Meet PONANT’s Photo Ambassadors
Photographers Ian Dawson and Sue Flood take part in PONANT expeditions several times a year, exploring from the North Pole to Antarctica, via the Equator. With their keen eyes, they capture unique landscapes and rare moments at close quarters with wildlife. As Photo Ambassadors, they also share their knowledge with passengers, whether novices or enthusiasts. Read on for our interview with them.
What were the highlights of your last expeditions with PONANT?
Ian Dawson : I’m based predominately on Le Commandant Charcot. Passengers now have the ability to explore unknown regions in the most remote corners of the world. This year, I travelled to the Ross Sea, Antarctica, Greenland, the North Pole and the legendary Northwest Passage. I could list dozens of highlights, but one that stands out is stepping into Scott’s remarkably preserved hut at Cape Evans – the point he departed from on his final, fatal expedition to reach the South Pole. Meeting the communities of Greenland, seeing pods of dolphins off the coast of Argentina and watching humpback whales feeding by the hundreds near the ship were also highlights.
Sue Flood : There were some incredible moments on these trips which I’ll remember forever, such as photographing Emperor penguins leaping out of the water onto the sea ice and watching a polar bear and her cub near the North Pole.
Sue Flood, zoologist and wildlife documentary filmmaker
Sue Flood was fortunate enough to spend 11 years working with internationally recognised British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough on series such as Blue Planet and Planet Earth. She now concentrates on photography,mainly working aboard expedition ships. Now a Photo Ambassador for PONANT, she spends most of her time in the polar regions aboard Le Commandant Charcot, although she occasionally thaws out further afield!
Is there a country or region that you simply never get tired of visiting or shooting?
Sur Flood : Antarctica is incredibly special to me. I’ve visited there around 60 times over the last quarter of a century. The wildlife, the incredible icescapes, the scale of the landscapes and the breathtaking beauty of the continent never fail to captivate me. If you haven’t been you have to go!
Ian Dawson : Somewhat unfair question! Each destination is different every time I visit. The weather and sea are constantly changing, as are the people and wildlife I meet. Every time is like the first time, and I hope I never lose the, admittedly, childlike fascination I have for our planet.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Sue Flood : Trying to find a shot that stands out from the crowd, for sure. But always remember that no wildlife photo is worth disturbance to your subject.
Ian Dawson : Travelling in remote and lesser visited places around the world you have to be resourceful, flexible and plan as much as possible for the unexpected. I love the challenge of looking at things from new, surprising viewpoints and trying to convey a sense of a place or of a person through my work.
Ian Dawson, photojournalist and picture editor
Ian Dawson has worked all over the globe on behalf of several national newspapers in the UK. Based in Scotland, he spends each year taking images from the North Pole to deep in the Antarctic. When the opportunity arises, he spends time mountaineering, as a guide or for enjoyment. It’s good training as he has been volunteering for Scottish Mountain Rescue for many years…
What continues to motivate you in your photography?
Ian Dawson : I have an endless fascination with cultures and wildlife. The traditions that societies have developed over centuries, that are so very different to my own, surprise me constantly, as does the unusual and unexpected behaviour of creatures of the sea, land and air.
Sue Flood : I try to capture images that will inspire the viewer to want to cherish and protect the animal or landscape I’m featuring and that elicit an emotion. Sometimes that special moment may last just a four thousandth of a second, so it’s important to press the shutter at the right time!
What is it like to work on board?
Sue Flood : I’ve been fortunate to work on expedition ships for almost 20 years and love the way of life on board. There is a great camaraderie between the crew. It’s wonderful to feel part of a well-oiled machine. It’s not for everyone, but having been inspired by my late father’s tales of his adventures at sea in the Merchant Navy when I was growing up, I think I’ve inherited his love of the ocean and adventure.
Ian Dawson : I work first and foremost with guests on board. It is a pleasure to meet new people and hear their fascinating stories and, hopefully, teach them a thing or two that helps make their voyage particularly memorable. I work closely with the amazing teams on board, from the captain, crew, expedition team and hotel directors to the sailors at the gangway – I could continue. Being at sea is very much a team effort, each and everyone’s role is vital and being part of that is an honour.
What can guests expect from the photography programme when they travel with you?
Sue Flood : Ian, my fellow Photo Ambassador, and I are there to help guests with lectures, workshops and one-to-one tuition both on board and when we are out on excursions. We love photography and we love teaching photography and we’re very approachable, so please don’t hesitate to come and see us with your camera!
Ian Dawson : We give advice during lectures and workshops that are open to all. Part of our unique offering is our one-to-one workshops over lunch or dinner, where we discuss photography questions or more general queries about the voyages we’ve enjoyed.
If guests only have a smartphone, can they still learn from your workshops and capture great travel photos?
Ian Dawson : Absolutely, we run a friendly competition each sailing on Le Commandant Charcot with four or five categories. At least half of the winning shots are taken on a phone. Having a ‘good eye’ for an image is often more important than equipment.
Sue Flood : We give a dedicated class on how to get the best from your iPhone or Android phone. After all, having a small, portable camera that you take with you everywhere is a lot easier than carrying a big camera bag, and you can get some wonderful results, especially when you have a good eye for a shot.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you first started out taking photos?
Ian Dawson : Don’t get hung up on your mistakes, they’re essential to help you develop your technical skills and the creative side of your photography. I learn from each of my mistakes, and they drive me to look at things differently or practise particular skills until I’m happy. Never stop learning, never stop ‘experimenting or playing’.
Sue Flood : I took my first photo when I was two when I borrowed my grandfather’s camera! But, when I was older, I wish I’d realised that I had a good eye for a shot sooner than I did!
Any useful items for photography that you recommend guests pack?
Ian Dawson : Make sure you have enough memory cards and at least one spare battery. There’s nothing worse than running out of memory or charge at just the wrong moment. Consider a GoPro for underwater shots and videos in the warm seas of Papua New Guinea.
Sue Flood : I’d recommend bringing a dry bag. Invaluable for transporting your camera to and from the ship during Zodiac excursions and landings.
Photos credits : ©PONANT Photo Ambassador / Ian Dawson ; ©PONANT Photo Ambassador / Sue Flood ; ©PONANT Photo Ambassador / Cindy Miller Hopkins
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