I’ve not posted for quite a while, but that’s because I’ve been quite busy with other projects, one of which was to prepare a lecture for my local photography club, Worksop Photographic Society. My lecture was entitled “Ice Alert” at the suggestion of one of the members, but was really about my trips to Iceland and Antarctica. The title was fun though.
I first went to Iceland in 1975 believe it or not, where I spent almost 5 weeks as part of a School Geology and Geography Field Trip. It was amazing experience for an 18 year old. I did take a camera .. my mum’s Kodak Instamatic,Read More»
Courtesy of Chris Sanderson, there is now an 18 minute video of my trip with Luminous Landscape to Antarctica earlier this year. It is really a taster (advertisement) for future LuLa trips there, but contains some stunning Antarctic scenery and wildlife, and for me a great reminder of such good times. I had hoped to embed the video below but unfortunately their privacy setting’s won’t allow that, so you just have to click on the screen grab below linked to the video. It’s well worth a watch. and there’s even the odd glimpse of yours truly.Read More»
Our morning was greeted by what was to become a very familiar voice, that of Morten Jørgensen, the Antarctica XXI expedition leader, urging us to rise from our bunks as there was “some really nice light outside“, and being we were all photographers it was something we “really shouldn’t miss“.
On deck, for those that took heed to the call, we were indeed greeted by some early morning, pale yellow light, and our first glimpse of the Danco coastline of mainland Antarctica with the occasional iceberg drifting by. That was soon followed by our first of many sitings of Humpback whales, which brought almost everyone to the viewing deck; a multitude of cameras snapping away like a veritable horde of paparazzo. For me this was the first time I’d really seen a whale up close … the trip was starting well.
Not long after the Ocean Nova was gliding into Cierva Cove littered with numerous icebergs from the surrounding glaciers. Impressive scenery indeed. The light was good too; a lovely covering of quilted cirrocumulus stratiformis clouds providing a natural soft box. Great light for photographing icebergs. Soon were were cruising in amongst them in our zodiacs, with almost flat, calm, waters providing great refections of icebergs and mountain peaks. Could it get any better than this? It did. A couple of Humpbacks were spotted amongst the bergs, and a Minke whale swam right along side of our zodiac. I saw his eye checking us out. Wow!
Time just flew by, and soon we were being urged to make an immediate return to the ship. In fact we were rather late and another Zodiac with approached with Morton onboard. Kevin Raber, our LuLa instructor was asked to switch zodiacs fully expecting a blocking from Morton for staying out too long. Instead he was given to opportunity to fulfil a long term wish – to drive a Zodiac in Antarctica. I think Morton just made his day!
After a most enjoyable lunch, dominated by chat about our fabulous morning, we headed for Hydruga Rocks for our first landing. A group of low rocky islands in the northern part of the Gerlache Strait named after the latin mame for the Leopard seal, Hydruga leptonyx. Funnily enough there are no leopard seals there. The islands, with lots of bare rocky outcrops, are home to a large colony of Chinstrap penguins, but we also saw fur seals, Blue-eyed Shags, Snowy Sheath-bills, as well as an elephant seal and several Weddell and Crabeater seals. After a couple of hours amongst the islands wildlife, the afternoon was completed with a cruise around the island on our return to the ship.
At 18:30 in the evening we attended what was to become another familiar feature of our voyage, our daily briefing and recap in the panorama lounge. Here the Antarctica XXI crew reviewed the days antics and wildlife that had been observed, but more importantly what was planned for the day to come. With fine weather prevailing, a decision had been made to heading south to cruise the famous Lemaire Channel at sunrise followed by a 5:30 am zodiac cruise around the icebergs of Pléneau Bay. Expect a wake up call at 03:45am!< Day 4
King George Island
Well the time had come to get my baggage down to 20kg. Unfortunately I failed. I just couldn’t seem to reach that illusive number, not without ditching a lens or two, my Mad Water dry-bag backpack and seriously start thinking about forgetting spare socks and under wear and even squirting out some toothpaste and shampoo. All was not lost though, as our amiable Antarctica XXI tour guide had let slip the night before that ONLY our check-in baggage would be weighed. Phew! I left the hotel with a check-in bag at 16.7kg, and a carry-on at 8.7kg … well over the limit I’m afraid, but a mere snip compared to some others!
