Everybody loves penguins. Right? I mean who doesn’t smile when they see one of these birds awkwardly waddling along? Who doesn’t go “Awww” when seeing them with their young? But it’s not easy to photograph them. You have to go to remote, freezing, inhospitable places like the Weddell Sea or Antarctica. You have to be out in sub-zero temperatures in all kinds of weather. And, frankly, a large colony of sea birds doesn’t always smell very good.
In spite of it all, Sue Flood is one of a small number of photographers who come again and again (she’s taken more than fifty trips!) to the cold, harsh environments of the South Atlantic and Antarctica. And she’s a new NANPA Fellow, honored last month at NANPA’s 2019 Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show, where she was also a terrific keynote speaker.
Sue Flood’s first trip to the Pole was more than twenty years ago. In addition to her acclaimed video and photographic work, she’s published two books, Cold Places (2011) and Emperor: The Perfect Penguin (2018). She’s a member of the Explorers Club, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and has received numerous awards, including a Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Silver Medal and International Photographer of the Year and has been nominated for inclusion in the RPS’s roll call of #HundredHeroines, celebrating women photographers of the past and present.
She has photographed nature and wildlife around the world and worked on nature documentaries with the BBC’s Natural History Unit, including with the legendary Sir David Attenborough on series like The Blue Planet and Planet Earth. Flood has dived with leopard seals, worked on Russian icebreakers, and lived with Inuit hunters. She’s been on each of the seven continents, but something keeps drawing her back to Antarctica and penguins.
While there are millions of these remarkable birds living in colonies, especially in Antarctica, the fossil record indicates that, over the ages, a number of penguin species have gone extinct. And, while some tend to think of Antarctica and other penguin habitats as a pristine wilderness, these vast areas can be as affected by climate change, commercial mining, overfishing and pollution as many other environments. Though they’re hardy birds, penguins are also very sensitive to the state of their environment.
Sue notes that “the waters and ice-shelves of the Weddell Sea comprise one of our very last unspoiled eco-systems, but pressures on it and its wildlife are rising.” That’s why she’s working with the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) to create a 700,000-square-mile (one-million-square-kilometers) Marine Protected Area in the Weddell Sea.
A number of her wildlife and scenic photographs, in particular those from the Emperor Penguin colony at Gould Bay, are being used by ASOC in the campaign and eleven of her images were selected to appear on postage stamps issued by the British Antarctic Territories.
In recognition of all she’s done, Flood met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace during a special palace event for adventurers and explorers.
Speaking in a hotel ballroom in Las Vegas isn’t exactly like visiting Buckingham Palace and, even though he’s “the King,” a selfie with the statue of Elvis in the hotel lobby isn’t exactly like meeting the Queen. Still, NANPA is delighted to make Sue Flood a NANPA Fellow. As one of the documents nominating her stated, “Sue’s work speaks for itself and she is a trailblazer among women nature photographers and film-makers alike.” And, as became abundantly clear during her keynote at the Summit, Sue Flood is an inspiration to all nature photographers.
Related story: Find out how Sue Flood’s friend and NANPA member Cindy Miller Hopkins’ photo of five penguins is being used in a campaign advocating to enlarge a Marine Protected Area around the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands.