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Exposure: Chris Bray

Adventurer Chris Bray shares some incredible wildlife shots from the Canadian Arctic, New Zealand and Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.

Pam Carroll
Former editor of CNET Australia, Pam loves being in the thick of the ever-growing love affair (well addiction, really) that Australians have with their phones, digital cameras, flat screen TVs, and all things tech.
Pam Carroll
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1 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net
Exposure is a series of photo galleries showcasing photographic talent in Australia. Our featured photographers will share their best shots and give us an insight into both their creative and technical processes. If you are interested in being featured in Exposure, or know any photo buffs who might be, contact us at cnet@cnet.com.au.

Photographer: Chris Bray

Shooting subjects: Canadian Arctic, New Zealand, Cradle Mountain Tasmania

Equipment: Canon EOS 20D, Pentax Optio W20

Chris Bray is an Australian freelance cameraman, specialising in wilderness and wildlife photography.

He was born into a life of adventure — sailing around the world for five years with his family on their homemade yacht. Leading an active outdoor lifestyle, when Chris was just 20 he undertook a 30-day expedition in Tasmania's untracked south-western wilderness — complete with air drops of supplies. Australian Geographic labelled this trek "one of the toughest foot journeys in the world" and named him, along with his hiking mate Jasper Timm, the "Young Adventurer of the Year" in 2004.

This trek was soon followed by other journeys and in 2005 Chris lead a two-man, world-first, 58-day, unsupported expedition across the largely unexplored Victoria Island in the Arctic. Together with companion Clark Carter, they hauled their homemade wheeled kayaks behind them, each loaded with 250kg of gear and supplies. Crossing regions never before seen by human eyes, they filmed encounters with Arctic wolves and polar bears and documented archaeological sites while the temperature plunged to -38° Celsius with wind-chill.

Chris' career blends his passions of photography, writing, film making and developing innovative approaches to adventuring. For more on his exploits see his website at www.ChrisBray.net.

Lakeside Arctic fox At the slightest movement or sound, this fully grown Arctic fox — in its summer coat — gave up its quest for lemmings only long enough to flick me a curious glance before focusing back on the task at hand. In the middle of Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic, many of the animals have never encountered humans before, and would slowly edge closer, visibly torn between curiosity and fear.

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2 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Young sea lion cops an earful
The indignation and wounded pride of this young New Zealand Sea Lion ("Hookers Sea Lion" — one of the world's rarest and most endangered sea lions) at being roused on by its mother is comically evident in this photo, taken on Auckland Island, one of New Zealand's sub-Antarctic islands, deep in the Southern Ocean.

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3 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Frozen hairstyle Having just waded through a stream not yet frozen over, this old bull muskox stood there looking at me as his bedraggled hair froze into a permanently styled rustic windswept look. Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic has one of the world's densest populations of muskox, many of which have never seen humans before and will plod over from the horizon to curiously asses this strange two-legged animal with a camera.

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4 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Mummified muskox
Semi-preserved by the dry, cold conditions on Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic, the haunting remains of this once formidable muskox served as a poignant reminder of the harshness of the environment in which these beats must live out their lives. While caribou and other animals migrate south to the Canadian mainland in Autumn, the muskox hold their ground, enduring winter's perpetual darkness and -40° Celsius temperatures.

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5 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Ocean wanderer The Southern Ocean is a formidable environment for any animal to survive — there were certainly moments during this 40-day sail from Australia to Chile where I wondered if I would or not — yet gliding above the chaotic swell was a Wandering Albatross positively radiating confidence, grace and serenity. With the largest wingspan of any bird on Earth, up to around 3.7m, these birds have mastered the art of low-altitude gliding, effortlessly buoyed by the invisible pressure waves that exist in front of each rolling ocean swell.

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6 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Watery interface Lingering at the surface of a protected cove on Campbell Island (New Zealand Sub-Antarctic island), this Southern Elephant Seal rests lazily at this interface between the underwater world and the rocky shoreline. Insulated from the cold by its enormous bulk, this lethargic seal peered at me through its oversized eyes — designed especially for extreme diving. Able to dive as deep as 1,700m in search of fish and squid for up to two hours at a time, Southern Elephant Seals are true masters of the art.

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7 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Effortlessly airborne The relentless wind. The rolling, heaving swell. The biting, damp cold. Sailing in the Southern Ocean can be a myriad of unpleasantries, constantly fatigued and on-edge, worrying. All this fades away when a Wandering Albatross glides silently over from the horizon to keep you company. With the largest wingspan of any bird on Earth, up to around 3.7m, these birds have mastered the art of low-altitude gliding, effortlessly buoyed by the invisible pressure waves that exist in front of each rolling ocean swell. Watching these birds skim low over the surface of the waves, you can't help but be mesmerised by pure perfection.

