I’m always struggling to work out what camera gear to take. And invariably, I wish I took something else, although I am becoming better (meaning, I rationalise my poor decisions more effectively).
Travelling to Antarctica is a photo opportunity you don’t want to skimp on. Although I’ve been fortunate to visit several times, each voyage is different and it’s just like visiting for the first time – I don’t want to miss a single shot.
The first step in working out what gear to take is to decide what types of photos you’d like to come home with. I wanted to shoot fully detailed landscapes for large prints and books (so I needed medium format); I wanted to capture the wildlife, so I needed a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and I wanted to shoot some video – so again, a DSLR, mirrorless or POV camera.
Once I’d worked this out, it was a matter of deciding what equipment to take. For medium format, I essentially took everything: Phase One XF camera body with IQ3 100MP Trichromatic back, 35mm, 55mm, 110mm and 240mm lenses. I also took the Phase One A-Series with a standard 100MP back and a 23mm ultra wide-angle lens. And my NiSi 100mm filter kit works for all the lenses, except the 240mm.
For the first time, I took a mirrorless system for wildlife. I was suitably impressed with Fujifilm’s new X-T3 and its much improved autofocus speed and precision. I added in an X-H1 body, 8-16mm wide-angle, 200mm f2.0 telephoto (there’s a 1.4x teleconverter somewhere too) and a 35mm f1.4. This allowed me to shoot both stills and video, and it was lighter and more versatile than medium format.
However, I’m also enjoying the GoPro camera because it’s so small, waterproof and it can fit in any pocket. I have two of these, one on a gimble for smooth motion footage. And then I have my Sandisk storage cards (both CF and SD), plus my back-up drives which comprise LaCie’s Rugged 2TB, the DJI CoPilot and the new Portable SSD.
Now, before you wonder how I fit all this into one camera bag, I didn’t! I had two bags. I took a waterproof SKB hard case which has a backpack inside it. This allowed me to transport my cameras (but not all at the same time) from the ship to land in safety, and once on shore, I could leave the case behind and use the backpack. My biggest challenge was deciding what gear to take with me each time we went out!
For the flights to and from the ship, it meant I could pack the large 200mm and a few other lenses and bodies inside the backpack, suitably padded with clothing, and then I placed this in my suitcase with further padding. The hard case came along as well, holding boots, tripods and other things that could get lost by the airlines if absolutely necessary!
The rest of my gear was in my standard camera backpack. When I travel, I work out what I can’t do without if my luggage gets lost – and take that with me as carry-on.
I hear that the airlines are looking to crack down on carry-on luggage. I don’t think they’re targeting photographers, rather people who seem to carry everything including their kitchen sink! Probably best to keep a low profile with our gear!
If you're interested in joining me on a voyage to South Georgia and/or Antarctica, check out the website for options in March and November 2020.