Beyond Words – Beyond My Imagination – Was I Dreaming?
To begin our adventure we sailed overnight, arriving in the Gerlache Strait on the Antarctic Peninsula. Our great expectations for what we would see were meet with landscapes beyond those imaginations. The low-angled sun highlighted a band of clouds sweeping across the glacier, making perfect light. The image stabilization was a great benefit when making telephoto landscapes from a moving ship.
Publishers Note: We were in sort of a dilemma as one of our instructors for the 2014 Antarctica trip was not going to be able to make it. We thought hard and decided we would ask William Neill to be part of this trip. I remember the call because Bill was somewhat hesitant. Like many people he envisioned an extremely cold and tortuous trip and was wondering if he was up to it. It took less than 24 hours for William to make his decision to join us. I remember telling him it would change his life. He has since said to me I was right on the money. Here are some images and a small article by William as part of his announcement of his eBook which has just been published. The links for the eBook are in the article below.
Also, Luminous-Landscape is once again going to Antarctica in November 2016. The 2016 trip is the ultimate trip as it is a sailing trip starting with South Georgia one of the most gorgeous places on the planet followed by a trip to the Antarctica Penisula. If there ever was a trip to be part of this is it. There will be photographic opportunities of a lifetime. Check out the details at South Georgia And Antarctica Expedition 2016. Enjoy Williams article and his beautiful image and download his eBook, you won’t be disappointed.
Coming soon a multi part Luminous-Landscape video featuring William Niell.
It was a cold dawn when we jumped into our Zodiac boats, to explore this magic place where icebergs from near and far float into a shallow dead end bay. Moving steadily through the bay, I had to watch carefully and fire quickly when these icebergs separately beautifully, and then the composition was gone. The next two hours here made me constantly catch my breath with wonder. It was so amazing, we returned for more icebergs and seals for another two hours in epic sunset light
Fortunately, when words fail, I have my images to reconnect me with the experience. I hope that this portfolio inspires and connects you with my magical mystery tour on the Antarctic Peninsula.
In January of 2014, I embarked on an amazing adventure with The Luminous Landscape photographic workshop with Michael Reichmann, Chris Sanderson and Kevin Raber. Only three weeks before departure a departure of January 2014, I was asked to replace an instructor who was unable to go. Anticipation grew daily as I prepped and packed. Given a weight limit for our luggage, I agonized over what camera gear and warm clothes to bring, not wanting to miss a photo opportunity nor to be miserably frozen while at work.
The tour started in Punta Arenas, Chile, and from there we flew to a remote airfield in the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica. Flying over the Drake Passage, rather than crossing by ship, saves time and avoids the often rough seas of the Drake. After landing, all gear and passengers were shuttled by zodiac to our small cruise ship, the Ocean Nova. Once settled on board, we sailed south towards the Antarctic continent.
The water was dead still and our group hushed. Cameras aimed in all directions, whirring with a sense of urgency to capture the epic views. Small pieces of ice clanked against the metal bottom as our Zodiac floated slowly in the bay. Suddenly, this small iceberg rolled before our eyes, casting glorious ripples radiating outward – earth vibrations. A few moments, later the stillness returned.
We photographed along the Antarctic Peninsula for five days. The daylight hours were divided between sunrise cruising past endless grand scenes, floating amongst icebergs, seals and penguins in Zodiac rafts and landings at penguin colonies. These days were very long, the quality of the landscapes and wildlife was epic, and the shooting conditions difficult as we were often photographing from our moving zodiacs or ship. I photographed all images without a tripod, and usually had little time to deliberate on each composition. Handholding, with two cameras around my neck, one with a wide-angle zoom and another with a telephoto zoom, was a constant challenge. I was definitely out of my slow-paced, “landscapes on a tripod” comfort zone.
After a day of photographing penguins, whales and icebergs, we sailed off to our next location. Massive icebergs slowly took shape in the warm evening light. Bundled up on the forward deck, I photographed for an hour and a half of golden sunset light, finishing at twilight on this long midsummer day’s dream.
While adapting to the flow of this style of photography, I learned to watch carefully, to see when the confluence of foreground elements such as icebergs aligned dynamically with the mountains and glaciers in the background. Normally, when I photograph on land with a tripod, I am constantly shuffling my position, sideways, back and forth, to find the most interesting and strongest graphical alignments. Since I was dealing with one way, steady, lateral motion, I learned to anticipate these alignments while looking ahead from the ship or Zodiacs. When I found a stunning iceberg, I would also look for wildlife to add interest and a sense of scale. We were constantly seeing animals, including seals, penguins and whales. It took good timing, a burst of exposures, plus an excellent autofocus and image stabilization system to catch the action! The experience was sometimes frustrating, but mostly exhilarating!
I could have spent a whole day just photographing this iceberg, but we spent only ten minutes around this berg as there was so much else to see. Using my 24-105mm zoom, I was able to make wide, scenic views at 24mm as well as zoom in closer for my favorite type of intimate landscape details as seen in these two photographs. Making these images was more like sports photography since the action was coming by us quickly. Using auto focus, image stabilization and fast framing was critical.
For example on January 30th, our dawn photography along the Lemaire Channel began at 3:30 am, photographing from the ship’s deck as we cruised past volcanic peaks blanketed with glaciers cascading to the sea. After dropping anchor, our zodiac cruise in Pléneau Bay began at 5:30 am. The bay is also known as the iceberg graveyard, where both large tabular icebergs and older, rolled icebergs have run aground. One of the highlights of this session was photographing an iceberg with its amazing shapes and arch. We floated slowly past as our very excited group blazed away. Each inch of motion changed our camera positions, altering the relationship of each curve and line and arch opening.
Our first close encounter with icebergs came in Cierva Cove, a serene bay full of sculptural masterpieces. A pool of turquoise was cradled within one iceberg, serving as a stark contrast with the stark, dark sea. Aiming down from the ship’s deck allowed me to isolate an abstract pattern of the iceberg itself and the smaller “bergy bits” as we slowly sailing by.
When the five days of intense photography was over, I could finally catch my breath. On the journey home and the months to come, the next phase of developing this portfolio began. I began to absorb and interpret all that I saw. I edited and processed photographs daily, using Adobe Lightroom to sort through the ten thousand images I created. Now, twenty months later, I have developed a portfolio of 79 images for a new ebook, as well as printed an Antarctic Dreams exhibit for the prestigious Weston Gallery in Carmel, California.
As we landed at this Gentoo penguin colony, I noticed a wonderful solar halo overhead. I quickly changed lenses to my 16-35mm in order to fit the full circle. I noticed some penguins going out to fish and began to photograph. With my eye to the camera, I didn’t notice these guys walk right by me. I could have touched them!
Looking back, my journey was simply beyond words. We sailed on an excellent ship with crew. Our group of photographers from around the world were a pleasure to be with, all talented photographers and enthusiastic adventurers
To view my full portfolio from our journey, see my new ebook at My Website.
I would like to thank the folks at Luminous Landscapes for inviting me to be a photographic instructor on their 2014 Antarctica Photographic Expedition. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with them on this tour. I equally enjoyed getting to know and teaching the participants – fifty-five photographers from eleven countries.
If you would like to read a full description of our journey, with photographs by Kevin Raber and video by Chris Sanderson, see: Antarctica 2014 – A Most Amazing Trip
I used Mindshift’s excellent photo backpack on this trip, the rotation180° Professional (http://www.mindshiftgear.com/products/rotation180-professional).
BorrowedLenses.com provided me with prompt and professional service in providing extra camera and lens gear for my adventure.