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Camera Gear For Antarctica

Antarctica is one of those bucket list adventures that you really only get to do once in your lifetime because

  • It’s far too expensive to do with a family, unless you’re rich, retired or have a sponsor.
  • It takes a lot of time to get there, especially if you’re in North America
  • Going back means that you might have to put another bucket list item aside or abandon it all together.

I’m going to make the most of it, and that means that my photo/video equipment will probably outweigh my clothing. For photographers, Antarctica is one of the promised lands … so with that in mind … here is the collection of my research from other websites and some of my own writing for  what Camera Gear For Antarctica should be going.

Panasonic Gear

  • Lumix GF3
  • LUMIX 14mm f/2.5
  • LUMIX 20mm f/1.7
  • Lumix G Vario 14-42mm & Chargers
lumixPanasonic LUMIX GF3 micro four thirds camera – This is a great travel camera since it’s compact and very lightweight and has a decent size sensor (18mm x 13.5mm). Even the lenses that it takes can be small and lightweight too. This is the quick shot from the coat pocket camera. I also taken excellent video with this camera.

14mmLUMIX 14mm f/2.5 pancake lens – This is an older lens, but it is phenomenal for it’s form factor. It is ridiculously tiny, especially when compared to my 7lb Canon 7D beast monkey. I’ve used this lens over the years … it’s a great all wide angle lens on a tiny camera.

 

20mmLUMIX 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens – Sharp, small but not that fast, I love this lens for quick photos and great quality. it’s not the best thing for video, since the focusing speed is not the greatest but for the price point, this is a must have lens.

 

42Lumix G Vario 14-42mm & Chargers – This is the standard kit lens with the GF3. Depending on how much stuff I can fit into my camera bag, I might rethink taking this with me.

I’m also going to be taking two Panasonic chargers. I don’t expect that my charger will fail, however one always needs a backup. I’ll also have wall adapters for South America and the boats.

Storage Cards and Hard Drives

  • 32GB Extreme Pro CF
  • Extreme Pro 32 GB SDHC
  • 16GB Extreme CF
  • 1TB Flash Drives
SanDisk 32GB Extreme Pro CompactFlash Card 160MB/s UDMA7 : Needed reliable storage cards for my 7D that will operate in temperatures ranging from -13ºF (-25ºC) to 185ºF (85ºC). These cards are tested with rigorous stress, shock, and vibration procedures and feature RTV silicone coating for added protection against shock and vibration. (Item # SDCFXPS-032G) … I got two of these at 130$USD on Amazon
SanDisk Extreme Pro 32 GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card 95MB/s : I got two of these for my GF3 and for my Rebel T3 backup. They’re great cards but since this is not my primary camera, I didn’t go for the Extreme Pro.
SanDisk 16GB CompactFlash Memory Card Extreme 400x UDMA : These are my back up cards. I’ll be taking three of these with me
2 X My Passport 1TB External USB 3.0 Hard Drive : These will be super useful on the road and to back up all those pictures that I’m going to be taking.

Tripod

  • I have varying thoughts about travelling with a tripod, since I’m going to be doing some travelling prior to Antarctica and walking around with a heavy tripod is going to suck, so I’m going to look into a monopod, if I need extra stability.

Other gear

  • European, Chilean and Argentine power plug adapters to use with my North American power cables. The voltage on the ship and in Argentina is 220V/50Hz but my chargers auto sense the source voltage and adjust their input voltage accordingly. I just needed to convert the North American plugs to the appropriate one.
  • Panasonic charger x2 – I don’t expect that my charger will fail, however I will have wall adapters for South America and the boats.
  • Rainsleeves: Over the years, I’ve had to make up rainsleeves through plastic bags, but for this trip I bought 4 OpTech rainsleeves. OP/TECH USA Rainsleeve – 18-Inch (2-Pack)
  • Kneepads, since you’re going to be kneeling down in ice and probably Penguin shit for the right shot … you’re going to look like an idiot, but you’re going to be comfortable.
  • Latex gloves … these will help to keep my fingers warm even when manipulating the cameras.
  • Freehands Men’s Stretch Thinsulate Gloves

Salt Water, Cold Weather, Condensation and Cameras (Copied completely from Roel.Me)

Why rewrite everything on a post like this when I can share great content from other photographers. Here is a great note on what to expect with the salt water and cold weather in shooting in Antarctica

The airtight “wet” bag (see yesterday’s post) proved to be more useful than I thought. When camera gear used in cold temperatures is suddenly exposed to moist, warm environments (such as our cabin on the ship), condensation forms on outside and inside your equipment. That is not good… and you will also get some annoying spots on your camera sensor (which will show up in your images) which you must wet clean.

When returning to the ship, I would place the sealed wet bag in the shower to rinse it off to remove the external salt residue. I would then wait 60-90 minutes (or longer, depending on how cold it was outside). During this period, the exterior of the wet bag would dry off whilst the interior (the camera backpack and gear) had enough time to warm up in the airtight bag. Moisture does not enter an airtight wet bag when it is sealed and prevents condensation from forming on the interior. I would then take my camera backpack out of the wet bag and there was no condensation on my equipment.

Condensation problem solved. Residual salt gone.

