Penguins: A Photo Essay

They are cute because they are awkward but still think they can walk around in tuxedos all day.  Who do they think they are, James Bond?  No, they are penguins, and they always make for great photos.  On my trip I encountered three types of penguins while in Antarctica: chinstrap penguins, gentoo penguins and my personal favourite adelie penguins.  During my trip, I took nearly 800 penguin pictures; and to be honest, I probably could have easily taken two or three thousand.

Just like with my photo essay on ice, I want to know which your favourite photo is.  I’ve given each one a title to make it easy to let me know.

Gentoo Penguins

We saw by far more Gentoo Penguins than any others.  They are very entertaining because they are constantly active and posing for pictures.

The great thing about photographing penguins is that they always seem to have great expressions on their face.  Often they look as if they're very wise.

“Penguin Wisdom” – The great thing about photographing penguins is that they always seem to have great expressions on their faces. Often they look as if they’re very wise and deep in thought.

"Hey Girlfriend" - When the penguins are not being wise they're being animated.  They are very curious and constantly give looks of confusion.

“Hey Girlfriend” – When the penguins are not being wise they’re being animated. They are very curious and constantly give looks of confusion.

"Walk of Shame" - The reason I started doing the "penguin thoughts" segment was because as I looked back at these pictures I couldn't help but want to put captions over each of their little heads.

“Walk of Shame” – The reason I started doing the “penguin thoughts” segment was because as I looked back at these pictures I couldn’t help but want to put captions over each of their little heads.  This was easily one of my favourite penguin pictures, if for nothing else aside from its cute look as if it did something wrong.

"Penguin Chicks" - A penguins attachment and need to care for their young is incredible.  The male and the female rotate taking turns caring for the young while the other fishes for food.  And when a penguin doesn't have a chick, sometimes it tries to steal other chicks.

“Penguin Chicks” – A penguins attachment and need to care for their young is incredible. The male and the female rotate taking turns caring for the young while the other fishes for food. And when a penguin doesn’t have a chick, sometimes it tries to steal other chicks.

"Family Picture" - It is funny that even when the penguin chicks are nearly the size of their parents they stay close together, if not in firm physical contact.  Unlike many of my shots which I waited for the right pose, these guys were in this position when I got to the spot; I love it when that happens.

“Family Picture” – It is funny that even when the penguin chicks are nearly the size of their parents they stay close together, if not in firm physical contact. Unlike many of my shots which I waited for the right pose, these guys were in this position when I got to the spot; I love it when that happens.

Chinstrap Penguins

Once you see them, you understand where their name comes from.  They were the laziest of the penguins, and didn’t move much which made them great targets for close-ups.

"Penguin Prayer"  Sometimes down on the beach the penguins would just squint off while looking up as if they were praying.

“Penguin Prayer” Sometimes down on the beach the penguins would just squint off while looking up as if they were praying.

"Rained out" - Penguins are some weird sort of hybrid between dolphins and birds, and they never seemed to mind the rain.  However, at the beach they would stand for hours just cleaning themselves off.

“Rained out” – Penguins are some weird sort of hybrid between dolphins and birds, and they never seemed to mind the rain. However, at the beach they would stand for hours just cleaning themselves off.

"Penguin Dive" - More proof of the penguin's dolphin like quality.  Actually when we got to deception island there were hundreds swimming, and I took about 300 shots, only this one and another captured the moment just right... so hard to shoot from a moving zodiac.

“Penguin Dive” – More proof of the penguin’s dolphin like quality. This is easily one of the penguin pictures I”m most proud of since it takes the penguin out of it’s natural element.  Actually when we got to deception island there were hundreds swimming, and I took about 300 shots, only this one and another captured the moment just right… so hard to shoot from a moving zodiac.

"Happy Feet" A great photography tip was given to me by a travel photographer once.  Shoot the obvious, then shoot every other angle and subject imaginable.  I thought of that just before I shoot the feet of this penguin, I think it turned out really cool.

“Happy Feet” A great photography tip was given to me by a travel photographer once. Shoot the obvious, then shoot every other angle and subject imaginable. I thought of that just before I shoot the feet of this penguin, I think it turned out really cool.

Adelie Penguins

Maybe it’s because we saw the fewest of these, or maybe it’s their bright blue eyes, but these little guys were my favourites.

"Adelie Pose" - The Adelie are the smallest of the penguins we saw, which automatically makes them the cutest, and can't you just see their bright blue eyes shinning?

“Adelie Pose” – The Adelie are the smallest of the penguins we saw, which automatically makes them the cutest, and can’t you just see their bright blue eyes shinning?

