As a professional landscape photographer, Albert Dros is no stranger to beautiful scenery, but nothing prepared him for what he encountered on a recent trip to Antarctica. While the landscape was magical, Dros couldn’t help but be captivated by the wildlife he encountered, particularly the penguins. In fact, they became his new obsession during the trip and he spent as much time as possible photographing their every move.
From penguins at play to tender moments between baby penguins and their parents, each adorable moment was captured by Dros. The photographer spent hours observing their behavior and his portfolio of images shows his ability to quickly capture the spirit of his subjects. Through his lens, we’re able to see different penguin species as they settle into the Antarctic summer.
The timing of his trip—just one week before Antarctica reached record high temperatures—couldn’t help but move Dros to think about our changing planet and the animals that will be impacted. As he uses his photography to call attention to the natural world, Dros hopes that these photographs are a reminder of the lives that will be affected by climate change.
We had a chance to chat with Dros about the cute penguins he encountered and how he prepared for his first visit to Antarctica. Read on for My Modern Met’s exclusive interview.
How did the trip to Antarctica come about and what did you do to prepare for it?
As a landscape photographer and photography guide, I often get to travel to the most beautiful places in the world. This was my first time going to Antarctica. My friend’s company Iceland Photo Tours was organizing a tour to the continent and asked me to guide on the trip, meaning I give photography lectures on board, share my knowledge, and in general help the people to get the best possible photographs.
Preparation for a trip to Antarctica in summer is easier than it seems. Compared to what many people think, Antarctica is not that cold in summer. The tourist boats generally only touch the northern side of the peninsula and temperatures hover around zero degrees there during summer, sometimes going as high as 10 or this year even breaking the heat record, getting close to 20 degrees (Celsius)! As I am an experienced guide in the cold, I just had to pack all my winter clothes to be ready to go.
What were you most looking forward to about the trip prior to your arrival?
I guess Antarctica can really be considered the end of the world. It’s very remote. This is what I was looking for the most—to experience the true remoteness of a new landscape that I had never been to. These kinds of landscapes always get me triggered. I’ve seen many places in the world so if I am exploring something unique and new—for me—I always get very excited. Another thing I was looking forward to was hanging out with the penguins there. I actually really had no idea how many there were, but there were many!
As a photographer, what did you find so inspiring about the penguins you encountered?
These penguins live on this continent all year long. It’s “pleasant” in summer, but I can imagine how hard it must be in winter. I could watch the penguins for hours because basically everything they do is interesting to see. And not only interesting, their movements are also really funny! They walk funny, kind of like they’re all drunk. They’re very clumsy. Sometimes you see them fall from icebergs into the water. Or slide in the snow.
Next to being funny, they’re also really cute. Especially in the period I went, there were many chicks. It’s beautiful to see interactions with them and their chicks. But not only that, but it’s also great to watch interactions between them. They like to steal stones from each other’s nest, even if there are many “nice” stones around. They just annoy each other, which is funny to see. All in all, I can just watch them do their thing forever.
Was there anything particularly interesting you observed about their behavior?
They’re not really afraid of people I noticed. And sometimes they’re even curious and come to check on you.
What surprised you the most about Antarctica once you were there?
The thing that surprised me the most was the weather. We had nice calm weather during most of our stay. Not much wind and quite mild temperatures. In general, it was very pleasant to walk around. One week after I left, Antarctica experienced its hottest temperatures ever.
How did you prepare for a photoshoot in such a cold climate?
Like I mentioned earlier: it was not that cold! I am actually used to photographing in much colder weather than it was in Antarctica. Sure, it was summer, but it was quite warm. It’s very important to wear layers so you can remove or add layers when needed. Next to that: waterproof everything! Because we would often go in little boats to go ashore, and you would sometimes get wet. Waterproof pants, shoes/boots, and a good jacket plus an extra pair of socks is really a must.
What would be your best travel advice for people wishing to make a trip to Antarctica?
If you have the opportunity to do it, don’t think too much about it and just go! Antarctica is something special. It has a special atmosphere to it and is just magic. And who knows, in the near future for various reasons we might not be able to go anymore.
What do you hope that people take away from your photos of the penguins?
Of course, they’re aimed for the “awww” and “sooo cute” kind of reactions, but I really want people to see them and realize that we need to protect these penguins and think of our planet. I was in Greenland last year and mentioned a similar thing. Rising temperatures in the Antarctic are worrying.
I always try to convey a message with my photos, and by documenting beautiful places in the Arctic and the Antarctic I always mention global warming. There are still a lot of penguins in Antarctica, but keep in mind that a lot of penguin species’ populations are shrinking. Let’s hope we can still enjoy these beautiful animals for decades.