Antarctic Farewell

In Antarctica, Postcards From..., Travel, Within The Frame Adventures by David20 Comments

Top, Bivouacked in Antarctica. Not my warmest night ever.

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.


  1. ooh, you can slide in a laptop?? probably in the main section, right onto the cameras/lenses? probably your MB Air in a laptop sleeve i guess…
    i might have my grandma sew something for me in there =)

  2. Thanks David, that was a extremely helpful hint about Gura Gear and the Bataflae! Made me read quite a few reviews, to learn it’s better than my Tamrac Expedition 8 for my purposes. I was just to fall asleep with a desicion made and a smile, when suddenly it occured to me that it has no large&flat compartment for stuff like small soft boxes&reflectors (and sheets of model releases), about 10″ wide…oh well. i guess it has more advantages. But dont you ever need what i call a large flat compartment?

    1. Author

      Hi Wilf – I guess it’s all about compromise. For me all I’ve ever wanted is a way to slide in my laptop, and the new Bataflae goes this better than the older Kiboko. But I usually have two bags of some kind and a small, light, daypack usually does this for me.

  3. David,

    could you tell us about your field-sensor-cleaning experience? do you use a brush or these wet things?


  4. Hey David,

    Nice images all. Thanks for the input regarding the D800. Sounds like your thoughts are fairly universal. Hard to complain too much about a $3,000.00 camera that produces beautiful 36mp files eh? Are the frustrations here are worth the final image output?

    Is eh/ Canadian?

    Looking forward to Seven….


  5. Amazing what you find out about your equipment in the heat of battle, so to speak!

    Welcome home and I am looking forward to getting your latest, Amazon says by this Friday…..

    Love the “Bivouacked” image, you don’t look like you’re ready to jump up and get that next image, heh, heh.

  6. Ya know Nikon does haves 24 megapixel pro body in it’s lineup (D3X). Just saying.

    1. Yeah, it’s true. A little out of my price league right now. And a little behind the tech curve considering the high $. I’ll wait until an update comes along.

  7. Well, have a save trip back home.
    ps. what about pedalos on 2nd photo 😉 is canoeing common sport in the Antarctic?:)

  8. Beautiful images David. Safe trip home.

    Cant wait for the new book to arrive here in Oz, hopefully before I head to NZ at Christmas.

  9. I love your third image! As for the D800, now you know why I shot Kathmandu with a D4, even though I had my D800 along as a backup. If you don’t mind the added weight and bulk, you can standardize on the EN-EL18 battery and charger, if you buy the the MB-D12 battery pack for the D800 along with the BL-5 battery chamber cover, which allows the use of the EN-EL18 battery. I agree that the D800 has a slightly flimsy feel compared to the larger pro-sized bodies. Can’t wait to see your final shot gallery. Safe journey home.

  10. Thanks, David, I think I’ve just decided to put my Gitzo Explorer back in the pack and take out my Traveller for my Antarctic trip next month… And if you have any spare berhs on that sailboat, or even a mast I could lash myself to… having done Svalbard by sail, the Antarctic Peninsula would be a dream.

  11. Wonderful images David, and I can’t wait to hear about and eventually see the fine-art book.
    As far as the multiple batteries issue is concerned, I recently found and started using this charger:

    I have the Canon version which charges all of my batteries across 5 cameras including my DSLRs and compact cameras. It works pretty well and is fairly small, at least when compared to having to carry multiple chargers. Two things that I like about it is that it has a car charger as well and a USB port so you can charge your phone as well. It may or may not work for you, but it is worth checking out.

  12. Hola david, Tienes mucha suerte de poder disfrutar de esos lugares magnifico. Me alegro de que te lo hayas pasado bien. buen regreso.

  13. Love the third image. Really cool… Looks like you had a great trip. Thanks for sharing! One of these years I have to make it down there too…. I agree on the importance of closing the viewfinder on the D800 for LTEs. I had to double take several images in the past and I still forget it once in a while. At least there is simple knob to close the viewfinder.

  14. Thanks for the update and interesting review on the D800.. something I will share with customers and friends who use it.

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