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.
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.