A number of the expedition staff also commented on how practical my SealLine Boundary Pack (70L wet bag) was – which is quite the endorsement as they see many types of bags on these expeditions, so they know what works and what doesn’t.
I didn’t list this, but I also brought some large and small Ziploc bags with me. I put the GF1 inside a Ziploc bag, sealed it, then I placed it in my outside coat pocket. That way, if I did get splashed with water and my coat pocket was open, the camera and lens would stay nice and dry.

Also, when we returned to the ship, I left the GF1 in the sealed Ziploc bag for an hour or so, let it warm up and then took it out. That way, I did not have to worry about condensation on/in the GF1. Think of a Ziploc as a miniature wet bag. Some other photographers who did not have proper wet bags placed their lenses, bodies, etc., in Ziploc bags and then placed them in their photo backpacks. In the event that water got into their camera bag, at least their gear had some level of protection.

 Antarctica Camera Gear FAQ

Here is a list of questions and answers that I’ve compiled from other websites

  • Will the cold weather impact my camera?
    • Cold weather reduces the normal life of a battery
    • Returning to the warmth of the ship after being outside in the cold can cause the chilled camera to get covered with condensation. See the section above.
  • Should I buy a bunch of new equipment?
    • I’m not buying any new cameras, as tempted as I am to do so. I already have some great equipment in my Canon 7D and T3 along with my Lumix GF3. I’m very familiar with my own equipment, Antarctica is not the place you want to be trying out new equipment. I would spend more time and effort learning how to use your camera in hostile conditions.
  • What lenses do I need?
    • A great wide-angled lens for all sweeping landscapes … my Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM will be fine.
    • My general purpose mid range lens … Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM
    • Hardcore zoom lens … I don’t have a 100-400 zoom lens … so this might one lens that I have to purchase.
  • Should I have a backup camera?
    • You’re going to spend a couple grand to head to Antarctica, and you’re not going to have backups for probably the most expensive trip you’re going to take in your lifetime?
  • Do I need a special bag for my equipment?
    • Absolutely … get a great weather/water proof camera bag. I would also take along a waterproof camera bag, since you’re going to be jumping in and out of rafts. Don’t risk all your equipment because you tried to save on the bag. If you don’t have the cash to get a great bag, then I would question whether you should be going to Antarctica.
  • How many pictures should I be taking?
    • Are you kidding, don’t bother being selective when pressing the shutter button, if you’re not sure … then put the bracketing on, and machine gun the hell out of the scene. Depending on the subject, you’ll need to take a couple test shots and when shooting wildlife, you’ll need to be prepared for anything. You have nothing to lose in this approach … you’re going to be prepped with tons of storage, so take as many pictures as you want.
    • You’re going to have years to edit your pictures, so what if the editing process becomes a project. Trust me … when you’re looking at the 1000’s of pictures you’re going to take, there will be one shot that will stand out to you. Don’t miss the opportunity for that shot …  95% of my shots aren’t great, but all I need at 10 great shots for the entire trip and I would be supremely happy.
  • Other tips copied from Peregrine Adventures
    • When it comes to lenses, you’ll want to pack at least two types.  You’ll want a wider angle lens to take in all the amazing landscapes and also a zoom lens to get tight in on the wildlife and pick out features from the landscape.   Personally I brought my 70-200mm lens which did wonders getting tight to the wildlife, but was still wide enough to use as a walk-around, or zodiac cruise-around, lens.  Only on a couple occasions I found myself wanting more lens, and not nearly enough times to pack around the weight of a 300mm or 400mm as well.
    • Packing a tripod seems like an obvious thing, however, I really used mine much less than I expected.  Instead I found myself using my monopod.  The light levels during the day are high enough that the tripod isn’t necessary, and the active wildlife rarely allows you time to set up.  Also, on the ship the constant rocking of the boat doesn’t allow the use of tripod (well, not if you want a level horizon), the monopod is much more flexible in its use in Antarctica.  To save space in your bag, you can also just buy a tripod that has a removable tree to use as a monopod.
    • A UV filter is an absolute essential as are lens hoods.  The glare of the light on the snow is very strong if the sun is out.  Also, to get some interesting shots of glaciers consider packing a polarising filter.
    • Your flash will not fire once on the trip, leave it at home.
    • You’ll probably want to pack some waterproofing equipment as well as a drybag.  Personally, while shooting in the rain I simply take a ziplock bag, poke a hole in one end and wrap an elastic band around the lens, and that does to the trick.  A drybag is great for carrying the equipment while on the zodiac.
  • How will I get great pictures of Penguins?
    • Get to Eye Level – Every photographer I’ve read has mentioned that you’ll need those kneepads and maybe a mat to get the Penguins as close to you as possible. Staying down will allow you to fill the frame with the penguins, boats and sea in your shots.  Taking a seat on the beach and watching the wildlife will often bring the penguins to you, as their curiosity will have them within feet and sometimes inches.
  • How should I compensate for the exposure?
    • Dealing with exposure while shooting Antarctica is complicated, but luckily it has a simple fix.  Due to the large amounts of snow and ice, the exposure metres in cameras think that the light levels are very high.  As a result, most cameras shoot very dark or grey pictures.  This is cured by simply setting your exposure to somewhere between +0.5 and +1 which will expose your photos a little bit more and compensate for the confusing light levels.  If you shoot a DSLR, shoot in RAW and the exposure problem can be corrected in the editing process, although it is best to get it right in your camera.

Here is a great clip of an 18 day Antarctic trip in 3 mins

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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