Cathrine Stephansen: Blog en-us (C) Cathrine Stephansen (Cathrine Stephansen) Thu, 27 Sep 2012 08:53:00 GMT Thu, 27 Sep 2012 08:53:00 GMT Cathrine Stephansen: Blog 115 120 The marine bear - lesser known facts. Polar bears are maybe one of the most fascinating species on the planet. This, the largest bear  (Ursus maritimus) (not Ursula maritimus as one of the expedition staff said...) is a marine species, and although general hunting of them has ceased, they are very vulnerable, especially to the consequences of climate change - loss of their main habitat, the sea ice.

I will post more pictures of ice later, but first - a few less well-known facts about polar bears.

Polar bears are incredibly strong animals. To keep fit they like to lift stones. To practice for the annual stone-lifting contest, they generally start with small ones and move on up as their fitness improves.


This female is strolling along the shoreline, in search of a suitable stone.


Polar bear female, looking for food


A satisfactory stone is found.

Big bear - big stone.


Before the actual lifting, a ceremonial gesture in honour of the judges.

Come on. Make my day!


Now, it's important to note that the rules say "Lift with toes only". This is to impress the spectators. Polar bears like to show off.

Big bear - big stone 2


To encourage the participants of this sport there is a small reward underneath each stone. 

Treats under the stones


This is especially popular with the beginners.

I'll turn the big stones one day.


Polar bears are very enthusiastic about this sport, but of course, the endless admiration from the younger fans can be a bit too much for a champion stone-lifter.

Can I have some more ice cream, please?


Stone-lifting is a serious sport, but it's very important to relax once in a while and not take it too seriously.

Legs up!

Time for play

Want a hug?

Advice from the coach is always welcome.

Mother and cub


When they are not busy staying fit and strong, polar bears like to enjoy more sophisticated things like meditation and philosophy.

Pythagoras the bear


The current trend is to meditate on top of triangles, supposedly it brings a higher level of inner peace. But only if you do it facing both ways.

Pythagoras the bear


Those who are not into meditation often enjoy painting. This bear is currently hot on the Arctic art scene, she paints only using natural fibre brushes, and organic paints. Making one's own paint - a kind of tempera using natural pigments with iron - is especially popular. Paintings are generally abstract, and reflect the inner aggressive self of those bears who don't meditate on top of triangles.

Painting with red


The two half-finished circles represent the unfulfilled life of the ... paintbrush.

The artist


The artist herself. This is from the vernissage last week. It ran rather late in the evening and everyone drank too much.

I'm really cuddly!

Want to come down?


So. Now you know some more about the secret life of polar bears. If you are actually looking for better documented facts on the species, for example for school assignments, you might enjoy this article better:

Should you decide to quote my facts here presented...

Blah! Me too! Blah! Oh blah! Oh blah! Your choice.

More images in the gallery "Arctic".

Thanks for looking!


]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Polar bear Svalbard Ursus maritimus Thu, 27 Sep 2012 08:53:16 GMT
Svalbard late summer Tomorrow the workshop with Seth Resnick and John Paul Caponigro starts. I can't wait! We have arrived on Spitsbergen, and have taken an extra day in Longyearbyen to stock up on wool underwear and see that wonderful place again. The ship leaves tomorrow, so today we took a "safari trip" to sea. A very rough ride, so I almost gave up on photography, for fear of ruining my equipment before a two week workshop where everything needs to work 100 %!

We did get a few shots of a bird cliff in Isfjorden, near Grumant, but of course it is abandoned by the Brünnichs guillemots and puffins at this time. We saw a few puffins at sea, and some fulmars and kittiwakes are still around.

But the cliffs are still there, and since there were no oil-spill-vulnerable species to distract me - I could look for colour, shape and light.

First a view from Adventsfjorden, right across the bay from Longyearbyen.


An abandoned bird cliff

When we flew in yesterday, we flew in from the north and came out of the clouds to see fresh snow on the tops of the mountains in Adventsdalen. I guess we can say summer is over for this year.


And finally a few from Longyearbyen. Oh, well. You know I'm not a town person, so forgive me for fotographing a plant and some cultural heritage instead!

The rest of the Svalbard images are in the gallery on Zenfolio.

Tomorrow the workshop starts, and the crowd seems to be a good one. We are having fun together already, and everyone is really great! I hope to learn so much, hoping to move away from my usual stuff and become more creative, to see landscapes within the landscapes and not just document my surroundings. I've come to the right place, so it's up to me!

