Antarctica and the Drake Passage are behind us now. One last day to look through our work together, then we all go separate ways. I’ve made lifelong friends here and solidified others in beautiful ways. And now we’re scheming to come back, because this is a place you fall in love with the light and land and long to return to over and over again. So a few of us have already found a 60ft sailboat to charter for a month in a couple years, to return and do this on a much smaller scale, and to go further – to the Falklands, South Georgia, and across the Antarctic Circle. It’s going to be a long wait.
My work this time is a smaller body of photographs, and much different than last year. It’s smaller because my time in Antarctica wasn’t mine alone, and different, at least in part, because the light and weather was so different, and so I encountered the place differently. I learned things too, as I always do. Aside from the usual lessons learned about my creative process and always-evolving ways of seeing, there were a couple valuable technical/logistic lessons. For example, my Nikon D800 seems to suffer from light leaks through the viewfinder on long exposure – it’s the first time I’ve had to close the shutter on the viewfinder, and if I didn’t do it, the resulting banding and pink colour cast was horrific. I also realized all too quickly that my Gitzo Ocean Traveler tripod was the wrong choice. Before I left I pulled a much larger set of sticks from my suitcase and swapped it out for the smaller one. Never again. Fortunately I could borrow a larger one for a couple shots. At full extension the Ocean Traveler is no match for pro-sized gear, snow, and Antarctic winds. Bringing the much-loathed sensor cleaning gear was a good move – I’m amazed how how dust I gathered, despite not changing lenses. My D800 generates some pretty big files and my 11″ MacBook Air handled them with dignity, but not with speed. I see a trade-in coming if I’m to keep shooting with the D800. I shot out of my GuraGear Bataflae 323L, still my favourite camera bag.
About the D800. I bought one because I wanted larger files for much larger fine-art prints. It’s a lovely camera. There’s a few features I love – like the in-viewfinder virtual horizon, which makes a world of difference. But it’s no D3s. It doesn’t handle as nicely, and the shutter sounds plasticky. And I resent having to abandon the dual CF-card set-up on the D3s in favour of one CF card and one SD card in the D800. I won’t even mention my frustration at the ever changing battery standards and the need to carry multiple chargers (oops, I kind of did…) None of these affect the image quality, which is large and beautiful, but a little large even for me. 24 megapixels would be the sweet spot for me. It performed perfectly in Antarctica.
Heading home tomorrow. The new book, The Print and the Process, is now shipping from Amazon. My fine-art book is one step closer to being done, and I’ll blog about that at some point.