Wild shots: they’re my life

Wild shots: they’re my life – nature photographer describes how he shot photos of Galapagos Islands wildlife

Tui De Roy

The creature behind the face mask on page 3 is me. Most of the time, you’ll find me behind a camera. Come see the world through my eyes.

When I was a little girl, all my best friends were furry, feathered, or scaly!

Take a look at that old snapshot below, and you’ll see me with one of my playmates–a young sea turtle. My friends were the gentle, trusting creatures of the Galapagos (guh-LAH-puh-gose) Islands, where I grew up.

In those days there was no school nearby, so my mom taught my little brother and me at home. But my favorite classroom was the great Galapagos outdoors! The islands were formed long ago by a bunch of volcanoes far out in the Pacific Ocean. My family moved to the islands from Europe when I was only two.

When I was 10, my dad let me use his old camera. Right away, I started snapping photos of my animal friends. And in the 30 years since then, I’ve never stopped.

The best part was that the animals in the Galapagos were as curious about me as I was about them. That’s why I was able to get “up close and personal” with the Galapagos hawks shown here. See the shot I got? (right)

Like I said, I’m still taking lots of wildlife photos. And my best friends are still furry, feathered, and scaly. But now I find them all over the world, not just in the Galapagos.

I like to photograph animals best when they’re minding their own business–not watching me. That means I have to spend a lot of time with them until they get so used to me that they forget I’m there.

Now let me tell you about some of my favorite photos–and the adventures I had getting them.


The king penguin chick below looks like it’s wearing a furry overcoat. But that’s just its thick, downy baby feathers. They work like a coat to keep the chick warm.

The chick was bugging its parents, begging for food. They finally got tired of being pestered and started waddling away. But the chick kept right up with them, and I had to scurry to get this shot.


I watched this pair of red-footed boobies (right) for a long time one day. They were building their nest in a tree on one of the Galapagos Islands. And they seemed to take their work very seriously.

The male’s job was to search for twigs. Each time he returned with one, he’d raise a big ruckus. The female would take the twig, arrange it just so in the nest, and raise her own ruckus. Then off he’d fly for another. By the end of the day, the pair had a pretty decent nest–shown here in the soft glow of sunset.


The Galapagos Islands are famous for their huge tortoises. In fact, galapagos means “tortoises” in Spanish. When early Spanish-speaking explorers came to the islands, they saw tons of these big fellas.

One day I was nose to nose with one, with just a camera between us (top). The tortoise was so busy looking for justthe right tasty plants, it acted as if I weren’t even there. I had to move out of its way before it bumped right into me! But look at the kind of action shot you can snap by getting down with your subject (above). CHOMP –tortoises love a good cactus, never mind the spines!


Galapagos marine iguanas are the only lizards in the world that feed in the sea. Usually they graze on stubby seaweed that grows along the wave-beaten shoreline.

I wanted to show how these little sea dragons are right at home in the pounding waves. But to do it, I had to get in there with them! First I put my camera into a waterproof case with a clear front clamped on. Then I crept toward my target (above). Iguanas have sharp claws, so they can hang on tight to rocks in the surf. What about me? I bounced around and got lots of cuts and bruises. But this neat photo (right) was worth it!


Watching animals fight can be pretty wild–and scary. But usually it looks worse than it is: The fighters almost never hurt each other seriously.

Look at the two male frigate (FRIGG-it) birds in the big photo above. They were squabbling Galapagos neighbors, snapping at each other with their sharp beaks. But neither delicate throat pouch got punctured. (The male on the right had his pouch puffed out, showing off to the females flying overhead.)

The fight in the photo at left was between elephant seal bulls on an island near Antarctica. I saw these guys having it out from way down the beach. They were so wrapped up in who would be beach-master, they didn’t notice me getting close. (But not too close. Each bull was taller than me and outweighed me by a couple of tons!)

All of a sudden, they reared up and flashed their “fangs.” CLICK–got it! I had to be really quick. The next second, they were back to their lazy pushing and shoving. Finally, they collapsed into a heap and started snoozing.


The shot below was taken at sunrise on a Galapagos beach. The green turtle was crawling back down to the sea. She had spent the night burying her eggs in the sand.

In a few months, her babies would hatch and, with luck, head out to sea too. The ones that survived would spend years growing up far out in the ocean. Then someday the females would return to this beach to lay their eggs. Like the sea turtles, I return to the shores of the Galapagos Islands from time to time too. There are always new animal friends to meet there. And they remind me of my childhood friends–like the bird on the back cover. I took that photo when I was a kid, and it’s still one of my favorites.

COPYRIGHT 1996 National Wildlife Federation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group