Thank's for looking!

Images 1-6: Olympus E5, Zuiko 12-60 lens

Others Olympus E-PL3 with 14-40 kit lens.









]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Mon, 03 Sep 2012 21:29:27 GMT
Maybe I should start scuba diving? The holiday

This year's summer holiday abroad was carefully chosen. I wanted to take the kids somewhere hot, but still in a country I would feel relatively safe alone with two teenagers. And of course - a pretty marine environment wouldn't go amiss, even though this was a holiday.

The Greek island of Alonissos was chosen for it's (according to the brochure) unspoilt charm, with low-key tourism, and because it was the only inhabited island in the National Marine Park of Alonissos. We went to Greece last year, and I really like the country. My hope was that as it's a marine protected area, the water would be clean and that snorkelling would be better than for example in Athitos in Chalkidiki, where we were last year. I was right.

We stayed at the Paradise Hotel - a term with a dubious meaning to Norwegians, but the hotel was in fact very nice. It was chosen for the proximity to the sea and the pool, but after reading both good and bad reviews on TripAdvisor, I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised. It was a simple hotel, small rooms and simply furnished, but clean, a clean and very nice pool and a pool bar that served nice snacks and cheap drinks. And yes, as some reviews on TA said, the furniture was old, but hey - if you go to Alonissos to stay at the hotel room all day... Why not go to a five star hotel in Dubai in stead? The owners were very nice and the service was friendly, and the village of Patitiri was very pleasant.

The best snorkelling on the island is apparently on Kokkinokastro beach - where I never got round to going to. But also just off the ladder into the sea at the hotel, north of the harbour. We arrived during a heat wave, and it was hot enough to stay in the water for two hours without a wet suit and without getting cold...


A word on equipment

The equipment I used is an Olympus PEN E-PL 3 with an Olympus underwater housing PT-05L, I've added an Olympus UFL-1 strobe (flash) even though I only snorkel and don't dive (yet...) as the colour red is gone below 1 meter. I'm glad I did, because there were some really nice things growing in dark places! To get distance between the flash and the lens, I use a FantaSea tray with a flexible arm (not too happy with those), with a Sea&Sea optic cable between the flash on the camera and the UFL-1. The optic cable solution works perfectly, and lets you have full controll of the flash in remote mode (Olympus RC mode) or just fired directly. The thing is, I need to practise using it under water as well! One of the things I really like about Olympus E and PEN systems both is the control features for one or several flashes, called RC mode. They've even put it on the XZ-1! I'm not a huge fan of the E-PL3 out of water, as I personally prefer optical viewfinders (for the time being) and the lenses I have are kit lenses. Also, it's smaller than I'm used to which makes it fiddly and slower than I need for other types of photography. However, it's important to remember that cameras are made for different uses. I use cameras for different things, so I need several. Besides, I'll gladly admit to being a gadget freak! On the other hand, I don't care about shoes... To be fair to the E-PL3, I did buy it to use under water and for that, it's really nice. I would prefer a faster 14-42 mm lens (wide open is f/3.5) but it needs to fit into the underwater housing. If Olympus make an upgraded fast version I'd be interested it it fits the housing, or if Nauticam would provide a solution. I'm a bit of a fusspot when it comes to lenses and light...

Anyway, back to lighting. The water is beautifully clear in this part of Greece, and the camera focuses nicely, if I can only stay still! But there were quite a few dark places, and I definately need another strobe. The UFL-1 also seems to have a little limited angle, so I think the best option is to use a couple of UFL-2s which are stronger, have a wider angle, and shoot them like I do with my remote-control FL-50 flashes in my "studio".

Wet lenses are lenses that you add to the under water housing and that can be put on or taken off under water. The second and third images of the fireworms were taken with a macro wet lens (PTMC-01), which allows focusing closer to the subject.  This gives a lower depth of field, and therefore focusing is even more difficult! The problem isn't the focusing speed of the camera and lens, which is much faster than the XZ-1 I used in the Galapagos, but the fact that once I'd focused, my distance to the subject would of course have changed. The "fun" part of snorkelling when taking photographs, as I've mentioned in a previous blogpost - is the bobbing around like a cork. It was no better in the Aegean sea, which must be more saline than in Norway. Either that or I have added more body fat to my bum throughout the holidays and I float even better than two weeks ago. So please believe the saline theory. Anyway - focusing was a challenge, to say the least. Although it was relatively calm, there is always some wave activity, and I kept floating backwards and forwards, making it very difficult to focus. Or should I say - to keep focus! For every image that was a keeper - there were ten to delete. I think this is a bigger problem when snorkelling than when diving, as I spend most of the time on the surface, whereas I'd get deeper down and out of the waves if I could only stay down below... So maybe I should try scuba diving...

