Shooting from a Zodiac
Somewhere in the southern Ocean around Antarctica, December 2011
Leica S2, Summarit-S 35mm, 1/4000 @ f/4, ISO 320
I am an avid adventurer, conservationist, teacher, and outdoor photographer whose photography celebrates the African landscape and its rich wildlife, people, and culture. My photographic safaris allow my travelers to not only enhance their understanding of photography, lighting, and wildlife, but to develop a life-long admiration for Africa ‘s beauty and culture.
Banana Republic recently used my photographs as the cornerstone of their Urban Safari campaign, and my images were seen in all 750 stores around the globe, as well as in their billboards, catalogs and annual report. I was also the winner of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year in the ‘Wild Places’ category in 2008 and a highly commended in the ‘Creative Visions of Nature’ category in 2007.
I launched Gura Gear in 2008, in an attempt to deliver lightweight camera bags to the market. I was looking for a lightweight camera bag to hold all of my photographic gear, and there was nothing desirable on the market that suited my needs. After spending 2 years with many prototypes, the Gura Gear Kiboko bag was born. More products are now available on the Gura Gear web site.
Shooting from a Zodiac
Somewhere in the southern Ocean around Antarctica, December 2011
Leica S2, Summarit-S 35mm, 1/4000 @ f/4, ISO 320
Nikon D3x, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR2, 1/2500 @ f/5.6, ISO 400
I have been back from Antarctica for about 3 weeks, and I was hoping to have more information online (both photographs as well as text) by now. Obviously the Christmas holidays got in the way, but now I sit with pen and paper and want to write about some of the things that worked from the trip and some of the things that did not. Long blog posts somehow always escape me, and I am not sure why. I think that I am torn in so many directions on a daily basis, and it makes it quite difficult to do anything that requires more than 5 minutes of my time. Yes, I am a poster child for adult ADD, but we will leave that for another post.
As far as images go from Antarctica, I didn’t take that many raw files if I compare the quantity to some of my peers. I heard numbers that were in the 10,000+ range from most of the other passengers, but I only ended up with 3,000 or so. Why so few? I can honestly say that I was busy working with 68 travelers that I didn’t have much time for my own photography. I consider my primary job to be that of a leader and instructor, and not as a photographer. Heck, nobody is paying me to take photographs, and I think other workshop leaders out there need to understand who pays the bills and why we in the industry are doing what we are doing. It is a gut check for other people in the industry to lift up their heads and listen to what customers need and how to service those needs. This is a general statement about the industry and in no way reflects on my co-leaders / instructors from this trip! It is a diatribe about what is going on in the workshop / photo tour industry that has been bugging me for a while, and I finally found a few seconds to write about it. Ok, on to the rest of the story…
Yours truly. Photo courtesy of Joshua Holko
Of the images that I did take, I have found some great ones that I am quite happy with. The processing is quite challenging, and I am finding that Adobe Lightroom isn’t the best tool for the bulk of the development work. A very delicate touch is required to get the most out of these files, and I have not found the exact mood that I am after that will help me have a consistent look across my best ones. My workflow is: Lightroom for cataloging and global development work (white balance, exposure, black point and just a few other items), Photoshop for local adjustments with the aid of Nik Software plugins (Viveza 2 and Silver Efex Pro 2). I know that it will take me many months to process and release my best images, which is ok with me.
As you may know, I did take a ton of camera gear with me to the bottom of the earth:
Since this was my first trip to Antarctica, I somehow thought that by bringing a ton of gear I would at least be able to figure out what I needed by the 1st or 2nd day and only use the items that I needed most. Note: Leica loaned me the S2 kit for the trip, as well as for a trip earlier in 2011 to Moab, Utah. I am writing up a field review for Luminous Landscape that should be complete within the next few weeks.
Nikon D3, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/2000 @ f/6.3, ISO 800
I ended up using my Nikon D3x and the Leica S2 the most, primarily because I favored larger file sizes over high ISO noise performance. Most of my D3x images were shot at ISO 800 or under and the Leica S2 was shot at ISO 320 or 160. I did have to push it to 640 a few times, but I was more comfortable with the lower ISO values. I didn’t have a single mishap with any of my 3 cameras, however I did see a number of Canon 5DMk2 and 7D bodies give up the ghost. Some came back from the dead and a couple did not. If you are planning on an Antarctica adventure, please be aware that you will benefit from having sealed cameras with you, such as the Canon 1 series bodies or the Nikon D3, D3x or D3s bodies. It really does make a difference.
Most of my images were captured between 24mm and 200mm, and I was surprised to see that my 24-70mm was my most used lens when I looked in Lightroom at the metadata. Very surprising. My #2 most used lens was the Leica 120mm, then the Leica 70mm, Nikon 70-200mm, Nikon 16-35mm and then the Leica 35mm. I am only speaking of my favorite images, which are less than 100. We had a nice balance between Canon and Nikon equipment, as well as Phase One, Hasselblad and Leica. I didn’t see much in the way of 4/3 system equipment, now that I think about it.
