Departing for Antarctica White Nature Expedition 2017

Time has quickly evaporated since my return from Greenland (Read the Trip Report) and in just a few minutes (as soon as I finish this post) I am heading to the airport to start the long trip to Santiago in Chile and then on down to Puerto Williams at the bottom of South America. From there it will be a two day sail across the Drake Passage to Antarctica.

I have been looking forward to this expedition for a long time now. As a full charter that is totally dedicated to photography we have a lot of flexibility to operate in the best light of the day and to explore where we choose. Being the first expedition of the season means we should also encounter really fantastic ice and snow conditions on the Peninsula. If you follow my blog then you know that I wrote a series of lengthy articles on How to Choose a Photographic Expedition to Antarctica over the past months. Everything about this expedition has been designed with the photographer in mind first and foremost.

As is custom I like to do a post of what equipment I am taking with me on an expedition. After much soul searching, and a lot of back and forth I have decided not to take my underwater housing and pole-cam system with me on this expedition. Simply put, I don’t feel I have enough experience with the underwater system as yet to maximise any opportunities that might present themselves. Antarctica is a difficult place to operate and photograph and trying to work with equipment with which you are unfamiliar is at best problematic and at worst a complete waste of time. It would inevitably  result in other missed opportunities. Underwater work in Antarctica is simply going to have to wait until such time as I have become more familiar with the housing controls and the nuances of working underwater. Without the burden of the underwater housing I can focus on terrestrial work and bring a good range of equipment to work with.

Lightroom Roller Camera bag (Carry on Luggage)

– 2 x Canon EOS 1DX MKII bodies
– 1 x Canon 11-24mm F4L Lens
– 1 x Canon 24-70mm F4L IS Lens
– 1 x Canon 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L MKII IS Lens
– 1 x Canon 85mm F1.2L MKII
– 1 x Canon 300mm F2.8L MKII IS Lens
– 1 x Sigma 15mm Fish Eye Lens
– 1 x Canon 1.4 XTC MKIII
– 1 x Canon 12X TC MKIII
Gura Gear Chobe (Carry on Luggage)
– 1 x Apple MacBook Pro 15″ Retina (I never did get around to upgrading to the new 13″ model)
– 1 x Apple laptop charger
– 2 x USB 3 2TB external portable Sandisk SSD Drives
– 1 x  Thunderbolt CFast card reader and CF card Reader
– 1 x Sunglasses and sunglasses case
– 1 x Leica Ultra-vid 10×42 HD Binoculars
Etcetera Case #1 (Inside Chobe)
– 1 x Canon 1-Series camera charger
– 2 x Power Adapters for on board ship
– 2 x Canon 1DX spare Batteries
Etcetera Case #2 (Inside North Face Duffle)
– 1 x Arctic Butterfly Sensor Cleaner
– 1 x Filter Wrench
– 1 x Zeiss Cleaning Fluid and Lens Cleaning Tissue
– 1 x Micro Fibre Lens Cloth
– 1 x Rocket Blower with Hepa-Filter
I blogged some time ago that I had been toying with the idea of adding the new Canon 100-400mm MKII lens to my arsenal (as a replacement for the 70-200mm), and finally decided to do so (I used it on my recent Greenland expeditions with great success).  The new Canon 100-400mm MKII lens is a really superb optical package at an incredibly attractive price. When you consider the much more expensive and much heavier 200-400mm F4L IS Lens is more than six times the price for very little increase in resolution (although it is faster and has an inbuilt teleconverter) it makes the new 100-400mm MKII a veritable bargain. If you need a flexible and versatile telephoto lens on a budget its really hard to go past this new lens.

See you in Antarctica!