I also have a wide angle wet lens (PTWC-01) - a beautiful piece of glass. I tied a belt around my waist, and put them both in neoprene bags. This worked really well, allowing me to change lenses under water. The location didn't always lend itself to using the wide angle wet lens, and I forgot it in the hotel room when we went on a location where there were little caves... (typical), so I'll just have to try that one out again, as I didn't make any shots with it. What a shame.


The critters!

Now to the lovely creatures! On the first day it was remarkably clear, and these guys (fireworms, marine polychaetes) were out, grazing on something on the algae beds. These photos were taken just off the ladder at the hotel. I also saw a tail half of a moray eel partly under a rock in this bay, but the photo of it is too bad to publish as it was at 2-3 meters, and I didn't want to frighten it. A word of caution about the fireworms: The bristles apparently deliver a very painful sting that will last for days!





I never saw the fireworms again, but the area had plenty of other creatures you don't want to touch. The sea urchins are a well-known menace on the rocky bottoms of these waters, so it's a good idea to use bathing shoes! Or simply snorkel! Use a mask and you will see where they are, and wear flippers that protect your feet. If you look into the hole where this sea urchin is sitting, you'll see a small sea anemone, hiding. I wonder it it ever manages to get its tentacles out without being poked by the urchin. What a bad deal for the anemone!


The area used to be known for sponge fishing, and there are lots of different sponges, often fighting for space and growing on top of each other with the algae, creating a veritable mosiac of colour:


There were also plenty of fish species, such as this wrasse:


And these little guys, who stayed in the same place all the time. I visited them on several days, they were always guarding their little territories.


This little thing provided a particular focusing challenge, as it was also waving around in the waves! I am seriously thinking it would be nice to be able to scuba dive, it must be much calmer further down!


One of the days, we took the boat Gorgona for a whole-day trip to two other islands in the Marine Park, with captain and knowledgeable guide Capt. Pakis. The beautiful island of Kyra Panagia is only inhabited by one monk. We went snorkelling in a bay there that had a couple of nice small caves.


These were probably my favourites on Kyra Panagia. Would you believe it is a worm? These are called Peacock worms.

Peacock worm


If it's frightened, it will hide.

Peacock worm

Peacock worm


I first thought they were sea anemones. but they're not. This, however - is a sea anemone. It was hiding in a small crack between a couple of stones in a cave on Kyra Panagia. I had to fire the flash quite heavily to get the image:


All the marine life gives the rocks such colour!


After Kyra Panagia, we visited the monk (images from land to come in another post...) and then travelled on to Peristera, where there is a wreck. The afternoon light was lovely, falling directly on the wreck, which was already overgrown with all sorts of species.


So, jump in there, and don't be afraid to get your feet wet!

All 56 underwater images from Alonissos are located in the gallery: National Marine Park of Alonissos.

Thank you for looking!


]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) National Marine Park of Alonissos underwater Wed, 15 Aug 2012 12:24:00 GMT
Snorkeling snaps I recently got an Olympus E-PL3 with an underwater housing for underwater photography, which I'm trying to get aquainted with. I have added a strobe (Olympus UFL-1) with a tray and strobe arm connected with an optical cable, so I don't have it directly above the camera. Also, a wide angle and macro wet lenses are part of the kit. I can't scuba dive, so I'm restricted to snorkelling, which provides a few challenges photographically, although there is plenty to see in the intertidal zone...

Today I have tried both with and without strobe, and I realise I have a lot still to learn. This kit is more complicated than the Olympus XZ-1 I used last year, with which I took this image of rock barnacles (Balanus balanoides) and a common winkle (Littorina littorea). (1/500  f/2.5 (ISO 100).

I have also used the XZ-1 under water both in Greece last year and in the Galapagos. This camera has a lovely, fast lens (f 1.8!), but as it's a compact, it is a little slow on the shutter after it has focused. So for underwater work I have bought the E-PL3 with a 14-42 mm lens which I tried out a bit more today.

Same barnacle species, E-PL3 @ focal length 42mm, added macro lens, 1/640 s, f/5.6, ISO 200. If you look carefully, you will find a lot of juvenile winkles.


Here are some of the shots taken with the strobe.

