Photography tips for Antarctica: Part 1

Peter Lemon has been connected with Peregrine since 1983.  A passionate photographer, he has travelled extensively in Nepal, Antarctica and endlessly in Africa ever since. 

Without an ounce of overstatement, the landscapes, wilderness and wildlife on our Antarctic trips can often leave people lost for words. The immensity and the grandeur of the scenery and sheer quantity of the animal life can be overwhelming.

No photo, however good, can ever hope to capture it all properly but many of us will still have a ruddy good try!

Indeed most people, even the very occasional photographer, will soon find themselves taking many more pictures than they have ever taken before.

Some thoughts and suggestions:

1. Make sure you have protection for your gear. Cameras can be exposed to salt spray and water splashes, and saltwater can literally destroy them. Take "dry bags" (available at any outdoor shop) and/or a waterproof daypack to use when going ashore or on a Zodiac cruise. Lens caps are important when your camera is not in use, and you'll need to keep a constant eye on the lens itself to ensure it remains clean. Never try to change lens, cards or film unless you are in a sheltered area.


2. For wildlife shots, you will need a camera with a good telephoto capacity. For those using an SLR camera, a minimum of 300mm is recommended. Zoom lens (100mm-300mm) can be useful so that you don't have to keep changing lens.  International Association of  Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) regulations and our own codes of practice prevent you from approaching within a certain distance of seals and birds, and certainly from walking inside rookeries.


3. The eye of an animal or bird is often the most important part of the subject, especially if it's fairly close. Aim to photograph the creature with at least one if not both of its eyes facing the camera. For that special shot try to get the sun glinting off the subject's eye. Make sure your camera is focused on the eye - often an auto-focus cameras will focus on the stomach or back of a large animal, leaving the head and eyes slightly out of focus.

And if you can't get its eye, look for an interesting facial expression - a bearing of teeth, a yawn (especially if the sun is on its teeth or beak), a sneeze or a tongue poking out.


4. Consider the amount of weight you are carrying: that metre-long 600mm lens, apart from being very large and heavy (you could fall foul of your airline), might render the person sitting  next to you unconscious for a week if you were turn around suddenly with your camera in a zodiac.




5.  With landscape shots, it is sometimes worth including people in the picture, especially anyone wearing a brightly coloured jacket. It provides a sense of scale and proportion.




Onboard photographer

All Peregrine voyages have expedition staff on board who are highly qualified and experienced in taking photos in Antarctic conditions. They will be happy to talk to you. Bring a number of spare batteries, a recharger, and a lot of memory capacity or film.  It is usually possible to download photos from your camera to discs on board ship, with a couple of ship-board computers available to passengers for this purpose.

Read Part 2 here

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