Leopard seals feed on warm-blooded animals but are merely curious with divers, swimming up to have a good look. However, one snorkeling scientist was dragged underwater to her death on 2003 – the first known human fatality from a leopard seal.
Antarctica – Photo Tip

Top Antarctic photo tip: Let the seal come to you

Photo by Goran Ehlme

Antarctica – Photo Tip Top Antarctic photo tip: Let the seal come to you

The Polar Oceans are some of the most difficult environments in the world to photograph, but with the awesome leopard seal lurking in the deep it is certainly worth the hardship.

Goran Ehlme
Goran Ehlme

Conditions of low light, high particulate matter and surge are often combined, creating a challenge for even the most experienced of underwater photographers. A lot of the diving isn’t done with a tank, but with a snorkel. When I worked with Paul Nicklen during his National Geographic leopard seal assignment, we almost always snorkeled, because it gives you the quick and silent advantage, which is key to a good encounter.

The leopard seal is the most perfect animal a photographer could wish for: it is a performer and will continue to give a show hour after hour. You do not need to do anything except press the shutter release. If you are fortunate enough to have a leopard seal bring you a penguin, stay with it, as the seal will usually stay only a few meters away and keep coming back. However, do not touch the penguin or get too close to the seal. The penguin is its prey and it will feel threatened if it is taken away. Let the seal come to you.

Diving and photographing in polar regions are my passions. I have been on assignment filming many documentaries and won the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2006 award. In 2007 I co-founded Waterproof Expeditions to lead diving expeditions and share my experiences of the Polar regions with travellers around the world, and give advice on photography and equipment for the expeditions.

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Though seals can weigh more than 500kg, they are more curious than dangerous. They are sometimes overcome by their inquisitive nature around divers, and circle about them like excited acrobats. Only the largest species, elephant and leopard, are dangerous to humans. But even among the most aggressive of seals, the leopard, attacks are rare. Photo by Göran Ehlmé / Waterproof Expeditions

Göran Ehlmé

Göran Ehlmé

NIKON D2X

Agency
Waterproof Expeditions
Aperture
ƒ/8
Exposure
1/60
ISO
100
Focal
12 mm

Though seals can weigh more than 500kg, they are more curious than dangerous. They are sometimes overcome by their inquisitive nature around divers, and circle about them like excited acrobats. Only the largest species, elephant and leopard, are dangerous to humans. But even among the most aggressive of seals, the leopard, attacks are rare.

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