Antarctic Photography is Different

Do you want to take amazing photos when you make that trip of a lifetime when you visit Antarctica?
Our Antarctica photography tips will help you capture extraordinary images that you can treasure forever. We’ve been fortunate enough to visit Antarctica and wanted to share our experiences with you. Our 9 Antarctica photography tips will help you get images as you have never seen before!

There are several photography tips for travel on our web site, but Antarctica photography is an entirely different game. There are many challenges with Antarctic photography, including extreme climate changes, cold and damp weather, unstable shooting conditions and being ready to capture spectacular scenes at a moments notice.

Photography in Antarctica can be intimidating, but if you follow a few of these tips, you can be sure to come home with stunning pictures that will be a conversation piece for the rest of your life.

Know your settings.

It is vital to know how your camera works before setting foot in Antarctica. You don’t want to miss any of the special moments along the way.

Always take some test shots before you get going. Click away and try different settings to make sure you understand what works and what doesn’t.

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Photography from a Zodiac can be tricky when dressed up for the weather

Photography from a Zodiac can be tricky at times as you are generally moving, and sometimes fast, so practice from here so as not to miss any of the stunning wildlife at can appear out of nowhere. The classic is the humpback whales that start surfacing before your very eyes, so make sure you have the correct camera settings.

Antarctica Photography Tips

The Whale Flum you don’t want to miss
The Whale Flume you don’t want to miss

I use the shutter priority mode at 1/200th of second or faster when on the water shooting from a Zodiac or Kayaking and when on land used Aperture Priority mode. You want to avoid having that humpback whale surfacing to show his fluke in front of an iceberg only for the shot be blurry. Knowing your camera settings and how to use it in different situations will help you take the mast amazing shots possible.

Antarctica Photography

A seal taking an afternoon knap

Use Ziplock Freezer Bags

Some folk may feel this an odd one, but this tip will keep your camera gear safe from breaking down partway through your trip to Antarctica. The problem is to do with condensation which ruins cameras. After several hours outside, your camera gets extremely cold. I used huge ziplock bags to put all my gear in before I went back inside the ship. The purpose of this allows the cameras to warm up slowly to ambient room temperature without forming condensation.

Antarctic Photography Tips

Off to the Ice

It is vital to make sure you put the camera in the ziplock bag and be sure to zip it up and dispel all the air before going inside. Your camera will thank you, and you will not be claiming on your travel insurance.

 

Bring 2 Camera Bodies

Trying to change your camera lens outside on the ice or the water is a nightmare. To ensure you’re ready for any situation, you will need your two lenses of choice mounted on two separate bodies. I used Nikon D750 and my trusty Nikon D7000. That way, I could shoot the stunning landscape scenery, but a quick change of cameras allows me to capture a whale that unexpectedly surfaces or a seal some way in the distance.

Bracket your shots

Make sure you understand how to bracket your shots to help capture the right white balance and exposure.

Snowy conditions can be a challenge as you cameras meter struggles to know what is going on. The dreaded “grey snow” is the result. By bracketing your shots, you can usually avoid this situation. I usually find that 3 or 4 brackets at an interval of 1 to 2 stops will cover you, which means you are more likely to get images with crisp white snow. Whilst this process may be unfamiliar, you should may wish to try and use your cameras internal spot meter as this will give you a more accurate reading.

Show Proportion

With massive land formations and huge icebergs, showing a sense of scale is an excellent way to help the viewer get a sense of what it is like actually to be there. By placing people, zodiacs, kayaks or wildlife in the shot, it will help to translate the sheer size of your environment. You can also use the ship to communicate show proportion.

Antarctica Photo Tips

A good example of showing proportion in. your shots

Get low down to photograph penguins.

One of the extraordinary things you will find in Antarctica is the sheer number of penguins. They are everywhere, and finding an exciting way to photograph them can be tough. Getting low down and having them against a background works well. Use a zoom lens to accomplish this, but if you are patient, let them come to you, and then use your wide lens and capture more of the surrounding area.

Antarctica Photography Tips

Get as close as you can

Bring a dry bag

You will face a myriad of weather conditions in Antarctica so protecting your camera gear from the elements is imperative. The Antarctic weather can change in an instant. I remember heading out on a zodiac with bright sun, and 30 minutes later, we were in a blizzard. The combination of these conditions and the saltwater can destroy your camera. I use a dry bag to store all my gear when on the zodiac and use an Op/Tech rain sleeve on each camera. These are inexpensive and do the job well. If you can’t find those, a Ziplock bag with a hole cut in it would work.

Use Filters

I always suggest bringing two types of lens filter. A UV filter to protect the front of your lens and a polarizing filter which will help reduce glare from the sea and the sky and will help saturate the colours. You just need to make sure you know when and where to use the polarizing filter. If misused, it can sometimes over-saturate the sky, which can make you photos look a little unrealistic. Do a few test shots before you go, you won’t regret it.

Don’t forget the Videos

We always take a GoPro or similar as they can be great fun. As well as a cool time-lapse feature, they are ideal for taking pictures and videos above and below the waterline. Filming inquisitive seals or mischievous penguins swimming under your zodiac is a genuine possibility. It’s also a good idea to invest in some of the great accessories available, like selfie stick and clamps, and have some fun exploring with the various camera functions.

Always get some practice using your GoPro before going on your trip, as it can take some learning (especially the ones without an LCD screen on the back) and you don’t want to be spending time pushing the wrong button when that penguin is staring into the lens.

Antarctica Photography

Up close and personal with a Penguin

That’s about it. Hopefully, these Antarctica photography tips will help you capture stunning images, but they have also helped me keep my camera safe when in all kinds of tricky weather situations.

 

Do you have any tips for travel photography? Why not Share them in the comments below.