birds that includes albatross, petrels, shearwaters, storm petrels, diving petrels etc. Southern Royal albatross can have a wingspan of 3.6m and weigh up to 9.5kg, a size surpassed only by some of the Wandering albatrosses. Black-bellied Storm petrels have a wingspan of around 45cm, and weigh around 50g.

Procellariiformes are a hugely diverse group, and the global hotspot for diversity is here in New Zealand. Aren’t we lucky! Seeing so many seabirds is one of the reasons I love heading into the subantarctic region. The thing I like about this photo is the contrast between the large and the small – both birds that make their living on the open seas in the wild Southern Ocean, but are so different in their morphology.

We had a lot of seabirds following the ship when I took this photo, but seeing them come together for a brief moment, I hoped that at least one of the frames I’d shot would have them both in a nice position. There’s very little we can control in wildlife photography, so there’s an element of chance in all the images we make. After taking this photo, I was reminded of an illustration in one of the books I’d been reading while writing my thesis proposal last year:

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In “Albatrosses and Petrels Across the World” by Michael Brooke, Illustrated by John Cox

It made me laugh! Little connections, coincidentally joining my photography with the other half of my life as a Master’s student. I’ve often mused about keeping my academic and photographic lives seperate, but I don’t think that will ever be the case. What drives both of them is an intense fascination with the natural world. As a result, I’ll always be searching for knowledge and adventure (usually at the same time!). There’s no use in unravelling what’s bound together by what I love and who I am – a photographer, a naturalist, and a wanderer. So this blog may veer in a more scientific direction this year as I get wrapped up in my research, but bear with me. I’m still figuring it all out. But I promise there will always be photographs!