The Allure of Antarctica - Photographing at the Bottom of the World with A&K

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“Where’s your favorite place on the planet to photograph?” That’s the question I get asked most whenever I am sharing my travel photographs at a seminar. I respond, “Well, having photographed in more than 100 countries, making pictures for my 38 books and 18 on-line classes, I must say Antarctica, which for me includes Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands Islands.”

I go on to explain why I, as well as many of my professional photographer friends, feel this way.

In this post I’ll share with you those reasons, illustrated with some of my favorite photographs that I have taken in Antarctica on two recent Abercrombie & Kent expeditions (during which I was a Photo Enrichment Coach).

Before we get going, this is not a photo how-to post. For photo tips, click here.

Okay! Let’s go!

he Blue Ice - As illustrated in the opening photograph for this post, the blue ice – the color and formations – is simply magical to see and to photograph – especially when the backdrop is a majestic, snow-covered mountain range that seems to go on forever.

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Wildlife – The wildlife is abundant, captivating, easily accessible and . . . . can be very cute! Because the animals are not hunted (same in Galapagos), they are not afraid of humans - so you can get cool close-ups shots of nearby subjects. NOTE: In Antarctica, the rule is that you can’t move in closer than 15 feet to an animal, but that does not mean the animals can’t come close to you. Read on!

Up-Close-and-Personal Shots – See what I mean about the animals getting close! These penguins were only a few feet away from me when I took this photograph with my fish-eye lens. I think they wanted to meet me as much as I wanted to photograph them.

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Zodiac Tours – For me, the zodiac tours are a favorite activity. The inflatable boats, driven by expert naturalists, get photographers into the best position for the best photographs.

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A&K Ship - We were based on Le Lyrial for my Antarctica expeditions. It’s the same ship I’ll be on for my 2020 expedition – and I hope you can join the photo fun. Not only is the ship super comfortable, but it has stabilizers which steady the ship in rough seas. Oh yeah, the food is excellent and the internet is relatively fast. For photographers with camera gear, getting off and on the ship into the zodiacs is easy from the water-level deck at the back of the ship.


Perfect Place to Process Images – After a zodiac tour or a landing, the cabins on Le Lyrial are the perfect place to process your images. The view isn’t bad either!

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Love the Landings – Once you make a landing, you are often “greeted” by local residents. You can stick with a naturalist to learn about the wildlife and geology - and about climate change – or you can go off on your own (staying in designated safe areas). What I love about the way the A&K landings are set up is that even with 100 people on shore (the average/max with all operators), you can get great “alone-with-nature” pictures – and get that very special feeling, too.

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High Percentage of “Keepers” – Due to the abundance of wildlife, pros find that they come home with a very high percentage of “keepers.” The only challenge is going through countless images to find those very best images.

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Learning – Here you see the team of awesome experts on my first A&K Antarctica expedition. That’s Susan Sammon, bottom row, third from the left. On this trip Susan taught smartphone photography - which was a big hit with the guests. We learned form the naturalists, geologists, marine mammal and bird experts, and of course the climate change scientists. The knowledge that we gained not only added to the on-site experience, but it makes sharing our pictures and stories more interesting.

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I began this post with a photograph of blue ice, and I’ll end with another. Seeing scenes like these in person - and capturing them with our cameras – is an experience that is hard to describe. You simply must go to Antarctica . . . and see why it’s the favorite place to photograph for many pros.

Summing up: For those dreaming of genuine adventure, Antarctica has long been considered the last frontier. This pristine landscape of mountains and glaciers remains largely untouched by civilization, placing it at the top of many photographers’ lists of “places to go next.” The very elements that make Antarctica a dream destination for photographers – pristine snow and ice contrasting with the sea and sky, the abundant wildlife and seabirds in constant motion – make it the ultimate challenge for photographers.

I’d like to leave you with this short movie that I feel captures the beauty and feeling of Antarctica.