It is called the Drake Passage, the point at which the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans converge en route to Antarctica. And, to some who have never crossed it, it’s taken on mythical proportions of being virtually impassable.
To hear some tell it, making it to the other side of The Drake is akin to surviving the mouth of a dragon.
Which now that I have done it, well it is too bad. Those misperceptions can keep you from taking the adventure of a lifetime. Because, the truth is, yes, it can be rough (“the Drake Shake”). But it can also be as calm as bathwater (“the Drake Lake”).
If you happen to get the Drake Lake like we did on one of our crossings—woohoo!—that’s a big bonus. You sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as the seabirds soar alongside your ship, and you eagerly watch for the South Shetland Islands to emerge as an oasis on the horizon.
If you get the Drake Shake, sure, it may leave you feeling a bit woozy. Modern medications such as the patch or Bonine helped many people on our ship! We made it and had an amazing photographic experience, the Drake crossing, a distant memory.
Not much has changed in Antarctica for tens of thousands of years. And yet, at the same time, everything is changing.
Which may explain why Antarctica is suddenly so “hot” among passionate photographers.
There are few places on earth where the landscapes and wildlife are as unspoiled as in Antarctica. There’s no light pollution, no sprawling development, no iconic viewpoints overrun by tour buses. In short, there’s a spectacular shot no matter everywhere we pointed our cameras.
But, as we’ve all been reading in the news with alarming frequency—there’s also a ticking time bomb in the form of climate change, which is having known, and unknown, consequences on the Antarctic ecosystem. Will the icescapes and wildlife as we know it today still be there tomorrow, for all to see? For sure, there’s still time to experience all its wonders—but for how long, nobody knows for sure.
For now, the opportunity to photograph seals and penguins up close and personal, to explore your creativity capturing the towering ice sculptures that rise from the water, to experience the exhilaration of spotting any one of eight species of whales breach the surface of the sea, is just too tempting to pass by.
With today’s ice-strengthened ships, modern technology, and the sheer amount of experience sailing in Antarctica waters, the journey is safer, smoother, and easier to experience than ever before.
So, maybe that explains why Antarctica is now one of the most coveted destinations for photographers. Or, perhaps the answer to the question is even more straightforward than that: when the mystique and majesty of a faraway place calls, you just go.
For wildlife photographers, our journey through this archipelago brought us face-to-face with expansive colonies of Adelie, Chinstrap, Gentoo Penguins Each species has its own personality and offers unique photographic possibilities. From wide-angle photos of the expansive colonies to the telephoto portraits, there are always more possibilities to discover.
We also saw a variety of seals that include Elephant, Fur, Leopard, and Weddell. The varied species show off their formidable size and character; and their pups, a photographer’s dream, have expressions that capture the imagination.
And let’s not forget the fantastic array of seabirds. Black-browned albatross, petrels, kelp gulls, dolphin gulls, herons, red-backed hawks, peregrine falcons, and south polar skuas. These photogenic birds had your camera pointing in every direction, with magnificent backdrops to provide dramatic context that frame these subjects into their environment.
The photographic interest is not just on land. Keep an eye on the water from our private ship, and you may see incredible marine life: Peale’s or Commerson’s dolphins, Humpback whales, Sperm whales, or even Orca that patrol these waters in search of food.
Of course, one cannot forget to mention the icebergs. These behemoth structures, from the large tabular to the odd-shaped formations of ice that seem otherworldly. It’s hard to fathom the age and the exact size of these massive floating masses that reflect the soft and appealing Antarctic light. It is a humbling and intoxicating experience.
While I took lots of photos of icebergs and the landscapes, my favorite photos from this Antarctica trip were the Penguins. See some of my favorites below. Please click on the photos and look at them in larger size.
I am headed back to Antarctica in December of 2019 - https://muenchworkshops.com/workshops/antarctica-expedition-photo-workshop
Antarctica on its own blew me away by its beauty and diverse wildlife; but, if you have a little more time and an insatiable appetite for photographic possibilities, taking in the Falkland, South Georgia and Antarctica in October of 2020 will leave you rewarded in infinite ways - https://muenchworkshops.com/workshops/falkland-islands-south-georgia-antarctica-photo-expedition