All kitted out in our rubber boots and waterproof trousers, check-in turned out to be a breeze. Shortly after we were heading out on the tarmac to our Antarctic Airways, BAE-146, 4-engine jet; a high-wing aircraft with very short runaway requirements so ideal for our location. The flight, smooth and uneventful, taking just under 2 hours to reach our destination Aeródromo Teniente Marsh, at Frei Base on King George Island. The Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, to give it it’s proper name, is the most important Antarctic base for Chile, located on the Fildes Peninsula; an ice-free area sitting above Fildes Bay at the south western tip of King George Island, South Shetland Islands.
Once disembarked into the much colder Antartic air, we had an easy 20 minute walk from the airfield down through the Russian Bellingshausen base to the shoreline of Fildes Bay where our ship, the Ocean Nova, was anchored. There we had 20 minutes or so to explore the shoreline and Trinity Church, a small wooden, Russian Orthodox church, that sits on a hill above the station.
There are no docking facilities at Frei Station so transfer to the Ocean Nova is by Zodiac boats. Our first taste of what was to become a familiar procedure. Soon after we were all safely on-board, and having checked out our cabins, had lunch and attended the obligatory boat drill, we informed that we were setting sail across the Bransfield Stait to mainland Antarctica, heading for Cierva Cove. This was great news. Out Antarctic voyage was underway.
Today started with a rather early get-up. 2am to be precise. I’d really struggled to get to sleep so by the time my alarm sounded 2:00 am, I felt like I’d only been asleep for around 20 minutes. Groggy beyond belief. However, after a not-so-warm shower (cold in fact), I was soon dressed, packed and down in the hotel foyer the rest of the tour members, helping myself to some much needed coffee. At around 3:00 am out two coaches were fully loaded and on our way to Santiago airport only for ours having to return briefly to the hotel as one member of our team (who shall remain nameless) realised he forgotten his laptop of all things.
Our flight to Punta Arenas in southern Chile took around 3 hours, and we all soon became aware of the big temperature change from the summer heat of Santiago to the cool and windy 8 degrees presented to us as we border the coaches for our 20 minute journey to our downtown hotel. Fleeces and jackets suitably adorned.
The hotel Rey Don Filipe was pleasant and modern and I was now sharing a room with my future shipmate buddy, Dominic. We had some free time to explore Punta Arenas, before each having to attend a boot fitting to size up the rubber boots we would required for our trip to the Antarctic. A presentation from the Antarctica XXI tour operation team followed a little later which included things like safety and how to dress for the zodiac boats and landings. The each member of our group, suitable adorned with rather large name tags, were asked to stand up and say a little about ourselves and our passion for photography. It was an eclectic mix, with the majority from the USA and Canada, but also a sizeable (and noisy) bunch from Australia, as well as a smattering of Brits, Swiss, Polish, Irish and even someone from Israel. All, I have to say, a pleasant and friendly bunch; rather different from my previous trip!
The day ended with a trip out to one of Punta Arenas premier restaurants set within a delightful old colonial house. Good food and plenty of wine were enjoyed by all during which it was announced the weather for the following day was good and our flight to Antarctica would go ahead in the morning. You could feel the anticipation rising. We were going to Antarctica!
Today we had a chance to relax and explore a little of Santiago whilst the rest of the Antarctica participants arrived from their various destinations. Despite just 3 hours time difference from the UK I felt pretty smashed from the previous days journey and slept through till 5:30 am local time. I chilled out in the morning, chatting with several other members then went for a walk around central Santiago with a few of the other photographers, taking in the relaxed Sunday afternoon atmosphere and a chance to meander the streets and do a little street photograph. Snapshots of my journey. I’m not one for street photography but snapped several of the colourful local people.
