Lemaire Channel was socked in with heavy snow as we passed through it. Only those who had been there before, knew the soaring majesty of the peaks above hidden by the low lying clouds. Having been through the Lemaire Channel four times now, our 2005 expedition passage, which was full of hours of riotous color, was clearly an exception, not the rule.

At the far end of the Lemaire Channel we turned into Plenneau Bay, the iceberg graveyard. The ice was good, but not extraordinary like our 2007 cruise. Snow filled the air making shooting conditions challenging. We traversed the bay for hours in separate zodiacs exploring the largest masses of ice that weren’t surrounded by brash ice. Snow covered, this ice, grounded in the shallows of the bay, offered altitude and a side variety of shapes, lines, and textures.

After lunch, we moved on to nearby Petermann Island, the area’s largest colony of Adelie Penguins at the gateway to the Pennola Strait strewn with large masses of ice. The sun made a feeble attempt to come out for the following hours, a tiny omnipresent spot, making a wonderful counterpoint in the otherwise flat gray skies, still capable of casting light upon the watery sculptures we chased so feverishly. Again, those of us who elected not to land enjoyed the luxury of extended zodiac cruises. For hours, we chased pyramids, caryatids, griffins and a riot of other fantasies frozen in ice.  This afternoon and Paradise Bay were the best sessions of the whole trip.

Incoming sea ice forced us to carve our way back through the Lemaire Channel through more katabatic winds, gusting up to 50 mph. With an eye to our voyage home, we moved north west to find an evening’s shelter and position ourselves for our final day of cruising.

Andy Biggs made a quick presentation on integrating NIK software into a digital workflow. Seth followed with an extended presentation on advanced Lightroom processing techniques and leveraging the power of Presets.


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Katabatic winds gusting up to 50 mph delayed our landing at Neko Harbor, our first continental landing. The classic walk to the overlook of the glacier and the zodiac cruises were cancelled in favor of ice cruising with the ship. There’s more ice this year and 2011 is becoming known for it’s inclemency. The winds died down by the time we arrived in Paradise Harbor. Patches of calm water created exquisite symmetrical reflections. Looking down into the water you could simultaneously see both the white ice above the waterline, it’s reflection on the surface of the water, and the aqua ice below the waterline. This was the best zodiac cruise of the day. The cloud ceiling came down upon us once again as we left to our next location. Thick sea ice choked the channels before us. Images of historic expeditions becoming ice locked flashed before us. We plowed slowly through sea ice throughout the night to our next location.

I presented my seminar Tell Your Story and Seth covered Lightroom’s Develop module.


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We wandered all day, shooting from the decks and reviewing images, through ice-choked fjords scattered with intermittent cloudbursts, alternating between rain, sleet, and snow looking for dramatic ice. The ice appeared to be younger, lumpier, flatter, snow laden, rather than the older more dramatic blue striated and scalloped masses that contain cracks, crevice, windows, arches and seemingly infinite blue masses below the waterline. We used the larger ship as a zodiac, keeping us and our equipment warm and dry and giving us a higher angle of view. Our captain, Alexi, the man who got us through The Gullet in 2009, impressed us once again with his daring and extraordinary skill. He made it look so easy that new passengers didn’t notice the artful way he wove through the ice fields. Masters make sophisticated tasks look easy. We hear the Lamaire Channel is still choked with ice and few if any ships have made it through. We’re hopeful that we’ll be among the first, because our captain is Alexi.

At the end of the day we landed at Cuverville Island, one of the largest Gentoo penguin colonies sheltering thousands of birds amid a series of dramatic peaks. Our Quark expedition leader Graham found out how ice obsessed our group was when twenty people opted to go zodiac cruising amid the most impressive ice field we’ve encounter yet on this trip. Rain hampered our efforts making it more difficult shooting but we soldiered on. Though many images were lost due to the adverse conditions, no one lost a camera. First-timers were wowed. Veterans knew that this was only the beginning.


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Half Moon Island offers something for everyone; wildlife, landscape, history.  The ice that collects on the far side of the island strews the shores with scattered jewels. The atmosphere that hovers over the far mountains constantly changes. The large icebergs that drift into the bay almost always provide exciting opportunities. Recovering from breaking both feet this summer David Duchemin’s triumph over adversity inspired everyone once again.

Mid day I presented my Game Changers (21st Century Photography) seminar. I couldn’t tell if the room was quiet because I was clear and efficient, or because the content was either too simple or too complex, or because we were all still recovering from the side-effects of anti-nauseau medication.

Any way you slice it, it’s exciting to sail into an active volcano and walk its shores. The geothermal vents at Whaler’s Bay on Deception Island offered the warmest waters to date with constant plumes of steam drifting on the half ice choked shores. I find it interesting that so many people were interested in making rusty abstracts that could have been made in many other places rather than images that tell the history or process of this specific place. It may have been the influence of our photographic leaders who are all preoccupied with abstraction. It may be a case of aesthetics trumping content. Then again, if the two types of images are placed in context with one another an interesting synergy can be created. My interest followed the patterns of ash and meltwater. I looked for highly storied abstractions, hoping for images whose individual stories could also represent universal processes. In any given location, there are many ways to approach making images. Comparing the diversity of responses from many photographers working at the same time and same place is instructional and eye opening for everyone. A final chance encounter with a solitary male leopard seal, crooning amid the ice floes, rounded out the day; it was a sound our zodiac driver and marine mammal specialist Jim had only heard two times before, once above and once below water.

After dinner, the photography leaders (Biggs, Caponigro, Meola, Meyerson, Resnick) critiqued group work done so far until midnight. Each leader made a few short remarks about each image presented. There was remarkable consensus among five quite different visions.


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Today the photography leaders presented their work offering visual introduction to the kinds of work in which they specialize, tips on how they overcame challenges, and lots of inspiration. It’s always inspiring to hear other visual artists who are at the top of their game, share their work and provide insights into what motivates them. In the arts, it seems nothing is more important than passion.

We got lucky and had an opportunity at the end of the day to make our first zodiac landing at Barrientos Island, which contains a large chinstrap penguin colony. I came in on the last zodiac and by the time we reached the shore the winds had picked up dramatically forcing our expedition crew to move the take out site to the opposite side of the island. It was a great warm up, familiarizing everyone with the routines necessary for zodiac landing and cruising.


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After an evening cruise down the Beagle Channel, the rolling waves of the Drake Passage began to perform. There had been high winds for several days so we expected a rougher than average crossing. These waves were different. There were no breaking crests, no slamming of the boat, just endless incessant rolling – 40 degree rolls. Making this passage was like being rocked by an over-zealous mother. The gray skies blocked any trace of sunlight. No crests, no distinctive clouds, no light; this was one of the less picturesque crossings I’ve made. Fevers at night, daily headaches, and slight nausea put a final damper on the whole affair for me.


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