(f/5.0, 1/60 s ISO 200, flash fired in TTL-mode):

A starfish ((f/5.0, 1/60 s ISO 200, flash fired in TTL-mode):):


This species of seaweed is an invasive species, the Japanese wireweed (Sargassum muticum). It was introduced as a blind passanger when Pacific oysters were imported, and also with ballast water. Currently, it's spreading too quickly along the south Norwegian coast, taking over for our native seaweed species. This image is taken without flash, with ISO 1000,  @ f/4.0 1/250 s, 17mm focal length, using the Olympus wide angle wet lens.

Japanese wireweed

Close-up of the same species, with a lot of juvenile common mussels (Mytilus edulis) f4.0 1/250, ISO 800, @16 mm using a macro wet lens.

Invasive species in Norway


The equipment seems to work OK, I need to get to know the optimal settings better. I would prefer that the 14-42 mm lens were faster, a maximum aperture of 3.5 isn't really what I'm used to above water, and light is a problem under water. But first and foremost, the challenge is a snorkelling one. Since I'm floating on the surface, wearing a 7 mm wet suit because I'm such a wuss when it comes to water temperature, I'm like a big cork in the waves and focusing is technically difficult near the rocks. Pointing my fins vertically helps a bit to stop the movement, but I have to say I'm envious of scuba divers who get down under the surface!


]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Mon, 30 Jul 2012 15:02:03 GMT
Varanger peninsula - birds galore!  

At Whitsun, I attended a course about the birds of the Varanger peninsula in Finnmark, Norway. Just as the temperatures hit 25-30 degrees Centigrade in the south of Norway, I headed as far north and especially as far east as I could get on the Norwegian mainland. The Norwegian Ornithology Society organizes birding and bird-photography courses and trips for girls only, which are heaps of fun. I attended one last year to Andøya ( and of course - my expectations were high this year too.

11 ladies/girls met at Kirkenes airport and drove three cars from there to Varangerbotn, and on to Vardø on the first day. The course was held at the very atmospheric local pub (Nordpolen Pub), we were met our course presenters. Knut-Sverre Horn ( gave a presentation garnished with fantastic photographs of the many bird species we could expect to see. I felt myself rearing to go already... Tormod Amundsen, a birder and an architecht also gave a very interesting presentation of how he is working to develop Varanger as a travel destination for international birding by getting the communities to work together, and designing good birding destinations. As an architecht, Tormod specializes in designing hides for birders. See more on

Early Saturday morning we headed off to one of my main goals for the weekend: Hornøya. Hornøya is a very important sea bird colony about as far east as you can get in Norway. There is a lighthouse on the island, and I was originally scheduled to stay there from Tuesday to Friday before the course, but didn't get the time. The other main goal was Ekkerøy. Both these are important sea bird colonies. Hornøya has common guillemots (Uria aalge) by the thousands, many kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), puffins (Fratercula arctica), razorbills (Alca torda), and if you study the colony closer you will find some Brünnichs guillemots (Uria lomvis) nesting among the common guillemots. On Ekkerøy the kittiwakes make up the bird colony. You can also see the difference in the geology at these two places and almost predict why the alcids are at Hornøya. I didn't tak many pictures of the white tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) this time. Maybe it's because of my work with oil spill risk assessment, but it's the alcids and kittiwakes I like the best.

Photographically, these species are fantastic to watch, they have so much body language during courtship and nesting, and are such characters.

Hornøya is one of the few places where you can walk near the bird cliff, but you should do so with the greatest care so the nesting birds are disturbed as little as possible. Always stay on the track, no matter how close you would like to get to the birds. On Monday, we visited Ekkerøy as well, where there is a kittiwake colony that can be seen very easily from the trail. 

I will let the birds of Hornøya and Ekkerøy speak for themselves. For the ultimate colony experience, turn your microphone on. The sounds you hear are mainly kittiwakes (gull-like sound), and the common guillemots.


The next day, we headed up North to Hamningberg, where we saw a couple of King eiders (Somateria spectabilis) that were too far away at sea to photograph. However the tough little purple sandpipers (Calidris maritima) were braving the elements of the Barents Sea. These little waders even stay in Finnmark throughout the winter! Say no more.

The little birds and the sea  Big world. Small being.

A whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) near Hamningberg:



From there we drove down further south, to see if the ruffs were in courtship at Komagvær.  I was stunned by their different plumages, although we saw them only at a distance, and they didn't fight. You probably need a good hide and more time for good photographs of these marvelous birds. I have put another trip to Varanger on my bucket list to see these fantastic waders in full fancy dress.

