By Kam Vachon
May 20, 2020
Antarctica is the dream of every photographer with an interest in nature. During an expedition on the ice continent, countless photo opportunities present themselves to us at all times. It is therefore important to be prepared in terms of equipment, but also mentally.
Moreover, for most people, having the chance to go to Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime. So it can be intimidating to be prepared to capture the images you want: What lens should I bring? How many camera bodies? Is a polarizing filter important?
Before leaving for my expedition, I spent a lot of time researching to be well prepared for any photographic eventuality.
Capture the big picture
For this expedition, I opted for a mirrorless camera, the Sony A7 II. In my opinion, the strong point of this kind of camera is its weight being much lighter than a DSLR camera. So it's smaller and easy to transport in expedition.
As for the lenses, the decision was more difficult. Before making this choice, I think it's very important to know what kind of image you want to produce and to understand your subject. Indeed, by targeting an artistic direction, it is easier to select the lenses that will illustrate it. Antarctica is huge with mountains and icebergs, so I chose a wide-angle lens, the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS, to be able to capture the effect of size I was looking for. Thus, using a wide angle lens allows me to emphasize the immensity of the landscape by inserting a subject such as a human or a penguin. Moreover, this type of lens allows the insertion of elements in the foreground of the image in order to direct the eye towards the main subject.
When it comes to wildlife photography, it is important to choose a telephoto lens, such as the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS, which was my choice. Antarctica is practically untouched by humans and we want to keep it that way in order to preserve it in its pure state. In fact, it is strictly forbidden to get close to animals. It is therefore important to have a telephoto lens to produce animal portraits while keeping a distance.
By the way, I captured 70% of my pictures in Antarctica with the Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS. Not only is it ideal for wildlife photography, but also for detail-oriented landscape shots like this picture of a glacier.
If you're interested in animals and icebergs, you should definitely try to capture images underwater and you'll be happy to know that you don't have to scuba dive like Paul Nicklen to do it.
Before I left, I knew that I had a strong desire to photograph a penguin underwater or a half-submerged iceberg. So I did some research, to find the equipment that would allow me to do this kind of pictures.
There was no way for me to buy a housing that would allow me to submerge my Sony A7 II camera underwater, as I needed it at all times to take pictures of what was happening out of the water.
So I decided to use a GoPro Hero 8 Black and a case that would allow my iPhone to be used underwater.
In hindsight, I suggest you hang your GoPro on a monopod to submerge it as deeply as possible (which I didn't do, but should have done).
1/2400 | f/1.8 | ISO 25
The mindset to adopt
In my opinion, it is important to take stock of the mentality to adopt in this kind of expedition or any other personal project that is important to us. As a photographer, it is quite normal to have expectations about the images we want to produce. However, the key to not being disappointed is to have no expectations. It is better to hope for the best and to respect what nature offers us especially during a trip to Antarctica: the opportunity of a lifetime.
In my opinion, the most important thing is to be open to opportunities, to know one's photographic equipment from top to bottom and to follow one's instincts.
Whether in Antarctica or elsewhere, you have to drop your camera for a moment to appreciate the moment. What is the key to a successful photographic journey? To understand the history of the continent and to immerse yourself in the feelings of such a unique place in order to produce images that are representative of the experience.
Discover Kam Vachon's Equipment For Her Journey In Antarctica