Greenland The Expeditions I and II 2017 Trip Report

There are few places on our planet as spectacular as the remote and wild east coast of Greenland. Its precipitous and towering glacier scarred mountains that line the many divergent fjords have created an otherworldly landscape that is just about photographic nirvana. The entire primordial setting is festooned with a plethora of gigantic icebergs that drift slowly on currents through the system and that provide an endless and ever-changing series of subject matter for the photographer.It was this incredible, dramatic and dynamic landscape that first attracted and drew me to travel and photograph in Greenland (now many years ago). I had been itching to return since my last 2015 visit and so in September and October of this year (2017) I ran two back-to-back expeditions with my friend Daniel Bergmann to the remote east-coast and the incredible Scoresby Sund fjord system – The worlds largest fjord system. The expeditions were carefully timed as the last of the season in order to ensure Autumn colour in the dwarf birch, dramatic light (with real sunset and sunrise) and the first snows of winter. As it happened, we encountered all of this and much more. The first snows of winter was a key ingredient and with the mountain peaks garnished with a dusting of fresh snow during both our expeditions the stage was set for some superlative image making.Both expeditions began with a private charter flight from Iceland to Constable Point on the East Coast of Greenland. Flying from Iceland saved us the better part of two days sailing each way and enabled us more time for exploration and photography. With a private charter flight we also did not have to worry too much about airport carry on and could bring what we needed. From the tiny airport at Constable Point we boarded our ship, the beautiful schooner, the Rembrandt Van Rijn and we began our exploration of the world’s largest fjord system – Scoresby Sund.  Image credit below: Harvey Lloyd-Thomas.Our intention was to plot a course through the fjord system that would see us circumnavigate a large area as we explored for landscape photographs. We knew from our previous experience in this area of Greenland that Scoresby Sund was a virtually untapped jewel and that with the right light and conditions it was going to be possible to make some very powerful and unique photographs.As I mentioned above, the landscape opportunities in Greenland are absolutely incredible and during both expeditions we had superb opportunities for photography with outstanding subject and light. One of the highlights for me personally was the experience of watching an iceberg the size of a city block roll over and disintegrate right in front of our ship. Watching millions of tonnes of glacial ice that towers over a hundred feet high and that plunges many hundreds of feet into the ocean reducing itself to ice cubes in mere seconds was breathtaking (and incredibly exciting). The collapse created so much turbulence in the surrounding water that it triggered a chain reaction with another nearby monster berg which similarly disintegrated right in front of us. Not only were we in exactly the right location to witness and photograph both collapses but both occurred during some wonderful golden / yellow light! It was just an awe inspiring sight to witness and we celebrated the experience on the deck of our ship afterward with several bottles of champagne. On the second expedition we brushed the cusp of winter and had some absolutely superb leopard pattern pancake sea ice which offered us a seemingly never ending array of leading lines and patterns amidst the icebergs and moody mist that draped itself like a soft veil across the mountain tops. These sort of conditions are my absolute favourite to photograph and I spent many hours on the deck of the ship (along with many others) making hundreds of photographs of this phenomena. Greenland is home to some of the most amazing geology I have ever seen. The mountains, boulders and alien-like terrain is a virally limitless playground for landscape photographers and there were some really beautiful photographs made during both expeditions by all who participated. Perhaps, best of all, much of the landscape has not been photographed before in good light and it was incredibly refreshing to see so many new, evocative photographs created that will remain unique for many years to come. The ability to explore on land with tripod and camera in good light makes all the difference and as such we had many landings during both expeditions.In terms of wildlife, Greenland is nowhere near as rich as Svalbard and so it is important to set an expectation that wildlife is not guaranteed and any encounters are a real bonus. As these two expeditions were predominantly landscape orientated our focus was very much on working in the best possible light and not spending our time continually searching for wildlife. However, we did have some really incredible encounters during both expeditions that included several ‘first sightings’ for both myself and many others.On the first expedition we encountered a large pod of narwhale (the mythical whale with the unicorn horn – Yes they do exist!) which was incredibly exciting. This was a first for me and was a species I had been wanting to see for many, many years. During our encounter we counted approximately twenty whales that approached within about a hundred metres of our boat. Narwhale are notoriously very shy and are not known for approaching vessels too closely (they are still hunted by the Inuit in Greenland). In an effort to try and get them to come a little closer we shut down all the boat engines and generators in the hope they would get curious and approach more closely. True to their reputation though they passed us by at a safe distance. Nevertheless it was an incredible encounter and one I know all participants will remember forever.During one landing we were also very fortunate to encounter a juvenile Snowy Owl. We had just landed at Bear Islands for our evening session and had split up into two groups to photograph the landscape. I was leading one group on a short walk up a ridge when I spotted the Owl perched on a large boulder surveying the large open area in front of it for food. Several of us had to rush back to the ship to grab longer lenses (wish  I had my 600mm F4 with me!) and were subsequently able to grab some record shots of the encounter. This was my first encounter with a Snowy owl. A species I have wanted to find and photograph for many years.On our second expedition we were lucky to find a juvenile male Polar Bear resting on a piece of blue ice near the face of one of Greenlands many glaciers. We were unable to approach very close due to heavy brash ice but we were still able to get some great shots and enjoy the experience of a very healthy polar bear in its natural environment.

