The Huddle

Stefan Christmann's Image

More than 5,000 male emperor penguins huddle on the sea ice, backs to the wind, heads down, sharing body heat. ‘It was a calm day,’ says Stefan, ‘but when I took off my gloves to focus the lens, the cold felt like needles piercing my fingertips.’ Antarctic winters are fierce, with temperatures below minus 40 degrees Celsius.

While the females spend two months at sea feeding, their mates care for the eggs. The male balances his precious cargo on his feet, tucked beneath a fold of skin called the brood pouch. Penguins on the windward edge of the huddle regularly peel off and join the more sheltered side, creating a constant rotation through the warm centre. Survival depends on cooperation.


Behind the lens

Stefan Christmann

Stefan Christmann

Germany

Receiving a photography scholarship from the North American Nature Photography Association in 2005 was a life-altering experience for Stefan. Working as a scientist in Antarctica in 2012, he used every free minute to document the life of a nearby emperor penguin colony. He returned in 2017 to complete a comprehensive body of work about one of nature's most gripping survival stories.

Image details

  • Nikon D810
  • 45mm f2.8 tilt-shift lens
  • 1/60 sec at f11  •   ISO 800  •   Gitzo 5562LTS tripod + Novoflex CB5II ballhead
Copyright in WPY competition photographs remains the property of the respective photographers. You may not copy, share, reproduce or republish the photographs except as expressly permitted by copyright law. For media image usage enquiries, please contact us.

More images from Stefan Christmann

View all

Wonder wall


Many of these stunning images are available as personalised prints for your home

Shop now

Discover more

A photo of two orphaned chimpanzes clutching the rescue owner

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: The Healing Touch

Community Care won the Photojournalist Story Award in the fifty-seventh Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. The images document the efforts of the Lwiro Chimpanzee rescue centre and sanctuary, which rehabilitates orphaned chimpanzees.  

Read article

Sign up to our newsletter

Get email updates about Wildlife Photographer of the Year news, events, science, products and fundraising activities. You must be over the age of 13. Privacy notice.