"Adelie Break" - Quite often the penguins look lost, as if they are trying to figure out how to get home.  But I really just think they are out of shape and need breaks.

“Adelie Break” – Quite often the penguins look lost, as if they are trying to figure out how to get home. But I really just think they are out of shape and need breaks.

"Adelie Walk" - It always amused me how the penguins needed to walk with their arms out for balance, it definitely adds to the cutness factor.  I think I'm going to start doing the same!

“Adelie Walk” – It always amused me how the penguins needed to walk with their arms out for balance, it definitely adds to the cutness factor. I think I’m going to start doing the same!

Is Antarctica time over???

Well, yes and no.  You can catch my latest stuff over on the peregrine adventures blog, including a guide to photographing Antarctica, you’ll also get my review on expedition vs. cruising to Antarctica.  There is one final installment of “Penguin Thoughts” coming up, but as for Brendan’s Adventures, sadly, it’s time to move on.  Since traveling to Antarctica I’ve been to Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Curitiba, Ihla do Mel, Rio de Janeiro and Paraty; I think it’s time to catch you up on some of those places.  The plan over time, however, is to scatter a couple more Antarctica posts into the mix because there is so much more to write about.


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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29 Comments

  1. You got that jumping one really cool! Nice! I guess you tried many times to photo one like that!

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  2. Absolutely adorable. I can’t get enough of these. Excellent shots!

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  3. You captured some really amazing photos Brendan! I can’t pick my favorite–love them all!

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  4. Awesome photos. Love the one of the feet, you’re right that it turned out really cool.

    Great job!!

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  5. Cutest things in the world, next to sloths! I looooooved this post!!! Gorgeous shots.

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    • I’m definitely going slothing in Central America soon… have no fear!

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  6. All your penguin post make me want to really just go to Antarctica so I can put one in my backpack and bring it home. They are just so fucking cute!!! You took some amazing pictures on that trip!!!

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  7. You took some amazing photos of these penguins, what a cool experience to go down to Antarctica and see their adorable waddling for yourself! Shame you can’t take one home with you. The next photo set should be you, trying to balance with your arms back like that last penguin, haha.

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    • Hahah, I totally agree Patricia, that would be a great shot!

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  8. Awesome shots there, Brendan. I’m a big fan of “Happy Feet” actually 🙂
    Anyway, I guess my favorite is Adelie Walk.

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  9. Loved this! great photos, really cute penguins. If I have to pick a favorite from above I’ll go with the “Hey Girlfriend!” shot…..I can just imagine her next sentence….”whatchoo doin’?”…..LOL!

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  10. What fantastic photographs! You’re right; penguins are so funny, they’re the stand up comics of the animal world. I love your LOLpenguinization.

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  11. I want to see the penguins!! Great shots.

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  12. Great Job!!! beautiful pic…….congratulations

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  13. Absolutely adorable……

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  14. ah they’re adorable! but i love the family portrait of the Gentoos..there’s dirt around them – more realistic as in they’re not always in their ‘expensive’ tuxedos..yet genius – you’ve got to capture them as if they’re posing for a family portrait!

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  15. Awww these penguin photos are too cute! I especially love that little lone one looking off into the horizon!

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  16. I’m with Christine…You have so many wonderful shots it is too difficult to pick just one…I also love them all…You did a great job, Brendan….
    Patti thecrazychef Somewhere in Mexico

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  17. That jumping photo is pretty amazing! Love it.

    I’ve seen two types of penguins, fairy penguins in Australia and jackass penguins in South Africa (due to the sound they make, the “proper” name is African these days tho) and decided we think they’re so cute because so few animals walk on two feet like we do and they’re always immaculately dressed. Plus as all Pittsburgh Penguins fans know, they are also CHAMPIONS!

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  18. These are so fun, great shots! I loved your captions, very funny : )

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  19. LOVE these shots! Penguins are absolutely adorable!

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    • thanks Samantha

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  20. Amazing photographs. I especially like the penguin feet shot.

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    • thanks Mike

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  21. beautiful. I love the arms out walk. And knowing that you took 300 shots to get a couple of good ones of them swimming makes me feel much better about the amount of unusable shots on my own camera after a day out 😉 thank you for sharing these with us Brendan

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    • Kim, Penguin prayer is one of my faves too… for some reason though I think you’re the first to say that one!

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  22. Penguins. Gotta love ’em.

    Love those little Adelies. I had no idea they were getting so scarce. Curse you, global warming.

    What beautiful eyes they have.

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