Photo Tips for the Trip of a Lifetime – Antarctica with A&K

Photo: © Richard Harker

Photo: © Richard Harker

The ultimate adventure for travel photographers (and world travelers) is only a few months away: the December 19, 2016 to January 4, 2017 Abercrombie & Kent voyage to Antarctica, South Georgia and Falkland Islands – aboard the beautiful and spacious M/V Le Boreal. Click here for trip info.

I will be the photo coach on this incredible voyage, helping guests make pictures, rather than just take pictures. Naturalists will also be on board, as part of the ship's educational program, helping guests gain a better understanding of the animals and the environment – which also helps in the photographic process.

In preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, I'll share some photo tips, as well as some photographs of the ship in this blog post. To illustrate my tips, I'll use some photographs that I took on previous Antarctica adventures (to different locations) – so please keep in mind that you may not see all of these subjects/species.

Here we go:

Photo: Rick Sammon

Photo: Rick Sammon

Expose for the Highlights – Getting a good exposure of a scene with ice and snow against blue water and sky can be tricky. To ensure a good exposure, activate your camera's highlight alert, and make sure (by using your +/- control) that you don't have any "blinkies," which indicate overexposed areas of a scene.

Photos: Rick Sammon

Photos: Rick Sammon

See Eye-to-Eye – When photographing on land and from a zodiac (inflatable boats pictured below at the stern of the ship), try to see eye-to-eye and shoot eye-to-eye. This helps the viewer of the photograph relate to the subject. Left: Weddell seal. Right: Leopard seal.

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Pack Smart for Shore Trips – I'll be on hand to make camera/lens/exposure recommendations. The main idea when leaving the ship: don't take a ton of gear. Take only what you think you need to make great pictures. For now, I recommend a wide-angle zoom (24-105mm) for landscapes and seascapes, and a telephoto zoom (70-200mm or 100-400mm) for wildlife portraits. If you only want to take one lens, I'd suggest a 24-105mm.

Photo: Rick Sammon

Photo: Rick Sammon

Pack a Polarizing Filter – A polarizing filter can help you see under water, revealing more of an iceberg. It can also cut down on glare on the water and ice.

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

My Seminars – Speaking of icebergs, these photo guidelines are only the tip of the iceberg. I'll share much more info – on composition, exposure, camera settings, lens selection and photo processing – in my seminars in the ship's theater.

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Photo Reviews – When we are not out photographing, guests can bring their laptops to the lounge for a quick photo review. Just make sure your laptops are fully charged. And, don't delete a "bad" photo. We may be able to save it in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Photo: Rick Sammon

Photo: Rick Sammon

It Never Hurts to Ask – The skilled Zodiac drivers will help you get great shots, but if you see something that you'd like to photograph, don't be shy. Ask the driver if it's possible to move the boat into a position so you can get your shot, which is what I did to get this image. Please keep in mind, however, that it's always "safety first."

Photo: Rick Sammon

Photo: Rick Sammon

Be Prepared – You are going to see some amazing ice formations on this adventure. You don't want to be "left out in the cold," so to speak, with a dead camera battery or a full memory card. Pack extras in your jacket every time you leave the ship.

Photo: Rick Sammon

Photo: Rick Sammon

Be Aware of the Background – The background can make or break a scene. Compose your pictures carefully, and choose a wide aperture to either blur a distracting background (as I did here) or a small aperture to get the entire scene in focus.

Photos: Rick Sammon

Photos: Rick Sammon

Capture the Action – Animal portraits are nice, but action shots usually have more impact. To stop the action when using a telephoto lens, use a shutter speed of 1/1000th second, (a general guideline)  and try to shoot at the peak of action.

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Photo: Abercrombie & Kent

Take the Fun Shots – Sure, serious photographers want to come home with some seriously good photographs. Don't forget, however, to take the fun shots – shots that will help you tell the story of your adventure – a story you will definitely want to share with your family and friends.

On that note, I like to make learning fun – as you will see on this trip.

Photo: Mark Hardymon

Photo: Mark Hardymon

Ask Rick – On the ship and on land, please keep in mind that no question is too basic or too simple. Don't be shy, I am there to help. If you will be on the cruise, please shoot me an email with any photo related question. Click here for questions about the A&K ship and adventure.

