║ My experience in South Georgia and Antarctica
06 December 2016
Back from South Georgia and Antartica
Since 1998 I have travelled around more than 80 countries all over the word and visited and photographed thousands of amazing places. I have trekked in the most beautiful National Parks in the world, done hundreds of game drives all over Africa, and dived in some of the most amazing reefs in our oceans. I have taken aerial flights to photograph glaciers, mountains, lakes, reefs, volcanoes, and cities.
Yes, I am very spoilt; I have been very fortunate to see some of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. Every time I prepare to go somewhere new I am always sceptical and I wonder if it will surprise me. But the expedition to Antarctica and South Georgia with Luminous Landscape and Antarctica XXI has been without any doubt one of the best trips of my life. Nothing had prepared me for what I was going to see and experience on this trip. I had lots of expectations, but they were all met and surpassed. When I look back at some of the images I took, I get very emotional.
How could I define my experience in South Georgia? Overwhelmingly beautiful and intense.
South Georgia has simply become my favourite island in the world. I have never seen such an incredible concentration of wildlife with huge colonies of king penguins, fur seals, elephant seals, and many different species of birds. When we arrived in South Georgia, a hurricane hit us and we had to find shelter in one of the bays. We had winds of 84 knots during the night which was an experience in itself. It was very interesting to learn about the history of some past expeditions and the incredible survival and endurance story of Shackleton, an Irish sailor and explorer who tried to conquer Antarctica in search of fame.
In South Georgia, we photographed the king penguin colonies within beautiful landscapes. Penguins are seabirds which, despite having lost the ability to fly, have not lost this power. They are very streamlined at sea, and swim by “flying” in the water using their wings to reach speeds of up to 30 km/h and using their legs as a rudder. They are very curious animals and sometimes, they come very close to you offering amazing opportunities to photograph them.
We spent 5 days in this incredible island full of life, glaciers and beautiful mountains. I’m not sure if I managed to capture the scale of its stunning landscapes and wildlife but I certainly tried and came back with about 7000 images and videos.
On our way to Antarctica we did a brief stopover at the South Orkney Islands and we visited an Argentinian research station. The icebergs and landscapes around the island were stunning and we were lucky to see Orcas who played around our ship for a long time.
As we were approaching the Antarctica peninsula, we started to see more and more sea ice floating in the ocean. It was incredible, I had never seen anything like it. Our boat, the powerful Ocean Nova pushed the ice away and we circumnavigated some big tabular icebergs that were coming from the Weddell sea. And when I say big, I mean icebergs 1.5km long by 100m high!
As a frozen continent surrounded by oceans, Antarctica is a completely unique entity on our planet, completely different from its geographical opposite, the Arctic, which is a permanently frozen sea surrounded by the continents of the northern hemisphere.
Extreme is perhaps the most appropriate word to describe the geography of this continent. It is the fifth largest continent in size, nearly twice the size of Australia and the highest of all continents with an average elevation of 2,050 metres above sea level.
Again, Antarctica was an overwhelmingly intense experience. The blue colours and forms of the iceberg sculptures were incredible. We did lots of zodiac cruises in the chase of glaciers, wildlife and ice. The scale of things is just hard to explain. We saw huge penguin colonies again but different species this time. I have to go and search my 6000 images and check whether I have done justice to this unique landscape and I am worried I might have failed on this occasion.
Crossing the Drake Passage
We had to brave the ocean when we crossed the Drake passage. I had heard that crossing the Drake was full on and on the last day we hit a big storm and had 10-11 m high waves for a few hours…. That sounds scary but actually, It was amazing! I had mentally prepared for the Drake but after nearly 20 days sailing I had already developed great “sea legs” and with some medication (thanks Kevin and Debra!), I was able to fully enjoy the experience.
Rockhoppers/Luminous Landscape, Ocean Nova and Antarctica XXI
Thanks again to Kevin Raber, to the crew, the staff and all passengers for making this trip one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. It was incredible and I am very grateful to Kevin Raber for inviting me to join this amazing trip as a photography instructor.
I am looking forward to coming back in 2018. A second trip to Antarctica is a must. This first one has been an amazing learning experience for me and for all of the participants. I think we have unfinished business in Antarctica and we will come back at some point in the future!
If you are thinking of a trip to the seventh continent, I can highly recommend Luminous Landscape/Rockhoppers workshops. They have been running expeditions for more than 20 years and their goal is to be at the right spot at the right time and to provide an incredible photography experience.
The expedition is fully devoted to the pursuit of photography and without any doubt there is no other company with more experience than them.