One of them, the light coloured male, even had me fooled. I think he may have acted as a decoy as we followed them to photograph. While he distracted me and walked right out on a clear spot on the moor, the others - two males and a female - flew to a different place, even though I saw them land there,  I never saw them leave. Oh well, the decoy was pretty.



Different waders are abundant in Varanger, this image is from Ekkerøy, where there is a beautiful belt of seaweed that's exposed at low tide, providing a haven for the waders, here purple sandpipers and red knots (Calidris canutus). The red knots are migratory and gather in large flocks in areas succh as this. You can imagine how important such belts are for sea bird life, and they are very vulnerable to oil spills as well.

You can hardly see the purple sandpipers, they are so well camouflaged.

Seaweed belt with purple sandpipers

Seaweed belt with red knots

Another good area for spotting waders is Nesseby. More red knots:

Red knots

The final place we stayed was at Arntzen Arctic Adventures' cabins at Vestre Jakobselv, near Vadsø ( Behind the cabin Øyvind has put up several nest boxes and feeding stations for various species of birds. One of the species that nests there is the Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula). The weather was rather grey, and that light was bad, but the beautiful bird posed well, although at a long distance.

Northern Hawk Owl


Northern Hawk Owl


I would strongly recommend a visit to the Varanger peninsula. There are so many possibilities to see species that we don't see in the south, and it's a very pleasant part of Norway to travel to. People are very friendly everywhere, and although the distances are long, the roads are better than many places I've been to.

Other interesting links for the area:


And when you have stayed here for a while, make sure you travel west and again north to Kongsfjord.

Thanks for watching!


]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Sun, 10 Jun 2012 23:12:33 GMT
Photo course with Tom Schandy and Bård Næss Østensjøvannet near Oslo is a fantastic playground for practising bird photography skills. Today, I had signed up for a short course in bird photography with well-known Norwegian nature photographers Bård Næss and Tom Schandy (Natur & Foto,

The light was less than ideal today, with heavy clouds above. Our big hope was to see the great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus) mating, as they had done the day before. But although one of them put a little bit more grass on the platform, they just stayed out on the water. The tufted ducks were quite fun to watch and photograph, and we practised catching their dives. Or should I say we practised photographing water drops...

A mute swan came rather too close for comfort and I regretted not bringing the 7-14 mm for some fun, as it kept getting in the way of other subjects. "Take my picture!"

Finally, the grebes came back to the platform, and we all got ready in eager anticipation. At first the female climbed up and got into a rather compromising position. The male was - to our great disappointment - not game. She sat there for a long time, but he was uninterested, and finally they left for open water again. We gave up more or less, and stood there talking mostly, as it was getting rather dark.

Then - the pair carried out their courtship ritual for a while, and then came back. The female climbed back on and the show began.

My poor sensor was pushed to its limits as I set the ISO to 2500. I've never used that before. At f/2.8 I got 1/320 second shutter speeds... And grain worthy of a field of wheat...

The slide show has the best of the evening's efforts. I have better images of birds in other folders here, but it was a special evening all the same. Thanks to Bård and Tom for a great evening.


]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Wed, 09 May 2012 23:23:00 GMT
May! Finally! Yesterday I got some really bad shots of a common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) and the red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) - the light was terrible and the birds were at a long distance. However, today it was a wonderful sunny day, and I was up early, so I headed off to see whether the birds were in the same place. I still couldn't do anything about the distances as they still kept away, but the light was so much better!

First - the Common shelduck (male behind, female in front):

The red-breasted merganser (female in front, male at the back of first image)

After the trip to the sea, I took my dog for a long walk in the woods, in an area that passes a lot of small lakes. The toads are not too shy about their love life ;-)


Or maybe they are? ;-)

Thank you for watching.

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Tue, 01 May 2012 18:20:09 GMT
Eiders in spring The lovely eider (Somateria molissima) is one of my favourite sea birds. In breeding plumage, the male is especially beautiful. These pictures were taken at Åkerøya, south Norway, with a hand-held 300 mm in a boat. The birds are very shy, and didn't let us come close, so the images are all heavily cropped.

A male taking off

Eider males


Several males court one female

Eiders in courtship

Trying to impress her by calling, but she's looking the other way...

Eiders in courtship

Now she's looking.

Eiders in courtship

She seemed to be impressed by that

Eiders in courtship


Look at me!