In the evening we got to meet the Luminous Landscape crew, Michael Reichmann, Kevin Raber, William Neill and cameraman Chris Sanderson, for drinks and and introductory lecture about our trip. However, an extremely early checkout scheduled for a 3am departure to the airport necessitated an early retirement for me, to try and catch a few our sleep before our 6am flight down to Punta Arenas in southern Chile.
Well this is something new for me. Writing a blog whilst on the plane. I’m not usually one of those who gets a laptop out and works while flying, and in this case I’m travelling without my iPad, but do have my new 11-inch Macbook Air. The Macbook Pro has been swapped for a rather diminutive but extremely lightweight Macbook Air. The reason? Well I’m on my way to Antarctica (currently en route to Santiago), but this time flying from Punta Arenas in Southern Chile to King George Island in the South Shetlands Islands, where I board my ship. I’m restricted to just 20kg on that flight which includes both check-in and hand carry luggage. I’ve spent the last couple of days swapping in and out gear trying to get the weight down, which hasn’t been an easy task, and so far I haven’t quite managed it. Luckily we’ve been told we can leave some stuff at our hotel in Punta Arenas, so my final decisions on what goes can be addressed later.
Well I’m now at my hotel in Santiago. I’ve chosen to arrive a day prior to the tour start since I simply don’t trust the airlines enough to get you and your baggage to your destination together on time. It seems at least half the participants thought the same, and one at least has arrived without his bags. My BA/Iberia flights were basic but OK; the Madrid to Santiago section a rather tedious 12-1/2 hours, but I did manage to get a few hours sleep. I felt quite rested upon arrival but the feeling of relaxed anticipation was soon dissipated by the experience getting through Santiago’s Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport. The queue for immigration in a hot un-aircondition hall was horrendous, and took almost an hour an a half to get to the front of the line. That was followed by utter chaos in the baggage hall. There was no indication what-so-ever of my flight or which baggage carousel to collect it from. I eventually found it buried under several others piled up in a corner. At least it had arrived. An almost equally long queue then followed to get my bags scanned at customs before I finally made it out to the arrivals hall. Quite the worst 2-1/2 hours airport experience I’ve encountered for many a year.
Luckily I met one of the course instructors, Kevin Raber, just about to get into a taxi, so shared the ride to our hotel in central Santiago. Now rested, showered, and beer in hand, I’ve had the chance to chat with some of the other people about to share this voyage to Antarctica.
I’ve just returned from a fantastic eight day photographic workshop in Iceland where we were blessed with some amazing light, wintery conditions and my first experience of the Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. the Northern Lights. Although I knew there was a chance we could see the Aurora,Read More»
The Village of El Kuran
As past readers of my blog may know, my work as a geologist often takes me to some pretty strange locations. This time it was a trip to the Somali Region in southern Ethiopia. Some places I really look forward going to, but this location that wasn’t remotely (no pun intended!) on my list. For remote it was indeed. Situated just 55 km north of the nearest town of Dolo Odo on the Somali borderRead More»
My Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) Images
I was persuaded by my friend Doug Chinnery to finally enter some images for the Landscape Photographer of the Year (LPOTY) competition this year, otherwise known as Take-A-View. I’ve often admired the pictures that end up in the book they publish each year but have never bothered to enter. Like probably every other photographer though, I wouldn’t mind seeing one of my own pictures in the book.
Sadly that’s not be as all 11 of my entries fell at the first hurdle. Now they have they have announced the winner (and congratulations to Tony Bennett) I though I may as well show which images I entered. They are all images I really like, and of which I’m quite proud of, but obviously not LPOTY material. My favourite is the “After the Winter Storm” on Rannoch Moor depicting a partially frozen Rive Etive leading up to a beautiful snow covered Stob Dearg of Buachaille Etive Mòr. I had high hopes for this image as it’s easily the best shot I’ve taken this year. It may not have found favour with the LPOTY judges but at least it’s been a big hit on Flickr. For now that will have to do.