Behind the Lens: Appreciating Wildlife Photography in South Georgia

Nature’s wonders await while aboard a Zodiac, with moments that can take the breath away of even the most seasoned photographers. This was the case for Silversea expedition filmmaker Benn Berkeley when he was on a cruise to Antarctica and saw first hand a phenomenal giant petrel feeding frenzy in South Georgia.

Zodiacs, of course, are the small, inflatable boats that are invaluable in helping travelers nip into out-of-the-way bays and see wildlife up close and personal — an amazing opportunity for wildlife photography.

“The nice thing about cruising around on a Zodiac, Benn tells me, “is that in the remote places they access, you never know what you’re going to see. It’s very opportunistic in that respect, when it comes to experiencing the worlds of wildlife. They’re nimble little watercraft, so you can be really quiet and just kind of weave in and out of coves which is why they’re perfect. Plus, you’re not encased in something, so you feel a part of the action, as you’re getting all of the sound and can watch the behavior. That’s what’s exciting.”

“I get really excited because you might not see anything — that’s the nature of wildlife — but you might see a kill or something really special and this was just one of those moments where we got there early on.”

Filming Giant Petrels onboard a Zodiac in South Georgia.
Silversea guests cruise to Gold Harbour onboard a Zodiac./Benn Berkeley

Nature’s honesty humbles any lens

Benn grabbed his camera to film the frantic feeding behavior of these opportunistic feeders as they gorged on a penguin. It was a moment that emphasized that nature’s beauty lies in its truth.

“It was really brutal, but that’s nature. Though petrels do hunt, here they were scavenging,” says Benn, who was thankful to be in a small boat as it meant that he could get as close as possible to the unusual bill of the giant petrel.

Filming wildlife spectacles with a quality zoom

“From a filmmaking point of view, you’ve got this situation in front of you and you’re like, ‘How do I film this? How do I make this into a scene?’ There’s so much going on, so you’ve got to try and think quickly,” says Benn. He opts for a 100–400mm zoom lens in scenarios like this, filming in slow motion each time so that he has the option to speed up the footage afterward.

Filming Giant Petrels during a feeding frenzy in South Georgia
The chaotic nature of the giant petrels’ feeding frenzy made for a unique photo opportunity./Benn Berkeley

It’s experiences like this that demonstrate how nature has the ability to silence mankind — and also stop us in our tracks.

“It’s quite interesting on the Zodiac in that people just go quiet, especially if there are a lot of photographers. Everyone just goes into their own zone and does their own thing,” Benn says.

Want to see giant petrels and other South Georgia wildlife yourself? Start browsing Silversea’s Antarctica Cruises and check out more incredible wildlife photography in Silversea’s Behind the Lens series.