Photography in Antarctica is Different
If you are one of the lucky few to visit the 7th continent, you will want to create special memories of this trip of a lifetime to Antarctica.
Hopefully, our 12 Antarctica photography tips will help you capture those images.
We’ve been fortunate to witness the majesty of Antarctica with our trip on the Seabourn Quest from Santiago in Chile to Buenos Aires Argentina. We had six days on the ice and enjoyed some truly wonderful experiences.
Our Antarctica photo 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 top Antarctica photography tips will help you get images you have never seen before!
There are several articles and photography tips for cruise travellers on our website, but Antarctica photography is an entirely different game.
There are many challenges with Antarctica 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.
Tip 1 – Know your Camera settings
It is vital to know how your camera works before setting foot in Antarctica. You really don’t want to miss any of the special moments after travelling so far from home.
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. I always take the user guide/manual along with me just in case there is a special setting I need for a particular situation.
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.
Try using the camera’s shutter priority mode at 1/200th of second or faster when on the water shooting from a Zodiac or Kayaking and when on land use 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 to be blurry. Knowing your camera settings and how to use them in different situations will help you make the most amazing shots possible.
Tip 2 – Use Ziplock Freezer Bags
Some folks may feel this Antarctica photo tip is a slightly odd one, but this one 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 and other electronic gadgets. After several hours outside, your camera equipment gets extremely cold. The trick is to use huge ziplock bags and put all your gear in before you go back inside the ship. The purpose of this allows the cameras to warm up slowly to ambient room temperature without forming condensation. A simple trick but works wonders.
Tip 3 – Take 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.
Tip 4 – 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.
Tip 5 – 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, will help to translate the sheer size of your environment. You can also use the ship to communicate show proportion.
Tip 6 – 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. Just one thing though, you will remember the smell of penguin poo as it is everywhere!
Tip 7 – Be Sure to Take 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 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.
- Compact design fits easily in a bag or pocket
- Designed for handheld use or tripod application
- Unique eyepiece opening adapts to most viewfinders for viewing through the lens - not plastic!
- Drawstring lens opening offers easy access and a snug fit. Camera and lens controls are easily visible and operable
- RAINSLEEVE fits Lenses up to 18" L X 7" Diameter (45.7cm L X 17.8cm Diameter)
Tip 8 – Use Filters
For Antarctica Photography, it is always recommended to take two types of lens filters. 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 your photos look a little unrealistic. Do a few test shots before you go, you won’t regret it.
Tip 9 – Don’t forget to take 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.
Tip 10 – Leave the tripod at home.
So the question is to Tripod or not to tripod? This is a hot topic and is still heavily debated amongst professional photographers. Always cumbersome and a chore to carry around in your zodiac or on the ice our advice is to leave your tripod at home. Antarctica is normally flooded with sunlight during the months when you are able to travel there. Combining that with the modern camera’s ability for higher ISO settings, the tripod becomes a thing of the past. During our first trip to Antarctica, our tripod never left the cabin.
Tip 11 – The Rule of Thirds
If the main subject is in the centre of your photograph can make it feel a bit boring and appear less interesting for the viewer. With the rule of thirds, you split up your frame in thirds with imaginary lines. Then put your subject on either of those imaginary lines and you will have a much more interesting image.
Try and avoid splitting the image into halves by placing a horizon in the middle but nearer to the lower or upper third of the frame. This emphasises the expanse of the background or the foreground respectively. Always make sure your focus is perfect when using the rule of thirds and your Antarctica photography will reach new heights.
Tip 12 – Spare Batteries and Memory Cards
On any trip to Antarctica, there is so much to see. You are guaranteed to take a lot more photographs than you expect. Always pack plenty of spare memory cards and extra sets of batteries for your cameras. Cold batteries tend to lose their charge so having a spare battery in a warm pocket will ensure that you will not miss that special shot.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
How do you take good pictures of Antarctica?
10 Tips For Photographing Antarctica
- Use a dry bag or waterproof bag to protect your gear. …
- Bring zoom lenses mounted on separate bodies. …
- Leave the tripod at home. …
- Use polarizing filters. …
- Shoot images of penguins interacting. …
- A seal is best photographed when looking straight at you or yawning. Read More….
Should I take a camera flash to Antarctica?
Flash photography is not good for Antarctica and worse for photographing wildlife. You want natural light but obviously and most importantly, you don’t want to disturb the animals and guests on your trip. If it’s too low light, this is the time to use a tripod and take long exposure photos.
Can you take good pictures in Antarctica?
The light is very good in Antarctica and we find that wildlife photographers generally leave them in the cabin after the first few days. Unless you’re shooting macro, long exposure shoreline images or arty type movement shots, the tripod can stay at home.
How do you photograph a penguin?
When photographing penguins, it is best to get low; not only does this make you seem less threatening, but provides a better angle for shooting them. It will also stabilise your camera if you chose not to bring a tripod, helping you focus when using a telephoto lens.
Summary and Roundup
That’s about it. Hopefully, these Antarctica photography tips will help you capture stunning images, but they have also helped us keep all my expensive camera gar 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.
Last update on 2023-12-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API