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Thomas Peschak

Bio National Geographic Photographer // Storyteller // Conservation Biologist // NatGeo Explorer // 🇿🇦

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 Instagram Image by Thomas Peschak (@thomaspeschak) with caption : "A gray whale calf surfaces to breathe with its much larger mother floating right below. The water in Baja California's S" at San Ignacio Lagoon - 1891501015656667531
San Ignacio Lagoon Report Share Download 123 26.47K

A gray whale calf surfaces to breathe with its much larger mother floating right below. The water in Baja California's San Ignacio lagoon is usually a murky green and photographing the gray whales that come here to mate and give birth, underwater is usually very tricky. I spent almost a month working this lagoon for the 2017 @natgeo magazine story ‘Baja’s Ocean Stewards’ and only for a short, but very memorable 45 minutes I hit the jackpot. The tide pushed in beautiful clear blue water and I had more curious whales around the boat then I knew what to do with. @maresmexicanos.

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Often making original/different photographs is less about technique, but all about putting yourself and your camera in a place where few, if any others have been before. For years I visualized and desired a image of Cape fur seals surfing the waves that crash into Africa’s southern tip and I wanted to show this behavior from the underwater perspective. In 2014 after many failed attempts, me and my then assistant, dive buddy and all around seal guru @animal_ocean found the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow... One day the ocean turned clear and the swell was large and beefy enough for the seals to surf, but not soo big that every wave would pound me into the rocky reef (only every fourth or fifth wave did that...). The trick to making these images was to literally surf the waves underwater with the seals (see pic 2 of me trying...). I would alternate this approach with clinging to the kelp while the seals raced by overhead and eventually photographs started coming together. To make great images you sometimes have to take calculated risks, but remember that you can’t make photographs when you are dead! Shot on assignment for @NatGeo //

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 Instagram Image by Thomas Peschak (@thomaspeschak) with caption : "Charles Darwin had nothing but contempt for Galapagos marine iguanas. He called them ‘Imps of Darkness’ and subjected th" at Galapagos Islands - 1890048910467152861
Galapagos Islands Report Share Download 596 62.52K

Charles Darwin had nothing but contempt for Galapagos marine iguanas. He called them ‘Imps of Darkness’ and subjected them to experiments that included repeatedly throwing them back into ocean to find out how long they could withstand the icy cold waters. This experiment of course sounds utterly outlandish by today’s standards, but bear in mind that in Darwin’s time children still worked in factories, women could not vote, surgery was carried out without anesthetic and your barber was also your dentist! I personally am positively obsessed with these unique marine reptiles. On assignment for @natgeo in the Galapagos, I shot more than 20,000 photographs of Darwin’s Imps and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to go back and shoot 20,000 more.

Seychelles Report Share Download 463 40.94K

When you are living in close proximity to wild Aldabra Giant tortoises you learn pretty quickly that they go wherever they want. If you leave the door open on one of the atoll’s remote @sif_seychelles field huts, the tortoises will walk right through your ‘bedroom’ on their morning commute (Pic 1 and 2). At night, in the absence of predators, the tortoises sleep out in the open, necks extended and exposed. My nightly wander to the outhouse often turned into a obstacle course, trying not to fall over sleeping tortoises (Pic3).

 image by Thomas Peschak (@thomaspeschak) with caption : "Sometimes magic simply happens and all I have to do is press the shutter... Actually to be honest, that almost never hap" - 1888619252722825578
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Sometimes magic simply happens and all I have to do is press the shutter... Actually to be honest, that almost never happens !!! Often the simpler a shot looks the more complex its inception, which is the case for this nighttime whale shark photograph. First the location; Djibouti, sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea is not really on the beaten path (4 flights) and photographing there can be a bit complicated due to active military operations to counter piracy and terrorism. Personally, I loved Djibouti, the vibrant marine realm, the harsh beauty of desert and the hospitality of the people. Back to photography: What looks like a simply natural moonlight underwater image, is in fact the result of using a hulking movie light hung just above the ocean’s surface off the back of a Dhow. The natural light from the moon was simply not powerful enough to illuminate the whale shark, no matter how high I pushed the ISO setting on my camera. Then there was the waiting... over two weeks I probably spent more than 24 hours drifting in the ocean in near darkness waiting for whale sharks to swim through the beam of light.

