A pair of gentoo penguins. That stack of pebbles is their nest. (Click to see larger)

It’s interesting to go through the photos I took on the 2002 Antarctica trip—and to dream of doing a better job when I go back in January. So much is different now, not the least of which is that we all have digital cameras now. Back then, when we were shooting film, you’d have to wait until you got home to find out if you’d gotten anything. I remember bringing all the film back and dropping it off at the Film Center in Hills Plaza (where the counter person made a face at having to fill out 37 envelopes, one for each roll of film), and then a week later I’d finally get to see the images from the trip. And if they were overexposed or blurry or whatever, well, too bad.

Today’s cameras not only give you immediate feedback—as in, Ooops, out of focus; let’s try that again—but they’re also so much more sophisticated. The film I took to Antarctica 15 years ago was relatively “slow” by today’s standards; the rolls I shot were either ASA (now called ISO) 200 or ASA 400, which is OK for bright sunlight or slow-moving subjects, but no good for, say, birds in flight. The camera I use today, a Nikon D500, can easily shoot at IS0s of 1600, 3200, or even more if needed. Plus the lenses are better, the autofocus is light-years more sophisticated, and you can fire off 10 or 11 shots per second, greatly enhancing the chances of getting some good ones.

Not to put any pressure on myself for the January trip or anything.

Here, for example, is one of the dozens and dozens of really bad flight photos I took on the 2002 trip:

I’m not sure what they are—shearwaters? albatross? storm petrels?—but the point is that they’re small, grainy, and just really unappealing. I hope to do better in January.

I also am looking forward to having another shot at getting good images of the gorgeous Antarctic scenery. I have hardly any landscape photos from 2002 that I like. Here’s one that’s OK …

… but I don’t love the way it’s divided up like a layer cake: penguins on the bottom, a band of fog in the middle, snow-covered mountains and blue sky at the top. Compositionally, it’s just choppy.

One thing I like to do before a trip nowadays is a little internet homework to help my chances, photographically speaking. If you Google “Antarctica photography tips,” for example, you’ll get all kinds of good information. That led me to an e-book by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris called A Photographer’s Guide to Antarctica. My friend R. Thomas Berner heard I was going on the 2018 trip and sent me another e-book of Antarctic photography advice, this one by Kellie Netherwood; it looks like you can download it here. And here‘s an article I found called “12 Photo tips to make better pictures on your Antarctica cruise”—for example, how to prevent condensation inside your camera when you come back inside the warm ship after being outside in the 25-degree air.

In any case, that’s something I really recommend in advance of a trip: Googling “<name of destination> photography tips” and seeing what advice you can find. You can also go to YouTube and type your destination into the search box; watching other travelers’ videos from that area not only gets you pumped for the trip, but gives you ideas about things to try to photograph when you’re there.


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