Lucia Griggi has always enjoyed the outdoor life. In the first part of her 20-year career she established herself as one of the world’s leading surfing photographers, but more recently has turned her attention to travel, nature and conservation.
Based in Cornwall, she divides her time between commercial and editorial work, with clients including National Geographic, Warner Brothers and the BBC. She is also a guest lecturer at the University of Falmouth. She has won several photographic prizes including the National Geographic Traveller Award.
Griggi is one of three travel photographers talking about their life during the pandemic for the May/June edition of the RPS Journal. To whet the appetite, here she reveals how she captured five of her favourite wildlife images.
‘Seals, Iceland’, 2018 (at top)
I was up in a bush plane, shooting the braided rivers of Iceland. When we flew lower I noticed there were seals on the side of the glacial run-off. Normally it would have been difficult to capture this image because the noise of a low-flying plane would usually scare the seals into the water. However, here I managed to shoot out of the back window just before they were alerted. It’s an interesting shot colour-wise – there’s the brown shoreline, where the seals are almost camouflaged, then you’ve got that pale brown transition before you come into that silty, pure turquoise water.
‘Emperor penguins, Antarctica', 2020
This image was made at Atka Bay in Antarctica, where I had the opportunity to document emperor penguins for a special long-time client. The temperature was around -20ºC. I took a snowmobile and went to the ice shelf where there were hundreds of emperor penguins. It was quite overwhelming. In my first images, I was trying to capture the sheer size of the colony, then I realised I needed to subtract things from the frame and look for unique moments on the fringes. This photo, for me, represents the special relationship between the adult penguin and its chick.
‘Puffin, Grímsey Island’, 2020
Grímsey Island, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, is home to thousands of nesting Atlantic puffins in the summer months. I positioned myself on the grassy cliffs where the puffins were flying in and out of their nests. They weren’t at all bothered by me. In this image of a bird looking out to sea I wanted to include a little of the foreground, while using the dark colour of the cliffs as a background. Those earthy colours make the red and orange on the beak and around the eye really pop out.
This photo was taken off Bear Island, the southernmost island of the Norwegian Svalbard Archipelago. I was out photographing birds from a Zodiac every day and I wanted to shoot something slightly different. I was able to get more of a neat, studio-looking portrait by photographing this guillemot just as it was setting out from a cave into sunlight. I stopped my lens down and underexposed to black out the background. I like the details in the feathers and the simplicity of the highlight of the white on its chest and around its eyes.
‘Penguins, Elephant Island’, 2019
En route to Antarctica, the first land we saw after a two-day sea crossing was Elephant Island, about 150 miles off the Antarctic peninsula. From a Zodiac I could see these chinstrap penguins jumping on and off an iceberg. Its sheer glossiness and pale blue colours isolated the wildlife in a slightly different way than you’d normally see. It wasn’t the easiest photo to shoot because the iceberg, the boat and the penguins were all moving, but I like it because the penguins are just going about their daily life and doing their own thing.
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