Antarctica Expedition: Photography Tips

An Antarctic expedition is one of the most memorable travel experiences you can have in your entire life. The southern continent is ripe with photographic scenery that will embed itself in your memories and provide you with stories to share with loved ones for years to come. It’s an incredible journey to undertake, and you’ll want to make sure you follow Antarctica photography tips to ensure you capture the best highlights of your adventure.

Here, a Quark Expeditions guest patiently waits for the penguins to come to her

Photographing penguins attracts many travelers on voyages to the Antarctic. Respecting animals is essential. Here, a Quark Expeditions guest patiently waits for the penguins to come to her. Photo: Michelle Sole

Antarctica expedition photography tips

Dave Bouskill is an experienced polar adventurer and photographer who also is co-founder of The Planet D adventure travel blog. One of his photographic adventures took him to the shores of Antarctica where he witnessed and captured highlights of all that the southern continent has to offer to inspired travellers.
To help other adventurers prepare for this incredible voyage, Dave put together a list of Antarctica expedition photography tips based on his years of experience. We’ve pulled some of the most important points on the list for you in this guide so that you can gather all of the camera equipment you’ll need to experience Antarctica in all its glory.

How to store and protect your photography gear

Camera set up on a tripod
Photographing during onshore excursion. Photo: Dani Plumb, Grange Productions

The most basic item for you to remember is to store and protect your camera gear for a voyage to a cold and potentially wet environment. What do you need to prepare for, and what can you add to your packing list to help protect the equipment?
Condensation (hot to cold)
Condensation occurs when warm humid air makes contact with a cold surface. Given the location, you can expect the surface of the continent to be very cold. The surface of much of the ship will also be affected by the elements. However, the light from the sun could cause warming moments throughout the day, causing condensation to form on your equipment.
What can you do to prevent the elements from damaging your photographic gear? Choose the right waterproof protection
Water-proof packs are one way of keeping sand, rain and snow away from your camera and lenses

It's important to protect your photography equipment—and yourself—from the elements when on an Antarctic Expedition. Water-proof packs are one way of keeping sand, rain and snow away from your camera and lenses. Photo: Courtesy Quark Expeditions

You can invest in waterproof equipment specifically designed to store and protect your camera gear. Flexible waterproof camera cases are a simple and fairly inexpensive solution for just about any type of camera. These cases are available for both DSLR cameras and smartphones. You should also consider how you're carrying your extra equipment—as well as extra gloves and other clothing while you're photographing wildlife or the polar landscape. Make a point of choosing a backpack that will both accommodate the extra things you're carrying and will also keep them safe from cold and moisture.

Bring backup photography gear

Penguinologist Tom Hart sets up a time lapse camera during a trip to Antarctica.

Penguinologist Tom Hart sets up a time lapse camera during a trip to Antarctica. Guests can learn about wildlife and photography techniques from onboard exerts during their expedition. Photo: Quark Expeditions

No matter how much you prepare, there’s always the potential that your camera could be damaged on an adventure. It could be due to the elements, or it could be a result of the equipment becoming damaged during your flight.
In any event, you want to make sure that you have backup photography gear in case something is damaged during your travels. Make sure that part of your Antarctica expedition packing list includes plenty of these backup items for an emergency situation:
  • Batteries
  • Extra lenses
  • Memory cards
  • Camera bodies

General Antarctica photography tips

The best part about photographing the highlights of your Antarctica expedition is the vast number of locations and natural wonders to capture on camera. From rugged peninsulas and floating icebergs to the snowy mountaintops of the continent’s interior, there is so much natural beauty to capture on camera.
Some adventurers, like Acacia Johnson, have even created Antarctica expedition photography guides to help voyagers like you convey the profound awe and wonder of the Polar Regions through photography. In addition to her video guide, she also encourages any aspiring polar photographer to establish the right shots throughout the land to capture the serene wonder that is Antarctica. When positioning your camera, think about how best to incorporate and utilize:
  • Exposure
  • Angles
  • Lens filters
  • Zoom lenses
  • Flash

Antarctica photography tips for landscapes

To immerse yourself in all that Antarctica has to offer, book a passage on the Antarctic Express: Crossing the Circle adventure. This 11-day voyage begins with a flight from Punta Arenas in southern Chile, where you’ll fly to King George Island. From there, you’ll board your vessel and sail south along the Antarctic coast until you cross the Antarctic Circle via the Lemaire Channel.
Once you reach the Lemaire Channel, you’ll have many opportunities to disembark the ship and explore the rugged beauty of the continent, often in Zodiacs, sometimes on foot, and, if you’re traveling on Quark Expeditions’ new ship Ultramarine, you can even explore by helicopter. There will be days when you can photograph both sunrises and sunsets as the encroaching light appears or disappears across the snowy horizon. Expeienced photographers also recommend you position your shots using the rule of thirds, which encourages you to keep the subject of the shot in the left or right third of the image, leaving the other two thirds open to a more encompassing background.

Antarctic photography tips on a Zodiac

Another incredible Antarctic adventure is the South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula: Penguin Safari adventure. This 16-day expedition begins with a flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, where you’ll board a vessel bound for the remote South Georgia Islands. You’ll then travel southwest towards Elephant Island and the South Shetland Islands, approaching the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
One of the best parts of this adventure is the option of taking a Zodiac cruise in the ocean waters, reaching places that larger ships cannot navigate. Zodiac adventures are offered alost daily (sometimes twice-daily) when exploring South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, providing plenty of opportunities to photograph the wonders of nature, be they rugged landscapes, sculpted icebergs, or legions of penguins.
Use the opportunity to capture scenery from the front of the Zodiac and capture some of the wider shots of the land. Always make sure that you have waterproof covers to protect your equipment as the water can occasionally be choppy when you’re traveling in a Zodiac.

Antarctic wildlife photography opportunities

Antarctica is home to amazing wildlife species that you’ll rarely find in any other habitats. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity to capture photographic moments of wildlife as they frolic in the sea or play along the shorelines.
You can book passage on a number of adventures to photograph some of the most common wildlife sightings in Antarctica, including:
  • whales
  • seals
  • penguins
  • birds

Antarctica photography expedition and cruise

There are many cruises and adventures that await in Antarctica, including the Crossing the Circle: Southern Expedition journey. This 14-day journey includes a deep exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula as you get closer to and eventually cross the Antarctic Circle.
Our experienced adventurers have put together numerous guides for how to capture the best moments of this and other adventures. We also have a detailed guide on how to shoot your best video on a polar voyage for those of you who are videographers, as well as photographers.
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