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8 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Eyes on the prize On this particular summer evening, the humid air came alive with thousands of winged termites or white-ants. Everywhere I looked there were fluttering wings, and excited birds plucking them out of the sky. I liked this shot as I feel it captures the aerobatic motion of this Noisy Miner as it honed in on its target.

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9 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

I've got your back When concerned, herds of muskox form a circle — a defensive formation with the young hiding in the centre, behind an impenetrable wall of horns and wild woolly hair. As my expedition partner and I hiked slowly past on Victoria Island, these two Muskox stopped grazing and tried to form a circle — an act rather hard to do with only two animals. Back to back, they nervously kept walking backwards bumping into each other's backsides, causing the other to freak out thinking it was just being attacked from behind, and it'd whirl around and then realise it was only the other muskox and they'd re-form their "circle", again and again until we'd passed by.

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10 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Incoming Having just sailed through The Southern Ocean from Tasmania to Campbell Island — one of New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic islands, we were cruising the coast in the zodiac, when suddenly a group of three sub-Antarctic fur seals started chasing the dingy! It was astounding how fast they could swim — torpedoing beneath the surface only to launch themselves clear every five seconds to grab a gulp of air and check where we were. The dingy was vibrating from the outboard, the sky was classically overcast, and I never knew where they were going to next explode from the water, so I had my camera on ISO 1600 and fired off about 200 photos in the space of a minute or two.

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11 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Lethargic lion Lazing in the grass on Auckland Island, one of New Zealand's sub-Antarctic islands, deep in the Southern Ocean, this New Zealand Sea Lion ("Hookers Sea Lion" — one of the world's rarest and most endangered sea lions) was blissfully unaware of my presence as I crouched beside it. The way it was yawning, stretching and rolling without a care in the world, to me, symbolised the innocent and delicate nature of not only this species but the entire ecosystem on these remote islands.

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12 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

White wolf This alpha male Arctic wolf left the rest of his pack on the skyline and loped confidently right into our campsite, less than two metres from us. His huge paws trod lightly over the snow, and what I recall most about his brief visit was how he seemed to drift fluidly through the white landscape, with his ears constantly alert and swivelling, his nose drawing in our scent, and his intelligent eyes burning with a calm, clever curiosity. I love the way this photo captures these three elements of the wolf — ears, nose and eyes, softened into the white background as he drifted past. In the middle of the largely unexplored Victoria Island in the Arctic, many of the animals my expedition partner and I came across had likely never before seen humans before, and all were torn between curiosity and fear, except this wolf, who showed none of the latter.

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13 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Skink on a finger This simple photo was just a shot I took experimenting with the macro focus on my new camera — and I was delighted with the results! This common skink was scampering about the chair in my room, so I gently picked him up, took a few photos and then released him outside.

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14 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Southern ocean The Southern Ocean is the roughest and most inhospitable ocean on Earth. Its vast expanse of steely-blue grey waves roll perpetually around the base of the world, sometimes tumbling over themselves in their haste to dash themselves against the side of the yacht, while snow and hail relentlessly lashes the helmsman. There are times when the ocean forces you to cower, and yet, at other times like here late one afternoon, the wind and waves died down, and you are filled with a feeling of overwhelming tranquillity and beauty. It's an amazing place, the Southern Ocean.

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15 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Stay close The way she gently rested a comforting flipper over her fellow New Zealand or "Hookers" Sea Lion (Phocarctos hookeri, listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List) to me, symbolised the precarious situation of this amazing species — one of the world's rarest sea lions. There are only a handful of isolated breeding colonies in the world, all of which are on the remote New Zealand sub-Antarctic islands. An outbreak of disease in 1998 caused the deaths of approximately 20 per cent of all adult females and 50 per cent of pups in that single year alone.

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16 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Black browed albatross Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, the Black-Browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) are few and far between, breeding in the remote sub-Antarctic islands in the Southern Ocean. This striking individual flew over from the horizon as we sailed past on our way from Tasmania to Chile, and circled the yacht several times at close range, peering at us with curious bright eyes. Handheld on a heaving yacht, I was lucky to focus and snap this photo as he/she slid gracefully past.

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17 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Melting inheritance A young Inuit girl fishing on the diminishing polar pack ice on Victoria Island, Canadian Arctic. As global warming thins the ice and opens up the North West Passage to commercial shipping, such serene, traditional scenes such as this will sadly also, surely, fade away. I think this photo captures both the delicate beauty of the Arctic and those who live there, as well as providing a reminder that by the time this girl grows up, such moments may only be a memory, captured in photographs like this.

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18 of 18 Chris Bray www.ChrisBray.net

Environment on edge The view from the top of Cradle Mountain in midwinter — if you're lucky enough to get a break in the weather — is spectacular. Gazing out over the dramatic frozen expanse below gives a tremendous feeling and appreciation for the raw, natural splendour of nature. Cradle Mountain is on the famous Overland Track that weaves through the Tasmanian Highlands. It's crowded in summer, but beautifully silent in Winter. A perfect place to escape for a few days of isolation and wilderness.

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