Antarctica: That’s a Wrap!

In Antarctica, Travel by David38 Comments

Well, that’s a wrap. I’m sitting in Houston awaiting a flight to Toronto, then one more to Ottawa. I left Antarctica on Wednesday and with the Drake Passage and flights, it’s so far taken 4 days to get home. But what a trip! I hope I’ve already expressed on how much fun this trip was, how much I enjoyed being able to bring you along with me via the blog, and how grateful I am for your comments and encouragement. This trip was a working trip for me, a return to intentionally exploring and creating, and it blew the doors off my expectations. After all the travel I really had less than a week to work, but what a place in which to do that. Antarctica is something special, a place I already long to return to again and again.

Practically, I shot with two bodies most of the time. For all my talk about going light I eventually caved in and brought my 300/2.8 and 24mm tilt-shift lens. I didn’t take the tilt-shift out once, and I could have done just fine without the 300/2.8. I was much more interested in the wider landscapes, so the 16-35/4.0 was on one body all the time, and the 70-200/2.8 on the other. Penguins don’t run away, so proximity’s not an issue. I suppose had we seen many whales I’d have wanted the reach of a 300mm, but there are smaller 300mm lenses than the massive, and expensive 300/2.8. I might consider taking one of those next time. I could have used a tripod once or twice, but was glad to have left it behind.

The big “must haves” in Antarctica are a good supply of lens cloths, and an easy way to waterproof your gear. I saw alot of people with rain covers, but those do nothing to stop the rain, snow, and spray from spotting the front of the lens,which was my biggest struggle and rain covers drive me insane. If it’s raining so hard I need to protect my gear, it’s impossible to keep the front of a wide lens clean, so I don’t bother. I just brought a couple large OR (Outdoor Research) dry bags, clipped to my lifejacket, or shoved in my pockets when not in use. Simple and cheap and easy to cram a camera into when the waves got choppy and threw spray into the zodiac.

My biggest worry was that shooting beside so many photographers would either stifle my creativity or produce similar photographs, but it was amazing how much alone time I had to shoot, and how so many photographers created such different work. I’m coming home with a body of work I’m thrilled with, and am already making plans to go back. One of the big thrills was meeting so many of my readers and having a chance to share meals, shoot together, and explore this amazing piece of our planet together. Thanks for hanging out with me!

Two more images from the trip…


Gear is Good. Soup Is Better. Courtesy of John Paul Caponigro.

This much fun should be illegal. Antarctica, 2011

*I’ve put my complete packing list into the comments, so read down if you’re interested.


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  3. David! It was truly inspiring to see you going for it! This was particularly true when we helicoptered in to that glacial lake (your first shot in this post) and you commented that earlier this year there were moments when you weren’t sure you’d ever walk again. Very cool man. Very cool! Here’s to more good times!

  4. Now comes all the ‘real’ work – sorting the images, playing with them, deciding which ones say what you want them to say….

    I’d love to know how many you took as well.

    Sounds (and looks) like a fabulous trip. Can I come next time?

  5. Great to see that you made it out on this trip after your injury David. Looking forward to when you share the rest of the photos!

  6. Your blogposts are so inspiring! I love it that you love Ushuahia (I’m from Argentina).

  7. Patrick. I have the 14-24, and it’s a beautiful lens, but (1) I don’t need the extra light of the /2.8 on a wide lens as much as I do the VR, and (2) it’s hard to filter (read: almost impossible), and (3) it’s a big, scary front element – not something you want sea spray all over. I shot with the 14-24 last year and love it, but I’ll be selling it in favour of the smaller 16-35/4.0

  8. Craig – There are some advantages to dual citizenship – Blue passport for Canada, red for England. So more like James Bond than Jason Bourne, really. 🙂

  9. I loved traveling with you via the web, David. Good luck on your upcoming surgery, and have a Blessed Christmas!

  10. Really enjoyed following the trip and seeing some of the body of work that has been coming from it. Glad to see you are really getting back into your stride.

  11. It was so much fun following your trip through here. The images you shared are BEAUTIFUL! Makes me want to go to! I never thought this place would be so ‘photographical’. Thanks for sharing your trip with us, David! :c)

  12. Welcome back! Sounds like it was an incredible adventure! Glad you are back on your feet and able to explore again. I can’t wait to see the collection of images that came from this.

