Antarctica Photography Camera Gear
Antarctica Photography Camera Gear
What to Pack
I’ve been asked a number of times what I typically pack when it comes to my photography trips to Antarctica or the Arctic. I’ve been South over a dozen times now, the same heading North, and that list of equipment has gone from just shy of the kitchen sink too including the sink, or so it seemed, up to now where I’ve really reduced the gear list. It’s tempting to bring everything you have, especially if this is your first voyage South, but that can sometimes get in the way of paying attention to what you’re doing or trying to capture. Keep it simple.
Unless you’re able to get on a voyage to the Emperor Penguins, usually around Snow Hill Island, I would suggest leaving the “big guns” at home. When I took that trip I carried more gear than usual including the Nikkor 200-400mm. The 400mm does come in handy but now I prefer the Nikkor 80-400mm as it’s much smaller/lighter and still gives me the results I need and the zoom range is much more inline with the variety of subjects and distances you’re likely to encounter.. So, below is a list of what I currently pack.
I always carry at least 2 camera bodies, currently a Nikon D810 and Nikon D800, batteries and memory cards. A 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 28-300mm and a 80-400mm all Nikkor brand. Most of the time I’ve got the 28-300mm on the camera when in the Zodiac unless there are whales around then I’m likely to put on the longer lens to start out with. I might end up with the 16-35mm when the whales are right under the Zodiac and then be wishing I had something wider! Having the flexibility to zoom at different focal lengths when in the Zodiac is very important and trying to switch lens, or even cameras can mean the difference in your ability to capture that spontaneous moment which happens often. ALWAYS go out prepared for that unexpected moment, not just with the gear you select but with the camera settings and how you have your kit packed.
I take a mid-size tripod with an easy to use ballhead usaully a Gitzo Mountaineer Carbon Fiber tripod and a Really Right Stuff BH55 head. I also bring along a monopod with an Acratech GV2 ballhead. Occasionally I shoot video with either a waterproof Lumix or GoPro and so I bring along a Joby GoridllaPod in case I want to strap the camera outside when the ship is blasting through big waves or just to set it on the ground next to the penguins. Have fun and try some time-lapse shooting around the penguin rookeries or “highways”.
You’ll want to keep your hands free while going down or coming up the gangway so make sure you have a good watertight backpack and or a dry bag with shoulder straps.There’s a good chance you’ll get wet while in the Zodiacs so a dry bag might be considered. I have a LowePro AWII PhotoTrekker camera pack that I’ve had for 14 years and it’s been completely soaked a number of times. It does have a rain shield to pull out and so I’ve not bothered with a dry bag. I’ve recently updated that bag to a LowePro Whistler AW450, which I’ve modified a bit with an exacto blade and duct tape. :-) Should you find yourself, and your pack, getting drenched remember to place your pack on the top of your boots so it’s not sitting in the water. Not a problem with a dry bag.
While onshore the camera gear selected may be different. This is when the tripod may get used as well as at times when on the ship, when the ship is not in motion.
I also grab a towel out of the cabin and carry small pieces of cotton cloth, like from an old flannel shirt, to clean my lens. Micro fiber stuff is useless when water drops, especially saltwater, gets on your lens. A remote release might come in handy and I suggest a wireless trigger so you don’t have to be in front of the camera to activate it.
I do bring a laptop, external drives and plug adapters, including a USB hub, as well as any cables and cords I need. Power outlets can be sparse on the ship so you might consider packing a small power strip with a USB outlet. A thumb drive can come in handy should you care to share photos you’ve captured of other passengers or maybe ones they got of you in action! Make sure any of your software is updated, especially if you’ve just purchased a new camera. Bring along a digital version of your cameras manual too. Odds and ends include UV and polarizing filters and sometimes a variable ND filter. Pack a small tool kit with the needed allen wrenches, screw drivers, Leatherman and blower bulb to start with.
I had an earlier blog post which went over a little of this information but also included more about clothing and travel plans in general. Here’s a link to that post.
If you have any questions fire away!