Flaming Penguin Sunrise by Jon Kerrin

Welcome to Incredible Photographs, a series of short interviews on South Africa’s very best nature photography. We ask the photographers a set list of questions to gain insight into the previsualization, planning, capture, editing and reflection of their best photographs.



Where was this image taken? 

This shot was taken just outside Simon’s Town. 

Did you plan this image or would you consider it a stroke of luck?

I had been to this spot before, and had taken a similar shot. However, on this particular morning the sunrise looked very promising, so I decided to take another attempt at it. Photographing animals in nature always requires an element of luck, as you don’t know exactly what their movements are going to be and if it will line up with the landscape elements around you. But having been here a few times at this time of day I was familiar with the penguins movements, and I knew they would be heading out to swim. 

Was this image inspired by another photographer’s work or a specific image?

No, I have not seen another image similar to this.

If planned, how many times did you visit this location?

This was my 6th time photographing this location. On two occasions I have had the penguins positioned in a good enough way to photograph them with the landscape.

Did you use an ephemeris or AR planning app like Photopills or TPE?

No I did not use either of these tools

Do you have any images of failed shoots to provide some background on what goes into an image like this?

Unfortunately not. 

Is the location physically challenging to access or is it a brief walk from a parking lot? Also, would you consider the location safe to go shooting on your own or should one be cautious?

This location is not at all challenging, and can easily be accessed by people of all fitness levels. However, this location is on a designated path, and is limited to the walkways. People are not allowed to veer off the path as this is a breeding area for penguins. This makes compositions difficult to get from multiple angles. The location is very safe.

Did you go out on a whim or was this shoot carefully planned in consideration of weather forecasts?

Predicting it would be a good sunrise, I had planned to go somewhere else along the False Bay stretch. However, when I woke in the morning the cloud had shifted and was no longer over where I originally had hoped to shoot. Knowing this location I quickly changed my mind decided to shoot in line with the cloud that would produce some colour and magic.

How did you feel when you saw the screen light up with that result?

Anytime there is an amazing sunrise I get excited. But when it comes together with and interesting and unique foreground subject, like this, I get extra excited. 

Let’s discuss the technicalities – shutterspeed, ISO, aperture, anything else?

1sec (not easy with a moving subject), ISO160, f/11

Body and Lens used?

Fujifilm X-T3, 10-24mm 


Yes, shooting a one second exposure definitely required me to use a tripod. I used the Leofoto Ranger Leveling LS-324CEX Carbon Fiber Tripod

Filters? If so, explain why.

I used a soft 3-Stop graduated filter for this shot to gain enough detail in the foreground whilst also maintaining detail and colour in the sky.

Anything else you consider an essential piece of gear?

For this shot using a shutter remote was a useful piece of gear as I took multiple repeated shots as the penguins moved around. This saved me from bumping my camera and causing an out of focus shot at a one second exposure.

Did you edit it the moment you got home or did you leave it in the photo cellar to mature?

Lol… I was too excited to edit this one and downloaded and processed it the minute I got home.

Let’s talk about enhancements made in editing

Simple adjustments were made to the colour and shadows and highlights of this images. I also used a brush to extracts shadows on the penguins. See the unedited version below, and the edited version after that. 

Do you think this image is one of your all-time top 10 photos?

I do not. I love this photo for it’s unique character, but I do not see it in my all-time favourites.

Do you feel you’ve done the location justice and you can move on now?

I actually feel this image could be improved by the angle at which it is taken. I would like to get lower down. Allowing for the penguins to be closer to the horizon. I would also like to zoom in more, allowing them to be bigger in the shot against the morning sky. Unfortunately the location doesn’t allow for this as veering off the path is a protected area. Perhaps one day I can get special permission to shoot lower down.

Any advice for someone wanting to capture an image like this?

My best advice for someone trying to capture an image similar to this would be to say try not to disturb the animals/birds too much. Allowing them to continue their normal routine, and being discreet around them allows for a more natural shot.

Is this image for sale as a print?

Yes, this image is for sale as a print. Anyone interested in purchasing this image can email directly at info@jonkerrin.com 



A big thank you to Jon Kerrin for taking the time to answer our questions and his willingness to share the journey of creation behind the image. Below are the details to all his social media – please give them a like and a follow to show your appreciation. If you’d like to learn from him, check out their workshops and most of all, if you absolutely love this photograph, consider buying a print to support the artists.   

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