Photo: Susan Sammon

Photo: Susan Sammon

Hey! Only have a smart phone? Susan Sammon will be on board (and on land) to help you get "smart" images – like this dramatic iPhone picture she took in Iceland.

 We hope to see you at the "bottom of the world."

Explore the Light,
Rick

P.S. For more photography tips, check out my latest (and 36th) book: Creative Visualization for Photographers.


I'm Jammin'

Hey All -

After posting this photo on social media, I received more than a few emails about the make and model numbers of my guitars. To keep it simple, here ya go, clockwise, from left to right:

Yamaha 12 String FG-630

Escape Traveler Guitar

Fender Precision Bass

Fender Stratocaster

Washburn H-30

Martin Acoustic/Electric Bass

Crafter Acoustic/Electric TB-Rose

And.. the guitar I am holding (my favorite):
Martin Acoustic/Electric DC -16RGTE

In the background, my keyboard: Yamaha Clavinova

Rock on,
Rick

My New Camera/Lens Combo for Landscape Photography

Click to enlarge image.

When it comes to landscape photography, one of my main goals, technically, is to get a super-sharp shot with everything in the scene in focus.

Helping me reach that goal is my new camera/lens combo for landscape photography: Canon 5DS and Canon 11-24mm lens.

Emotionally, my goal is to try to put the viewer in the scene, saying to himself or herself, "I'd like to be there," or "I'd like to be photographing in that location."

I took the above shot (actually an in-camera HDR image) in Croton on Hudson, New York, where I lead two Rick's Backyard Photo Workshops a year. They are listed on my 2016 Workshops page. We are about one-hour north of New York City.

Basic Landscape Photography Tips

Most of my landscape photographs, as well as seascape and scenic photographs, show the entire scene in focus. For maximum depth-of-filed, choose a wide-angle lens (the wider the better), set a small aperture (the smaller the better) and focus 1/3 into the scene.

To create a sense of three dimensions in a two-dimensional image, use a foreground element or elements. Shadows can also add a sense of depth to an image, as can photographing a subject from an angle (as opposed to straight on).

If a close foreground element and aperture combination don’t allow you to get everything in the scene in focus, you can use a feature in Photoshop called “focus stacking,” which lets you combine pictures taken at different focus points in to a single image in which everything is in focus.

When it comes to composition, placing the horizon line in the center of the frame is usually a no-no. With reflections, however, that can work quite effectively. But generally speaking, if the foreground is interesting, place the horizon line near the top of the frame, and vice versa.

Important filters for landscape photograph include a polarizing filter and a ND (neutral density filter). A polarizing filter can reduce reflections on water and foliage. It can also make a blue sky look darker and white clouds look brighter

A good tripod and a good ball-head are important for steady shots in landscape and seascape photography. I recommend Really Right Stuff tripods to all my photo workshop students.

Super serious photographers who want the sharpest possible image (least amount of camera shake) always mount their camera on a study tripod, use the mirror lock-up feature on the camera, and release the shutter with a cable release, self-timer or app – even in bright light.

I hope to see you in Croton on Hudson someday! It's a great place to photograph, and to learn about photography.

PLJ,
Rick Sammon
Canon Explorer of Light since 2003

For more tips on getting super-sharp shots, check out my latest book, Creative Visualization for Photographers.



My Favorite Photograph

We all have favorite photographs. This photograph, the last photograph I took of my dad, is mine. Here's why, as described by a reader of my blog.
- it's full of symbolic, emotional content
- looking into the distance, contemplating the edge (the end) is near, time (watch), space
- life is behind him, yet he is still connected to this world (watch again)
- going through the daily cycle (circular movement in his arms, leading to his aged face)
- growing older by the day
- drawing ever nearer to the edge of darkness
- still grounded to the earth by the cold metal of the walker
- walker keeps him in the photo and connects him to the photographer, his son, his future
-   carry on, carry on my son
- but I am not long for this world
- long have I watched and guided you, but now I am content
- my gaze is directed elsewhere.

Photography is a powerful medium. Very.

Explore the light,
Rick