Eiders in courtship

Fighting it out...

Two males fighting

Truly a beautiful bird

Eider males

A little back lighting

Eider male

And a little rest.

Males and female Males and females


Thank you for watching! Lets hope for little fluffies soon!

If you would like to see larger images, they are in the collection Eider Spring

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Common eider Somateria molissima Sat, 07 Apr 2012 17:43:51 GMT
Beauty of beginnings. Åkerøya in the south of Norway has a lovely summer flora, with species preferring a mild climate. It's still cold here, and spring is still around the corner , but you can see the beginning of the new floral year. 



Hazelnut (I think...)



Buds of apple leaves and blossoms

A wild rose

A wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) in the making


A feral Cotoneaster from a garden



The best thing about this very early spring period is that the best of the year lies ahead!


Thank you for watching!



]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Fri, 06 Apr 2012 15:32:42 GMT
Flower season starts - no April fools. The Small Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla pratensis) only grows a few places in Norway. At Hovedøya in the Oslo Fiord, just a five-minute ferry ride from the city centre, you can find this lovely flower growing almost on the bare rock. I have been looking forward to the start of the flower season for a long time, and although today was quite cold and it even snowed a teeny bit it was a lovely start to the season.

Of course, I dragged along most of my lenses, and all I ended up using was the 50 mm 2.0 macro. Exercise by weight-lifting...

I hope you enjoy the pictures. Thank you for watching! All the rest are in the Flora album.

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Pulsatilla pratensis Sun, 01 Apr 2012 18:44:48 GMT
A Dive in the Archives Sometimes when it's been a long time since I've taken photographs, I go through my archives, hunting for RAW material to process with new eyes. I usually find something. Today I have flipped through about half of the Galapagos albums, searching for images that I didn't process the first time. It's a good way to spend a dull day, bringing back good memories and letting me look at images in a new way.

Some of the images I found when treasure hunting today. First a Galapagos Sea Lion male on North Seymour, working hard to keep track of those females of his:

Galapagos sea lion

Galapagos Sea Lion

Galapagos Sea Lion


A brown pelican on North Seymour

Brown pelican


Then another Blue footed booby (also North Seymour)

Blue footed booby


A magnificent frigatebird following after the boat on the way to North Seymour

Magnificent frigatebird


Another Brown pelican, this time on San Christobal

Brown pelican


A lava lizard on Bartolomè

Lava lizard


I have also put together a couple of video clips of the courting waved albatrosses on Española. I appologise for the party music, but after all it's Saturday - and I found it best to mute our comments!

I think also it might be a good idea to bring a sturdy tripod when shooting video... Hand held and telelens is not the ideal video combo! Learning, learning...

Thank you for watching. All other images are in the Galapagos album.

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Sat, 17 Mar 2012 22:58:01 GMT
Wrinkly and fat? Not a problem. You are still beautiful. Just take the manatees, they are wrinkly and fat - and according to rumours - are the cause of the mermaid legends. OK, so you might have needed to be five years at sea and have plentiful rations of grog to think that sirenians are indeed women with fish tails, but anyway. They are CUTE, and we can do cute.

West Indian manatees of Florida need warm water in the winter to survive, so they gather near warm springs and power plants to benefit from the warm water. I have to admit, I can do warm water too in the winter, especially in December, so off we went to see the manatees in Crystal River, Florida.

Our tour guide was Capt. Mike Dunn from Manatees in Paradise in Crystal River. Capt. Mike and his wife, Capt. Stacy, operate on small boats, with maximum 6 people. They were recommended by a manatee rescue organisation we met at the Conference of Marine Mammology (the reason for being in Florida) for being a responsible operation for seing manatees. Tourism that operates for interaction with wildlife is a two-sided thing. On one hand, seing animals up close increases peoples' awareness, but may impact the animals. We therefore chose this company as recommended, and they also participate in the manatee rescue work.

As an eager photographer, I liked that they would not allow long fins because the manatees should have the advantage to get away from you. Longer fins also bring up more of the mud, making it murky for everyone, and lots of backscatter in photos.

You are not allowed to harrass the animals, but the companies have varying practices when it comes to touching. Mike very much advocated not touching them, and being passive. I can tell you that's good advice. We decided to not touch them. Anyway, my interest is in observation and photographing. We soon found out that the best strategy was to stand as still as possible (there's quite a current) at the clearest (and warmest) spot outside the "no-go" zone, and watch for animals coming out to the interaction zone. I think our passitivity must have been interesting to the manatees, because one calf kept coming out all the time, and one animal in particular took a liking to my colleague, nibbling his wetsuit, hand and mask, especially taking an interest in the camera and watch. After having satisfied himself that humans look really weird, he turned to me.

