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In photos:

In photos: Little island, big birds

08 Feb 2018

Keywords

  • climate change
  • tasmania
  • albatross

Great news! We just received promising signs from the field that our shy albatross project is going well, with a new generation of albatross chicks having hatched.

WWF-Australia is collaborating with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), Tasmanian Albatross Fund, and the CSIRO to install artificial nests in an effort to increase the number of surviving shy albatross chicks.

To document the various stages of this exciting project, we sent Tasmanian photographer and cinematographer Matthew Newton to Albatross Island.

So what’s it like to be involved in capturing the magic of these special birds on a remote island? Read on to hear from Matthew himself.

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Tell us a little bit about your love of photography.

For me, storytelling’s the most powerful way to get ideas out into the world today. Stories are what move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us. I want my work to be a part of the conversation about social issues and the environment. The price of admission to this amazing life is that you have to go all the way out there, come back and show the world what you saw.

 

A pair of shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) preening, Albatross Island, December 2017 © Matthew Newton / WWF-Aus

What was it like taking photos on Albatross Island?

Photographing the albatross project has been a really challenging and fantastic experience. From the moment I heard about Albatross Island I wanted to go there. What I didn't expect, was to find a place so extraordinary and unlike anywhere else I had been in Tasmania.

 

Close up of a shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) chick expanding its wings on a natural nest, Albatross Island, Tasmania, December 2017 © Matthew Newton / WWF-Aus

What were the biggest challenges you faced?

Albatross Island is not an easy environment to work in. The only shelter on the island is a cave and there’s no power or freshwater. It’s incredibly windy, which makes holding the camera steady difficult. The wet and salty conditions are harsh on equipment and to top it all off, the smell and grime of the albatross colony can be pretty gnarly. Despite all this, it’s an amazing place to work. The birds and the light never cease to amaze me.
Read more: when Matt got stuck on the island!

 

Close up of a shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) chick on artificial nest, Albatross Island, Tasmania, December 2017 © Matthew Newton / WWF-Aus

Can you take us through some of your favourite shots?

1- My aim with this work is to tell the story of the birds on the island and to produce images that are poetic in nature. I want you to care about the scientists and the birds as much as I do. This image shows an albatross on one of the new artificial nests and in the background, we can see scientist Rachael Alderman placing another nest into the colony.

 

A shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) testing out its new artificial nest, Albatross Island, June 2017 © Matthew Newton / WWF-Aus

2- I like this image because it shows interaction between the birds. These two adult birds are renewing their bond at the same site they return to each year. These types of images take time because you need to watch the birds to learn how they interact so that you’re ready to take the shot.

 

Pair of shy albatross with their new artificial nest, Albatross Island, June 2017 © Matthew Newton / WWF-Aus

3- The aim of this project is to increase the survival rate of the chicks by providing high-quality nests, and this image shows just that, with the interaction between a chick and the adult bird.

 

Shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta) parent and chick on artificial nest, Albatross Island, Tasmania, December 2017 © Matthew Newton / WWF-Aus

4- This is one of my all time favourites. It brings together a number factors that are fantastic about the island – the light, the birds and the wind. The last light of the day strikes the birds as they take off into the wind. It’s only from the observations of previous trips that I knew this would happen. Knowing how to take a good photograph is only half the challenge with wildlife. You also need to know as much as you can about the animals you’re working with.

 

Shy albatross about to take flight, Albatross Island. Photo taken by Matthew Newton prior to the shy albatross project © Matthew Newton

 

Matt in action on Albatross Island

 
Matthew Newton in action, taking a photo of Dr Rachael Alderman monitoring a shy albatross © Matthew Newton

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Pair of shy albatross with their new artificial nest, Albatross Island, June 2017 © Matthew Newton / WWF-Aus

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