One of my favourite places for Adventure Travel photography is Antarctica. Many people tell me it’s a destination that’s high on their bucket list. It’s not an easy place to get to and it’s true that the cost can be prohibitive but the reward is a travel and photographic experience you won’t forget in a hurry. The vast majority of Antarctic visitors take the shortest route to the tip of a long peninsula below South America leaving on a ship from the southern Argentinian port of Ushuaia. A two-day crossing of the tempestuous Drake Passage lies ahead before reaching calmer waters and is a good test of your sea legs.
Myth No 1- The Drake Passage is always rough and I will get sea sick.
I’ve been lucky so far with quite reasonable sea conditions on all my crossings and all ship captains will do their utmost to get you to the land of snow and ice with as little discomfort as possible. Sea sickness is not a nice experience but as a doctor I can tell you it is short lived for most people and you will adapt to your new home on the sea.
"It’s not an easy place to get to and it’s true that the cost can be prohibitive but the reward is a travel and photographic experience you won’t forget in a hurry."
Myth No 2 - I need a lot of expensive camera gear to take good photos in Antarctica.
In this digital era with excellent sensor quality your equipment list for photography in Antarctica need not be as extensive as one might think. With almost 24 hour daylight available to perfect your skills it’s perfectly possible to use your smartphone or a point and shoot camera to capture wonderful photos of the windswept ocean, the icy landscape and of course of those delightful flightless birds, the penguins. If a digital SLR is your camera of choice then you’ll need to think about what lens or lenses to take to help tell your travel story. A wide angle zoom is very useful for landscapes and I take a Canon 16-35 mm f/2.8L lens with my Canon 5D Mark III body but I also like to have a longer zoom lens to frame subjects that are further away and the new Canon 100-400 mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens suits my needs perfectly and is on my ‘to buy’ list. For a one size fits all approach something like the Canon 24-105 mmf/4L IS lens would be a good choice.
Myth No 3 - The cold will make it difficult for me and for my camera gear.
The really nice part of travelling by ship is that you are well protected from the harsh outdoor environment and can escape inside whenever you need but even then the Peninsula region in summer often has an ambient temperature of just above freezing. On a Zodiac cruise though and when the wind is howling you’ll need to be well insulated and wearing layers of clothing to stay warm. As the saying goes there is no bad weather only bad clothing! Surprisingly the cold is not quite the issue you’d expect for camera gear, battery power drains quickly and it would be useful to have at least one if not two extra batteries with you but other than that I don’t worry too much. A simple precaution is to avoid taking your cold camera into the warm ship environment and not allowing enough time for any condensation to dissipate before returning outside where any moisture still in the camera body could freeze, that will cause trouble!
There are many operators to choose from when planning a once in a lifetime journey to the white continent. If photography is your main focus I can recommend the experienced team at Lindblad Expeditions who do a great job of helping and educating passengers so they can get the best photographs possible of their journey.
I’m excited to let everyone know that in November 2015 I will be leading a specialised photographic trip to the Antarctic Peninsula as well as the Falkland Islands and to the incredible wildlife location of South Georgia Island. I’m really looking forward to sharing my knowledge of photographing in this visually stunning area. More details can be found at Antarctica Unfiltered or please get in touch via my Facebook page
If you like Andrew's work, check out his portfolio and galleries here...