I have to admit to that at well past the age of forty, I haven't had my thighs groped like that for a while...

"Did you take a photograph of me?"

"Let's see!"

"Listen, I'll tell you something!"

"Let me see that flipper!"

"Hmmm. Thin skin. Can you use this flipper for anything?"


Nuzzling Mom.

Let sleeping manatees lie!

Small fish clean the skin.

Help protect me!

These and more are in the Marine mammals album on Zenfolio.

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Fri, 02 Dec 2011 20:08:00 GMT
A pilgrimage! Is there a place in the world that holds a more iconic position in the minds of biologists than Galapagos? This group of islands has a special position where different currents of the Pacific ocean meet, and has has so many unique endemic species, and many of the animals aren't even afraid of Man. It's every photographers dream (well, unless you do street photography), and most certainly the dream of someone who specialises in sensitive environments.

Our choice of travel was a week-long (which is a few weeks to short!) cruise on a vessel called the "Eric", handled by the superbly professional and friendly staff from Ecoventura. I can't even begin to praise them enough. Right from we checked in with them in Quito, we were taken care of every minute of the day, right from the soft wake-up calls at 7 am, to dinner made by excellent chefs. Super crew from our friendly captain Peter, aka King Neptune, to the cabin boy Angel and his fantastic towel-art.

Every day had a new adventure. We were divided into two groups, and Ecoventura has the lowest number of people per naturalist guide, so we were in nice, small groups. Our guides were Cecibel and Alexis, both level 3 Naturalist Guides, and both bursting with knowledge and enthusiasm. They were simply great.

As we didn't get to see all the islands, I'll just have to go back some day!

The blue-footed boobies are perhaps the most famous of the species, but on Genovesa there is also the red footed booby, which I thought were really colourful.

Now, in Equador, they take siestas really seriously. This one was asleep on a branch.

Blue footed boobies:

Nazca boobies are another species of booby on Galapagos.

Many species were in the breeding season (Nazca booby on Española).

Fernandina was a very special island, with black lava rocks everywhere. Here, the marine iguanas were the rulers, this one with a lava lizard.

Marine iguanas on Española, however, are much more colourful when they go into the breeding season:

I think maybe the magnificent frigatebird is the best known Galapagos show-off:

Well, if that doesn't get you laid, then try blue feet.(Blue-footed booby on Isabela):

Those will guaranteed do the trick, but will lead to a lot of work.

I bet this one regrets falling for that red balloon thing.

Swallow tailed gull and chick.

That sure makes me glad to be a mammal.

Well, if you can't blow up your throat to a balloon, and have boring feet, you can always do a dance:

First, look straight up and do a clicking sound.

Correct sideways neck movements:

Comedy will do it.


The flightless cormorants are another iconic/ironic Galapagos feature:

Who wants to fly anyway?

OK, lets add som more cuteness, this one from Santiago:

Sally lightfoot crabs, Santiago. These are everywhere.

Land iguana (North Seymour)

Giant tortoise:

Of course, it's the Darwin finches that are most famous for us biologists, this is a large ground finch. (And before you expect colourful feathers... they are all black males and grey females. The fun is in the beaks).

The yellow warbler:

The ever-present Galapagos mocking bird is a delightful creature. This one had an Olympus-moment when he saw his reflection in my 300 mm 2.8 :-)

A short-eared owl:

Galapagos hawk:

Lava lizards are everywhere, some islands have distinctly different varieties and species:

Under water is just as fantastic!

The beachmaster didn't like us getting too close.

Penguin from below:

And a white-tipped reef shark:

A small selection of the images from Galapagos, if you have the time to see all 280 of the ones I ended up processing, please visit:
Zenfolio - Galapagos

If you want to go yourself - here's a good tip: Ecoventura

And don't forget to play!

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Thu, 01 Dec 2011 19:19:00 GMT
Mølen a November evening In Vestfold, near Helgeroa, there is a UNESCO cultural heritage site and a nature beauty spot called Mølen. It's a favourite site for photography and bird spotting, with lovely seascape light and rounded boulders. Sadly, we arrived there a little bit too late today to really work the light, so I had to concentrate on just one thing - water movement around the waterfront boulders, as we arrived just as the warm golden light had left the boulders further up, but the sea was still colourful. I'd looked forward all day to photographing the boulders in the low winter light, and also do something with the old grave mounds, but I'll just have to go back for more. It's been there for ages, it'll be there for ages more. I can repeat...

