A short hop from Deception Island south takes us into Foyn Harbour and our first look at Antarctica proper. We take a zodiac cruise around the shore, marvelling at the snow and ice and the floating bergs.
Shooting from a zodiac with 12 other people on board is challenging, yet it's a great way to achieve some fantastic angles. By sweet talking the zodiac driver, you can be positioned anywhere you like in relation to your subject (as long as the water is deep enough), and everyone is very accommodating in allowing each other to take their shots.
We find yet another old shipwreck, the Guverneren, purposely run aground by the crew we are told so they could salvage the goods on board. Today it is surrounded by a slurry of ice and snow which makes a fantasic foreground, especially with a wide-angle lens.
In the afternoon we visit Cuverville Island, home to many more gentoo penguins. We zodiac into an amazing harbour full of broken icebergs, only to have the weather close in yet again. Visibility is reduced and I'm keeping my back to the wind to protect the front lens element from being plastered with snow.
The last couple of days have seen me with the Phase One 645, Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and Panasonic Lumix GF1 in some pretty testing conditions: the temperature is below zero, way below zero when you add in wind chill, with driving snow, yet the cameras continue to operate. The main problem I have is with the batteries - they don't last as long in the cold weather, so I replace them with fresh ones. When the rechargeable batteries warm up back on ship, they regain much of their charge, but certainly the best advice is to have one or two spare batteries with you, especially for longer outdoor shoots in these types of conditions.
Was it really that bad? When I returned to the ship, I was amazed at how bright and clear my photos were! While shooting, the viewfinder and my spectacles were both so fogged up I was often framing and hoping based on blurry shapes.
It is difficult to operate any camera with mittens, so my mittens with a flap to reveal fingers were a great help when needing to work quickly. Of course, with a bit more time (or when it was really cold) I could operate all cameras as long as I didn't mind taking a few stabs at the relevant button!
Finally, the hoary issue of condensation on your cameras. When you take a warm camera out into the cold Antarctic conditions, condensation isn't a problem. When you bring your cold camera back inside the warm ship, condensation happens quickly. If you then take your camera outside, the remaining condensation can be a problem.
When returning to ship, I'd leave my cameras in the camera case and allow them to gradually come up to room temperature, and by keeping the camera case closed or zipped, warm air wouldn't condense on them.
Condensation can happen outside when you breath on your camera (hence the viewfinder fogging up), so a chamoix, handkerchief or even a cotton t-shirt become useful for removing unwanted water from your equipment.
Next: Neko & Paradise Harbours