Ice with your drink, sir?

And possibly quite a lot of it. For we are off to Antarctica. There is plenty of planning time since the Antarctic summer is roughly November to February and we have elected to spend next Christmas and New Year doing the dream trip. This is my official retirement holiday. We have booked a suite on board a refurbished Russian research vessel so we can be seasick in luxury. For Mrs. Ha this means almost eleven months of pre-trip shopping and for me it means almost eleven months worrying about which lenses to take, how many batteries I shall need, how to store and back-up my images, what exposure compensation I will need for the extreme dynamic range and of course how to keep everything dry on the zodiacs. I assume all zodiacs are Aquarius, the water carrier. I hear nightmare tales of condensation freezing, bodies being drenched in sea water and batteries fading to zero after 15 minutes.

I must state up front that Mrs. Ha is ahead of me in the planning stakes. Today being Valentine’s day I offered to buy her the annual token of love and she chose a new suitcase. We are romantic devils, aren’t we. Well it is bright red to match my overdraft. At the last count we had at least a dozen suitcases or equivalent thereof but I am sure you can never have enough of them and this is indeed the first and only red one we possess.

However as this is my blog and not Mrs. Ha’s I am more interested in the photographic aspects and so I issue a plea for advice. The first question is what lenses should I take? I have long since been canonized and St. Andrew has a multitude of lenses to go with his sins.

My widest lens is the 17-35 zoom, which with a 1.3x crop factor is only 22mm at the wide end.

I also have the 24-105 and a 70-200mm zoom lenses. Now the 70-200 seems to be universally recommended as an essential penguin lens. Mine is an old model and has no IS but it is F2.8, so reasonably fast. I could sell this and buy the lighter F4 IS version. Hmmm. Quandry number 1.

Do I need to take the 24-105 AND the 70-200mm? If I take the 17-35 I have a gap between 35 and 70mm Could I live with that?

The next challenge is the longer lens and I mean lens. I don’t intend to take more than one.  The options are:

100-400mm IS zoom (slow!!)

300mm F2.8 IS ( luscious but heavy – again the old model)

400mm F4 DO IS – a real candidate but a prime isn’t that versatile.

400mm F5.6 – excellent glass but no IS and on a rolling ship I suspect IS will be a boon

800mm F5.6 – nah! Way too heavy and bulky. I’d have to take the big tripod and Wimberley head.

I am minded to take the WA lens, the 70-200 and the 100-400 zoom and a 1.4x TC. I am worried though that the quality of the 100-400 may disappoint me for a once in a life time trip. Maybe I swap the 100-400 for the 400mm F4 prime which, with a 1.3x crop factor and a 1.4x TC gives me 728mm of potential reach.

Add to this multiple batteries, a back up body, flash (?), tripod and a never-ending supply of flash cards and you can see that this is an important choice to make.

Assuming I can settle on a choice of lens then the next major headache is how to store images with a back-up copy for an 18 day trip. Just how many GB do I expect to take. I read that bracketing is heavily recommended due to challenging light conditions. Chimping will drain the battery so you don’t want to be constantly checking the LCD screen & histograms. I have not read a single article that does not recommend backing everything up each day so you have 2 copies of every image and that the copies should be independently stored. In other words if you lose one suitcase on the way home you still have an entire set of images in your other case. Cunning stuff. I am less than confident with anything that smacks of technology, especially if it is more advanced than the wheel. So any solution has to be simple and allow me the confidence to format the CF cards each night. I suppose the obvious answer is to get a small laptop with maybe a 500GB HD and a separate back-up drive, install LR on the laptop and import everything via a card reader every night. Yikes, the cost is adding up.

Luckily I found a forgotten mutual fund that I invested in about 10 years ago. Having forgotten all about it I discovered it is now worth a 2.5x what I invested. Perhaps I should adopt the buy and forget approach to all my investments. Anyway, I sold it yesterday and it will cover a fair portion of the cost of the cruise. Unfortunately we also have to buy flights to get to Ushuaia and fund my photography and Mrs. Ha’s luggage and clothing habits. Gulp.

So that is it. The trip of a lifetime. My last big trip. I have “done” Galapagos, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Shetland, Nepal and many points in between. But the knees are wobbly and the bank account weak. So we will enjoy every moment of this adventure. Mrs. Ha wants to be photographed with penguins  and I want to see as many bird and cetacean species as possible. Not a lot to ask. Lulu sadly can’t come with us and that is a real wrench for us. If we were going North instead of South I would send her to the Hong School of Husky Training in the hope she could tag along as a sled dog but I fear in the Antarctic the would get bored and start harassing the leopard seals and orcas.

So, please offer advice freely. I think we may be ok on the luggage and clothing front but photographically I am in need of guidance.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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4 thoughts on “Ice with your drink, sir?

    • Craig, this is brilliant and he didn’t go longer than 300mm, using the TC instead. I need to digest all of this but the recommendations look very sensible from the little I have read. Many thanks.

  1. Shooting from my sailboat, even in calm seas, anything over 200mm is really hard to focus and keep steady. The suggested magnification for marine binoculars is 8x max because if you go higher than that you lose the ability to stay focused on what you’re looking at when the ship bounces. Don’t worry too much about super wides – you can use Photomerge to effortlessly stitch together panoramas. Oh, and don’t forget a couple polarizers and ND filters.

    • Thanks Fred. The filters are a good idea. I have done some shooting from a boat before but not much and only small boats like the Albatross Encounter off Kaikoura. I had reasonable success with Image Stabilization and was hoping this might be worth trying. My binoculars are 8.5 x 42 Swarovski.

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