All these and more are located in my "Langesund, Mølen and Nevlungsstranda" album on Zenfolio.

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Mon, 14 Nov 2011 15:51:00 GMT
My first exhibition "Stille bevegelse" I have been allowed to use the waiting rooms at a local health and family clinic to show my photos. I've called the collection of pictures "Stille bevegelse" - "Quiet movement" - and it consists of three series and one separate image. The exhibition can be seen at Plexusklinikken in Ski.

Movement is central to the force of life, and it can be both the movement of our bodies, but also our minds. Everything alive moves in some way. Movement gives joy and movement is life.

I am moved by nature, it's always changing. Even a still landscape has change, a light breeze becomes a storm - the grey light turns warm and yellow. There's always change, always something new.

The moment is frozen, but the movement has power, whether it is the wings lifting the courting swan, or young legs holding the dancer in position.

"Balanse og symmetri"

"Renhet 1"

"Renhet 2"

"Renhet 3"

"Kjærlighet 3"

"Kjærlighet 2"

"Kjærlighet 1"

"Livsglede 1"

"Livsglede 2"

"Livsglede 3"

Each photograph can be printed at maximum 20 copies.
Thank you for watching!

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Wed, 02 Nov 2011 07:27:00 GMT
Abandoned souls. Every year, dogs and cats are left to fend for themselves in the small villages of Chalkidiki, Greece at the end of the summer. There they beg for food scraps from the locals and the tourists, seeking brief companionship and transient friendships with people who will leave for home after a few days.

Some people care - others don't. This is the story of of the souls that were left behind when those they thought loved them moved on.

Soon the winter will come to the abandoned animals of Chalkidiki.

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Sun, 09 Oct 2011 23:22:00 GMT
Musk ox! Musk ox (Ovibos moschatus), were introduced from Greenland to Dovrefjell in Norway in 1932. Today there are approximately 280 of them. Seeing them is a matter of luck, as they have a large area at their disposal. We drove up into a former military explosives testing area, hoping to see them.

We saw three individuals, one at a distance, and two really close that were resting and grazing near a side road. I was lucky to have a river between the animals and myself. That way I could get close without being perceived as a threat. They seemed to be more disturbed by a dutchman who was on their side and moving up behind them. There were a couple of nervous moments there.

These animals may look slow, but they are fast and can reach a speed of 60 mk/h. With their body weight, I expect they take some time stopping... You really don't want to provoke these guys. I hope you enjoy the photos.

All the photos and more are available on Zenfolio.
(E5, Zuiko 300mm, minimal cropping of a couple of the photos).

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Sat, 24 Sep 2011 15:01:00 GMT
Birds on Vega Vega is a Norwegian World Heritage Site on the Helgeland Coast. It is most well known for it's culture of building eider-houses and protecting the eider through the breeding season, and then collecting the down after the chicks have left the nest. However, I was there in the last days of August, and there were other birds that were setting their mark on the tidal flats - the shoreline waders.

These migratory birds are new to my interest and I haven't found out which species they are yet. They are so alike ;-)

We went out to sea as well, in the best conditions we could ask for:

The ever-present white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)was numerous:

And finally, another rascal and another favourite, the Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus)

As usual, full size are on Zenfolio.


]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Sun, 04 Sep 2011 17:28:00 GMT
Harvest time One stands alone.


Lines to life.

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Mon, 15 Aug 2011 15:24:00 GMT
I may just be a geek. "Would you like an aperitif?"
"Would you like a drink before dinner?"
"Uhm - I'll just get my camera".

On the windowsill of the gourmet restaurant a butterfly is sitting bewildered at being inside. I run back to my room to get my macrolens and camera, run back to the restaurant and start focusing. The waitress brings us the menus while I shoot away, aiming for a portrait of a perfectly ordinary Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) certainly more common than me having meals in that type of restaurant.

She comes back and brings us water and bread and asks again if we have had time to look at the menu. I'm still photographing so it goes without saying that I haven't had a chance to look at the menu - I mean, how many things can a girl do at the same time?

Finally I'm done and let the butterfly climb on my finger and let it out the window.

"What did you say? Oh, just give me the seven courser"

Some new bug photos on Zenfolio - Studies of Nature

]]> (Cathrine Stephansen) Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:22:00 GMT