Seychelles Report Share Download 618 59.42K

I have spent months photographing for @natgeo on the remote Indian Ocean atoll of Aldabra, living in close proximity to the 100,000 or so endemic giant tortoises that survive on this remote outpost. Giant tortoises used to occur on most Indian Ocean islands, but were eaten to extinction everywhere in the region except on Aldabra. On this atoll they have become true masters of this harsh and unforgiving terrain. In the dry season they turn beachcomber, seeking out seedpods deposited by the tide (Pic 1). To escape the heat of the midday sun, which can literally cook them in their shell, these tortoises seek shade under stunted trees or venture underground into cool coral caves. (Pics 2-4). Tomorrow, to follow up this series, I will post some behind the scenes images of my time with Aldabra’s giants. @sif_seychelles

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I was so tired and cold that sitting in a stream of penguin pooh, to steal a few minutes of rest was, at the time, a perfectly acceptable option. Despite the foul stench I quickly became absorbed in reviewing my images...and when I looked up, ten or so minutes later... I was surrounded. A gang of fluffy, down feathered king penguin chicks had waddled more than a hundred feet to investigate. I would dare to say that king penguins chicks are some of the most curious animals I have ever encountered. Shot on assignment for @natgeo in collaboration with @environmentza on @marionisland // The second image which shows me ‘surrounded’ was made by @ottowhitehead

Seychelles Report Share Download 730 67.65K

Yesterday I posted a time-lapse video of me using a ladder to photograph sharks. Today I am sharing some of the photographs that I shot while perched on that ladder. The first image is the one that ran as the opener of my Seychelles @natgeo story ‘ Nature’s Resurrection’. The other two photographs were never published in the magazine. I love the way the sharks are spaced across the frame in the first image, the fins remind me of the sails of a long vanished fleet. Which one is your favorite?

Seychelles Report Share Download 220 22.49K

The difference between a good photograph and a National Geographic photograph is often just a slight shift in perspective. Sometimes a ladder is really inexpensive tool (less so in my case, since I had to fly it to the remote Indian Ocean atoll of Aldabra) to obtain a different point of view. This proved to be the case on assignment for @natgeo in Seychelles a few years ago, when the ladder helped me create the opening image for this story. I have posted that particular photograph before, but I will post it again tomorrow for reference. Aldabra has the highest concentration of blacktip reef sharks I have ever experienced. The sheer abundance of sharks there is completely out of this world. At low tide they congregate in a small lagoon on a reef flat where a brisk current bathes them in cooler well oxygenated water. They avoid the deeper water off the reef edge where bigger sharks may prey on them. Time lapse video by my assistant and talented videographer @ottowhitehead

 image by Thomas Peschak (@thomaspeschak) with caption : "Getting phone reception to post on Instagram has been a real challenge these last two months. Now that I am back from my" - 1884213274816392218
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Getting phone reception to post on Instagram has been a real challenge these last two months. Now that I am back from my latest @NatGeo assignment, regular posts will resume on Monday. Thanks for all your patience 🙏

 Instagram Image by Thomas Peschak (@thomaspeschak) with caption : "What is better than a picture of a manta ray? How about two mantas and a clownfish with its host anemone all in the same" at Maldives - 1849490175413837288
Maldives Report Share Download 208 23.6K

What is better than a picture of a manta ray? How about two mantas and a clownfish with its host anemone all in the same image. There are not many places in the world where a scene like this unfolds and even fewer where it can be photographed. Images like this may look whimsical, but they are rarely lucky or surprising finds. In fact almost all of my photographs are the result of copious amounts of research, and for some @NatGeo stories I read in excess 500 scientific papers and speak to dozens of experts before I even head out the door. Lankan is a reef in the Maldives where clownfish live in unusually close proximity to so called cleaning stations, where mantas approach the reef to have parasites and dead skin removed by small fish (mainly wrasses). I spent a few dives searching for the right spot and then did at least five more at the same location to line up the clownfish and the mantas together. @mantatrust

 Instagram Image by Thomas Peschak (@thomaspeschak) with caption : "I love islands and the more off the beaten track they are, the better. Masirah Island sits in the Arabian Sea, 20 km off" at Masirah Island - 1848031369102304206
Masirah Island Report Share Download 148 30.63K

I love islands and the more off the beaten track they are, the better. Masirah Island sits in the Arabian Sea, 20 km off the coast of Oman and it is a place I have very fond memories of. Its’ friendly and hospitable people, the ‘free range’ camels roaming the streets and one of the densest and most important loggerhead nesting grounds in the world are still forever imprinted on my mind. On a early morning beach patrol we came across a female loggerhead turtle returning to the ocean after nesting. I crouch and wade into the surf zone to make this image just before she dives under a wave and disappears into her ocean home. Photograph from my @natgeo story on Arabian Seas.