Top Tips for Photography in Antarctica

Antarctica is the perfect destination for budding photographers. The beautiful, endless landscape and sheer volume of wildlife are just some of the reasons why Paul Zizka and Dave Brosha are hosting a Photography Symposium onboard RCGS Resolute March 11th, 2019. In preparation, Paul, Dave and their team of professional photographers have provided their top tips for photographing in Antarctica.

Paul Zizka: Know your gear

Time spent on land is limited and precious in Antarctica, and flipping through your owner’s manual is rarely a good use of that time. You don’t have to know your camera inside and out but it’s well worth at least familiarizing yourself with the operations that you know you’ll rely on heavily: quickly changing aperture, checking your histogram, playing back images, autoexposure compensation, bracketing, etc.

Sea days are perfect for brushing up on your menus, figuring out that new tripod and organizing your camera bag. Less time fighting with gear means more time spent shooting and experiencing the place. Efficiency in the field will make for a much richer experience.

Silhouette of penguin in Antarctica. Photo: Paul Zizka
Silhouette of penguin in Antarctica. Photo: Paul Zizka

Kahli Hindmarsh: Focus is key

There’s nothing like getting that once in a lifetime, spilt second wildlife moment, only to miss the shot because you couldn’t focus in time. Focus is one of the most important elements to taking a strong photo and can also be tricky to master.

Take some time to get to know the auto-focus on your camera. Every camera has different settings and customization to allow your camera to focus efficiently, saving your precious seconds in the field. Your lens will also affect your focus capabilities. Practise makes perfect and it’s worth investing some time focusing on fast moving objects to make sure you are prepared.

Stunning mountain range. Photo: Kahli
Stunning mountain range. Photo: Kahli Hindmarsh

Curtis Jones: Experience above all else

Welcome to Antarctica. I know you’re all excited to shoot the heck outta this place but I’m going to need you to put the camera down for a second, steady yourself and relax. Reel in that explosive creative energy, if only ever so slightly. Breathe.

This place is incredible. It will knock your socks off. There is so much going on in fact that you may find yourself overwhelmed and literally tripping over photo opportunities – please mind those penguins. One of the best things you can do to increase your chances of getting an image that breaks the “snapshot” barrier is to simply stop and take the place in. It might seem counterintuitive but if you storm the beach and just start shooting without consideration, leaping from seal to penguin, to iceberg to travel companion, you are going to miss the opportunity to connect to the place. And it’s that connection that helps make unique and lasting images.

One of the great things about being on this voyage is that we have the gift of time. Time to watch Antarctica unfold around us. Observe, anticipate behaviour, compose with intention and I guarantee you will be much happier with your results.

Seal swimming in Antarctica. Photo: Curtis Jones
Seal swimming in Antarctica. Photo: Curtis Jones

Colleen Gara: Portrait vs Environment

With all the incredible wildlife you will be seeing in Antarctica, it will be natural to want to use tight compositions for a lot of your shots. A gentoo penguin or leopard seal will fill the entire frame and the focus is put solely on the animal. Telephoto and super-telephoto lenses have allowed photographers to get ‘closer’ to wildlife than ever before. These types of photographs are wonderful as they highlight the amazing detail of the animal; from the way their eyes are shaped to the texture and detail of their feathers or fur.

However, photographs that are shot wider, and include more of the environment or habitat in which the animal lives, can be just as powerful and important to take. These types of images can help provide context and create a sense of place and perspective.  They can also shed light on the day-to-day existence of the animal and can demonstrate a sense of scale.

Taking both close-up portraits and wider shots showcasing the environment can help you create a solid portfolio and also gives you an opportunity to tell different stories about the same animal.

Close up of a raven. Photo: Colleen Gara.
Close up of a raven. Photo: Colleen Gara.

Dave Brosha: Take The Time To Look Beyond The Obvious

Upon arriving in Antarctica, all photographers are understandably excited to photograph the incredible penguin colonies, icebergs and seal and whale life.  But take the time to consider photographing deeper than these obvious, amazing photographic subjects.   Some of my absolute favourite photographs that I’ve come home with after past trips to the Antarctic Peninsula have been some of my most unexpected moments:  the way a sliver of light hits a faraway slice of land, a candid moment of one of my traveling companions pondering the wildlife around him or her, unique weather conditions, and ship life.

There’s an incredible diversity of photography available to you during your experience on the voyage, so look beyond the obvious and you’ll find a great many of stories to tell!

Guests on a Zpdiac cruise in Antarctica. Photo: Dave Brosha
Guests on a Zodiac cruise in Antarctica. Photo: Dave Brosha

It is still possible to join Paul, Kahli, Curtis, Colleen and Dave on our Photography Symposium on the Antarctic Peninsular Adventure, March 11th, 2019. Please contact your preferred agent or our sale team for further information.