  13. Hey David, I’ve only been following your blog for a few months but just wanted to comment about how inspiring reading your posts has been for me. If you had told the man writing posts in the hospital bed earlier this year that he would be traveling to Antarctica and sharing these amazing stories & pictures with us today, would he have believed you?!? These pictures are amazing and knowing your story only makes them more inspiring. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  14. David, love this image as well as the others! Thanks for sharing the trip! Glad it was an amazing experience and you hit all 7 before 40! Happy early b-day!!! Good luck on your last surgery… perhaps our paths can cross when you are in SD….. Safe travels

  15. I thought that read Outdoor Research ‘baclava.’ I was thinking wow, Outdoor Research makes Greek pastries now?

  16. Sounds like you had a blast! Thank-you for sharing your experiences from the bottom of the world. Do I see an Antartica WTF tour in the future??? 😉

  17. David,thank you for bringing us along on your journey! You mentioned an issue I keep running up against on workshop trips: too many photogs stifling your creativity. I would love to hear how you and your readers overcome this. I’ve had this happen for every workshop I’ve attended. I know it’s going to happen ahead of time but can’t seem to overcome it.– Tina

  18. Have loved following you on this trip! Just a question out of complete curiosity, or utter nosiness–take your pick. Any idea of how many shots total you’ve taken on this trip? I’m always curious about the ratio of keepers/yuckkies.

  19. Glad it all worked out. I must say, I could easily adorn my walls with large prints of ALL the shots you’ve posted from this trip! I could sit & gaze at them for ages…

  20. Great story David! Antartica is still missing in my list of trips! Just been a dad so I’ll have to wait a few years to take my little girl say hello to the pinguins!
    So glad to see you doing great.
    Saludos! From Spain.

  21. David, I have enjoyed following your trip so much and it was especially a joy to see how very happy you look in that last photo in today’s post! Janine

  22. Author

    Kerstin – Sure thing! Here it is. I packed a little too much. Could have done without the large Patagonia fleece, but it was there to pad the 300/2.8 which I had to put into checked luggage. Could have done without one or two shirts and one of the sweaters too – there was quick laundry on board, so even a few less socks and underwear would have been OK.


    2x Patagonia long underwear bottoms
    2x Patagonia long underwear tops
    4x Icebreaker underwear
    3x Icebreaker Merino T-shirts
    2x Long sleeve shirts
    2x Icebreaker Merino Sweaters
    1x Patagonia Retro Fleece
    1x Patagonia Rain Jacket
    1x Patagonia Rain pants
    1x Patagonia guide pants
    1x blue jeans

    1 x Outdoor Research Balaclava
    1x wool hat
    3x sockliners
    3x Icebreaker wool socks, medium weight
    2x Patagonia wool socks, heavy weight
    2x thin glove liners
    1x Patagonia ice climbing gloves

    Asolo Lothar GV light technical mountaineering boots (I need the rigidity)
    Black Diamond trekking poles (I need the support)

    *Quark expeditions provided heavy-duty parka and rubber boots for landings.

    Spare glasses and sunglasses
    Notebooks, pens
    iphone, charger

    Medical Insurance up to date
    MedJet Assist Evacuation Insurance up to date


    2x Nikon D3s bodies
    4 batteries, charger
    4x 64GB SanDisk CF cards, cardreader

    85/1.8 (unused)
    50/1.4 (unused)
    24 TS-E (unused)

    Singh-Ray polarizers, ND Grad filters

    13″ MacBook Pro
    2x 500GB Harddrives
    10x microfibre lenscloths
    Sensor cleaning kit

    2x Outdoor Research 35L drybags
    2x plastic raincovers (unused)


    1 Eagle Creek Rolling Duffle
    1 Think Tank Streetwalker Pro
    1 Think Tank Retrospective 30 satchel

  23. Congrats on such a fun & productive adventure. A wonderful new chapter in life’s adventures. Wishing you all the best with things when you return to Ottawa. If you’re headed back to your parents place, let me know if you’re up for a coffee. There are a couple of great cafes not too far away in Westport. Cheers!

  24. Welcome home David…or almost. Had I known you’re stopping in Toronto I would have invited you over for a coffee so I can really get more scoop on the trip. So far the images you’ve posted are incredible so I’m really looking forward to seeing more.

  25. Havening been both to Antarctica and the high Arctic, I know exactly what you mean! Ship-based expeditions are the perfect (and sometimes only) way to see these amazing places. There is no way to describe the sights sounds and smells of these places, and as amazing as the photogrpahy it is, the reality is overwhelming on so many levels. How lucky you are to have been able to go, and how much do I want to go back. Please show us more!

  26. Glad to see/hear that you made it back without further experiments in defying gravity. 8)

    Any chance you can share your photographic packing list? I love it that one of your lenses never made it out of the bag. Makes me feel better about my own packing…

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