During both expeditions we also had land-based photographic opportunities with Musk Oxen. Like many species in Greenland, the Musk Ox are still hunted by Inuit and as a result are quite skittish and difficult to approach. Nevertheless we were able to get close enough that it was possible to get some great photographs. Several of us also spotted an Arctic Hare during one landing and we had a great many seal sightings from our ship as well as a Bowhead whale.I did not count the total number of bird species we encountered but it did include: Glaucous Gulls (a lot of juveniles), Ravens, Snow Buntings, Iceland Gulls, Snowy Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Gyr Falcon and more. The Peregrine Falcon were quite numerous (and unexpected) with several sightings during both expeditions. Daniel counted a total of twenty-two different bird species in total across the two expeditions. His list included: Raven, Common Eider, Glaucous Gull, Black Guillemot, Long-tailed Duck, Arctic Skua, Purple Sandpiper, Great Northern Diver, Peregrine Falcon, Arctic Redpoll, Pink-footed Goose, Northern Wheatear, Iceland Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Blacl-backed Gull, Red-breasted Merganser, Snow Bunting, Little Auk, Fulmar, and black-legged Kittiwake.

Both expeditions were run-away successes both from a photographic perspective and from the point of view of sheer adventure, excitement and overall experience. I want to thank all those who participated on the expeditions for their input, friendship and commitment to making both the expeditions such a great success – thank you. And thank you Steven for the selfie stick! (How did I ever live without one!)Personally, both these expeditions to Greenland exceeded my expectations for both landscape and wildlife opportunities. With first sightings for me of narwhale and Snowy Owl as well as the monumental iceberg collapses and incredible leopard pattern pancake ice it was absolutely an experience I will not forget.Daniel and I are planning to return to the east-coast of Greenland in late Autumn of 2019 and will have details on this new expedition later this year / early next year. As always, you can get the drop and be amongst the first to be notified when we announce the expeditions by registering your interest via email – no obligation at this point. Keep an eye out for more images from Greenland both here and on my website over the coming months.

Anchorage International Film Festival to Screen Ghosts of the Arctic this December 2017

In some more good news, the Anchorage ‘Films Worth Freezing For’ film festival has announced that it will be screening ‘Ghosts of the Arctic’ as one of its selected Short Documentaries this December. Official Selections to the Anchorage International Film Festival are carefully chosen from hundreds of submissions, from films that represent the best of international and independent cinema. The AIFF is proud to announce the 2017 event will include 128  international and locally made films from 25 countries. 

Extraordinary Vision Magazine Features The Art of Polar Bear Photography

The latest issue #65 of Extraordinary Vision magazine features one of my favourite Polar Bear photographs (from Svalbard in Winter) on the front cover and and includes an article I recently penned on the Art of Polar Bear Photography. If you are not a subscriber I highly recommend checking out Extraordinary Vision. It remains one of the best digital magazines on photography for the iPad and is a continued source of great inspiration. If you are keen to photograph Polar Bears in the wild you can register you interest in one of the few remaining places on my Svalbard Winter expedition next March by dropping me an email. A detailed PDF with costs and itinerary can be downloaded HERE. Places are filled on a first come, first served basis.

Svalbard in Winter Expedition March 2018 – A Landscape and Wildlife Paradise

This coming winter (March 2018) I will be leading an expedition to Svalbard in search of spectacular frozen landscapes, Polar Bears, Reindeer, Arctic Fox and more. The Arctic in Winter is a place to inspire the imagination. It is a white landscape bathed in golden light.The main focus of this expedition will be Arctic winter light, landscape and wildlife. In March and April the light conditions in Svalbard are magical. Usually winter trips to Svalbard are limited to day trips on snow mobiles quite close to the town of Longyearbyen. With our expedition ship we will explore a much bigger area including the western and northern areas of Spitzbergen. Expeditions such as this to Svalbard in winter have only really been possible for the last few years. With our ship now fully prepared for an Arctic winter it is possible for us to sail north from Longyearbyen and explore the spectacular coastline of the Svalbard archipelago.

This unique expedition has been designed to provide the very best possible opportunities to experience and photograph Svalbard in winter light. We expect to meet wildlife such as Polar Bears, Walruses, Seals, Arctic Foxes and Reindeer. At this time of year the sea birds will also be returning to their breeding grounds.This exclusive expedition is for a strictly limited number of just 12 participants plus leader and is dedicated to winter photography in Svalbard. Currently there are only a few places left before the expedition will be sold out.

We will be using the ice hardened expedition ship M.S Origo that will enable us to skirt the edge of the pack ice searching for and photographing landscapes and wildlife. M.S Origo is widely regarded as the best ship in the Arctic for Photography. Our expedition ship is also equipped with suf cient zodiacs (2 x Zodiac MKV models) and crew for all photographers to be shooting simultaneously with plenty of room to spare for camera equipment – So bring what you need!If you are keen to photograph the Arctic in winter you can register you interest in one of the few remaining places by dropping me an email. A detailed PDF with costs and itinerary can be downloaded HERE. Places are filled on a first come, first served basis.