A landing on Deception Island
Leica S2, 35mm Summarit-S, 1/2000 @ f/2.5, ISO 160
I only used my tripod once, which was when I went hiking with my 200-400mm lens on a rainy and windy day. I am likely to leave the two items behind if I decide to go back to Antarctica in the future. With that being said, I will absolutely take the combination if I make it to South Georgia and the Falklands, due to more abundant wildlife opportunities. I did have a failure of a camera strap, and I feel fortunate that I was able to catch my D3x before it hit hard rocks below. I was using a Pacsafe Carrysafe 100 camera strap, and the connection hardware at the camera failed by snapping off at the swivel on one of the sides. UGH. I just feel fortunate to have caught my camera before it landed on hard ground.
I took all of my camera gear in 2 bags: the Gura Gear Kiboko 30L and Chobe. The combo worked perfectly, both for travel to get to Antarctica as well as for shooting in Antarctica. I did use the included rain cover for the Kiboko 30L on a daily basis, due to the rain, sleet and snow that we encountered almost every day.
Leica S2+ 70mm and Nikon D3 + 70-200mm VR2
I packed the perfect amount of clothes for this trip, and I am not sure what else to say about it. Laundry was always available, and there was no need to overpack. Quark Expeditions gave each of us a heavy parka for us to keep, and they had boots for us to use, and these were provided to us when we got on board the ship. What an awesome way to go, because I didn’t have to travel with large, heavy clothing. I did bring NEOS Adventurer overshoes, which are my biggest recommendation for anybody traveling to the frozen continent. These overshoes fit over my light hiking boots, and made walking in snow quite easy and comfortable. I have high arches and have Supertfeet insoles to help me with comfort. I did use the supplied rubber boots on one occasion and never liked how they felt, so I went back to my NEOS overshoes for all other excursions.
Since this voyage to Antarctica required the crossing of the Drake Passage, it goes without saying that I needed drugs to help me with the extreme rocking and rolling. Each passage took around 50 or so hours, and can only be described as not that much fun. Well, ok, it sucked. On the way down I used Scopolamine patches, which didn’t work at all. I needed something else, because I had nausea every time I stood up for more than 5 minutes. Scopolamine just made me sleepy as well as thirsty. Thank God I had another option, which was Zofran. I remember my mother used Zofran when she was going through chemotherapy, and if it is good enough for cancer patients it must be good enough for me. It worked like a charm, and my recommendation to Antarctica travelers is to always have 2 solutions to seasickness, just in case your first solution doesn’t work as planned. Quark had an on-board doctor with another set of drugs, and some of the travelers took advantage of the service. Needless to say, the Drake Passage on the way back was a 100% Zofran voyage.
Leica S2, 70mm Summarit-S, 1/250 @ f/8, ISO 320
My Antarctica adventure was a trip of a lifetime, and I look forward to the day when I am able to return. I feel fortunate that all of the gear that I took with me worked as anticipated, except for the mishap with the camera strap. I do feel sorry for those who were affected by moisture with their 5DMk2 and 7D cameras, and am glad that most were able to get them back working again. I think pro cameras are the way to go if one can financially pull it off to bring one (or more than one). I am a huge fan of renting gear, and Borrowlenses.com has a great rental program for such equipment.
I am back from Antarctic waters, and boy do I have stories to tell. I had a fantastic time with my introduction to the frozen continent down south, and I don’t know where to begin. I traveled with some amazing photographers, and I tried my best to provide the best service possible for all 68 participants on the voyage. Thank you to everybody who took the time to make the fantastic trip with me, and please know that I enjoyed getting to know each and every person. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can be of any service, whether it be post processing issues, printing or whatever. I am here to help in any way that I can.
Overall we had overcast days almost the entire time, as well as some high winds, snow, rain and sleet. It was pretty much what I expected, which means that I knew that weather changes quickly and violently down in Antarctica. I was hoping to have a bunch of images processed before arriving home, but it turns out that my Macbook Pro screen just doesn’t do Antarctica justice when trying to develop raw files with a fine line between white and near-white with detail. Lesson learned, for sure. I will be posting a more formal trip summary in the next few days, but here are a couple of barely-processed photographs from the trip as a teaser:
Nikon D3x, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/640 @ f/6.3, ISO 800
Nikon D3, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 1/1250 @ f/5, ISO 800
Nikon D3x, 16-35mm f/4, 1/500 @ f/5.6, ISO 640
Nikon D3x, 16-35mm f/4, 1/160 @ f/8, ISO 250
Leica S2, 35mm Summarit f/3.5, 1/3000 @ f/8, ISO 320
Leica S2, 120mm Apo-Macro-Summarit-S, 1/1000 @ f/8, ISO 320
Nikon D3, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/1250 @ f/6.3, ISO 800
Well, folks, I am heading to the frozen continent down south later on today. I will be away for a few weeks, and unlike my African safaris I will not have access to email, Facebook, Twitter or even a cell phone. Heck, my satellite phone won’t even work down there, as I only have coverage for Africa.
