UPAA Blog 2022-23 #13 - 2/16/23 (text and photos by Julia Schachinger)
Welcome to the "New And Improved!!! "MIC Q&A. Details on what's new are at the end of this article. This month's featured photo is by Julia Schachinger, from the Student and Associate category. -Ed.
Who are you?
My name is Julia Schachinger, I am a senior at the University of Michigan, studying Environmental Engineering. I have been photographing wildlife since I was 8 years old, and when I went to college and there was no wildlife, I switched to sports. I was head sports photographer at the Michigan Daily (campus newspaper) for 2 years, and now I work for the Big 10 Network and freelance around campus.
How did you shoot that?
Camera: Canon 1DX Mark iii
Lens: Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
What were the photos used for?
My personal website and social media.
What was your inspiration?
I have always been a big fan of sub-framing, especially using natural elements that reflect the habitat of the animal I am photographing. Icebergs have so many unique shapes, and in the zodiac cruises we came across a few with holes in them that had melted away. I thought how cool would it be if there was an animal I could take a picture of through one of those icebergs - but as with most things with wildlife photography, luck plays a big part. Getting this to line up would take a lot of things to work out just right. This is one of those things that just so happened to work out in my favor - and the Adélie penguin cooperated long enough for me to get the shot!
What were the technical difficulties to overcome?
Shooting from a zodiac (small boat) is never easy, the boat was constantly rocking back and forth. With the boat’s motion, you can get used to shooting in those conditions and shooting with a higher shutter speed to combat extra blur, but for this shot, everything had to line up just right. With the boat rocking and constantly having to reposition, the penguin would be in the frame of the iceberg one second, and then be out of it the next. I ended up laying down off the edge of the boat to get the angle I wanted, my parents held me to make sure I didn’t fall in. The penguin also kept turning around every time I would get it lined up perfectly - as you can see in my contact sheet, I only had two shots of the penguin in frame and not turned around or half cut off by the iceberg.
As expected, shooting in Antarctica is very cold - and my fingers would go numb after shooting on the water for a couple hours, making it harder to focus. I used fingerless gloves with magnetic attachments of the fingertips, so I could cover up when I wasn’t shooting. I highly recommend those for those long winter football games or assignments. Also - when you are traveling by zodiac, even to landing sites, everything is gonna get wet. Choosing the right gear to take to be mobile enough to get in and out of the boats and be waterproof was a big challenge leading up to the trip.
Anything else you would like to add?
This trip was an experience of a lifetime - unlike anything I have done before. Waking up everyday and looking out my window to see snow-covered mountains and icebergs all over in the water felt surreal.
One fun story - as there is always something exciting that happens on any wildlife trip. We were out for a zodiac cruise in the afternoon, and we finally saw something we haven’t seen yet on the trip - a leopard seal. He surfaced to take a look at us and swam away - we checked it off the bucket list and cruised along. But then, the leopard seal started to follow us and another zodiac. We stopped, and it circled between us. Suddenly, it swam right underneath our boat with its mouth wide open to try and puncture the boat, but our driver maneuvered us away in time. Then, the seal lunged a couple feet out of the water to bite the other zodiac, again barely missing. After that both zodiacs got the heck out of there - never a dull moment in Antarctica!
If you are looking for that quick witted, tongue-in-cheek joke at the end of the blog , the humor-less David Dick has volunteered to help gather and edit the MIC Q&A each month. We are going to move away from taking a deep dive into the 'Best in Show' winner. Instead we will be looking at discovering some unique stories behind the photos that might or might not be the top winner for the month. If you are wondering, David used to be an adventurer until he went to Antarctica, thats when things went south. -DD