Packing for this trip has been a bit different than most other trips I have taken in the past 10 years. I have been to cold environments before, but I haven’t done one while on board a ship. I have planned for both cold/wet as well as cool/dry, which requires a decent sized duffle bag.
Leica has graciously loaned me an entire S2 camera kit, which includes the S2 camera, 35mm, 70mm, 120mm macro and 180mm lenses. Really Right Stuff loaned me an L-bracket for the camera as well. I am also bringing my normal Nikon kit, which includes my 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm and 200-400mm lenses. I threw in my 1.4x to boot, just in case. I have all of this gear split between my Gura Gear Kiboko 30L backpack and my Gura Gear Chobe shoulder bag (with insert). Processing will be done on my Macbook Pro 13” machine.
I really don’t know what to expect as far as photographic opportunities, so I am wide-eyes and bushy tailed as they say. I will take whatever comes my way, but my primary goal is to be of assistance to any and all of our travelers. My primary passion is teaching, and that means I will likely be looking for opportunities to help, as opposed to doing hard-core shooting myself. I always hope that I come back with great photographs from every trip that I take, however I recognize that my job isn’t to take photographs for myself: I am there to lead and be of assistance to others.
On another unrelated topic, I will be unveiling more Africa photo safaris for 2012 and 2013, and I just need a few hours of time to get the web pages built and posted. I will likely get them finished while on the voyage, which means I won’t get a chance to post them online until I return home. Some of the safaris are going to be led by Grant Atkinson and Randy Hanna, as well as some more by me. And on a few occasions possible a few of us.
All the best,
Andy, Seth and John Paul
November 29-December 10, 2011
With World Renouned Photographers
Following are the details for this incredible, once in a lifetime photographic journey.
We plan to visit the highlights of the Antarctic Penninsula: Deception Island (sailing into an active volcano), Paradise Bay (gliding below slowly calving glaciers), Neko Harbor (walking up to the edge of and looking down at a calving glacier), Lamaire Channel (sailing through mountain peaks at sunset), Plenneau Bay (iceberg graveyard) and many more. Our exact itinerary and route will be dependent on weather, light and ice. The ship is the Ocean Nova, and we will be ready to shoot 24 hours a day and we will work with the crew to shoot at the best light in the most beautiful of places.
Our trip (November 29 – December 10) is early in the season when the ice is great, the weather is good, and the penguins are nesting.
There will be many lectures, demonstrations, and reviews; more than in previous voyages. We are committed to make this trip a once in a lifetime experience with phenomenal locations and instruction.
The cost of the trip is based on the type of berth you opt for – single, double, or triple occupancy.
We are traveling on one of Quark Expedition’s most comfortable boats, the OceanNova.
$7,990 (shared triple berth) (Sold out)
$9,990 (shared double berth)
$14,990 (single berth) (Sold out)
These rates include all on board expenses; travel, room, board and lectures. You will also be provided with Antarctic Expedition Jacket and boots. The price does not include airfare to and from Ushuaia, Argentina. After long negotiations, we have been limited to one payment option.
All participants will need to make a full non-refundable commitment tothe trip before October 20th, 2010.
The fee is transferable – you can sell or gift a spot to someone else. In addition, we recommend Quark’s travel insurance which will protect your investment should you need to make a cancellation later.
Availability on this trip is limited and will be handled on a first come first serve basis. The first three voyages sold out in as little as 72 hours.
Even if you are not able to make this commitment at this time, we’d like to hear from you, about whether you are still interested in making this voyage with us and what type of berth you’re interested in.
If you would like any more details on the trip or to speak with Andy directly, please email us at email@example.com. The boat is currently more than 1/3 booked up, and we will need to hear from you sooner rather than later.
Below is our basic itinerary on the Ocean Nova for this voyage.
November 29, 2011 [Day 1 – Ushuaia, Argentina] This expedition to Antarctica begins with a night in a hotel in Ushuaia, Argentina. There will be activities available including an arduous hike to an ice cave.
Day 2 – Embarkation Day - After embarkation, we will cruise down the Beagle Channel. From the deck, birders can add albatross, penguins and petrels to their life list. Later in the evening everyone should be on deck to watch the sure-footed Channel pilot clamber down to the boat sent to collect him. We will also start our lecture series on Photoshop, Lightroom and Creativity.
Day 3-4 – Crossing the Drake Passage - Prepare for rough water, but do not be disappointed if your crossing of the Drake Passage is smooth sailing. The world’s roughest stretch of water is continually changes. Lectures, portfolio reviews will continue throughout the journey.
Day 5-9 – South Shetland Islands & the Peninsula - Many factors play a role in shaping the expedition’s itinerary: weather, ice and the presence of wildlife. These days are 24 hours of non stop breathtaking scenery and adventure. We will be shooting from the ship as well as making landings with zodiacs and zodiac cruises. Major gigage on your memory cards!
Day 10-11 – The Drake Passage - Return to Ushuaia across the Drake Passage. Lectures and review of work and special presentations.
Day 12 – Disembarkation in Ushuaia After breakfast aboard, we transfer the group to the airport for homeward flights.