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ken_tanaka

A Poor Record for the M8 in the Antarctic

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What I don't understand is how a photographic holiday/cruise (involving a bunch of blokes taking innumerable snaps of penguins and icebergs) gets to be described as an expedition.[/QUOte]

It is obvious that that you don't have much experience with upmarket travel brochures.

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What I don't understand is how a photographic holiday/cruise (involving a bunch of blokes taking innumerable snaps of penguins and icebergs) gets to be described as an expedition.

 

Once you've sailed 3200 nautical miles in the southern ocean, you will understand.

Actually, one of my main comments to people was that this was not the "photo cruise" I expected, but a physically arduous journey. I have rarely been more physically or mentally taxed when shooting. The shere sensory intensity of the experience had a lot to do with this. That said, it is not an "expedition" in the Shackletonian sense of the word. That would be presumptuous to suggest. That said, much of the sailing is done in waters which are marked "uncharted" on the naval charts, filled with countless icebergs and seriously adverse weather. This ain't your grandma's 7-night Carribean cruise.

 

To answer some of the questions, the harsh conditions involved mild rain, followed by a sand storm, and then very heavy rain for several hours ashore at Right Whale Bay in South Georgia. This is an amazing place, where you land amidst tens-of-thousands of King Penguins and fur seals, all wandering about in a soup of bones, feather and feces, in a bowl of tidal mud surrounded by Glaciers and peaks. The sound/smell/sight/feeling was very intense, to say the least. It was too compelling not to shoot, so we all did our best with the rain. A towel over my 1ds and lenses saved the day for me. It was soaked-through, but I kept running-water off the gear.

 

The weather was pretty mild in terms of temperature, except on a couple of occasions when Katabatic winds came up off various glaciers. These can put the fear of god in you in a hurry.

 

My main camera was an EOS-1ds MkII, like almost everyone else. Most of my keepers were shot in the 17-21mm range, and the 70-400 range,moving much of the time on the ship or in Zodiacs. Definitely SLR territory.

 

The chap who lost his film had it in his checked luggage. Ouch. I have to say that I would not consider film anymore on a journey of this nature. First off, I shot over 7,000 frames. The cost of that would be prohibitive. Plus, the ability to review my shoots daily was invaluable to seeing how I was doing, and more to the point what i was doing that displeased me, contributed greatly to the successful images i produced. Given the tenor of the discussions over these kinds of issues, I have to give the disclaimer that I am not "anti-film". I came very, very close to brining my Fuji 6x9. But at the end of the day, the versatility of digital processing allowed a much more creative process.

 

I am also very curious if the M8 will misbehave with the new firmware and will follow those developments with interest and give an upate if I have anything to add.

 

- N.

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Guest stnami

... do not mention the polar bear that ate the nikon

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Hi Nick,

 

Thanks for sharing some of your experience with us. This has interested me ever since I watched a fascinating hour long documentary on HDTV about an antarctic cruise on a Russian Icebreaker, Kapitan Khlebnikov, which they said is the only actual icebreaker in service (it has been refurbished as a cruise ship, but the original captain and crew still run the ship).

 

http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/fleet/khlebnikov.shtml

 

http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/antarctica/exploration.shtml

 

http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/

 

Would you mind elaborating a bit more on the conditions at sea, inside the ship? Did they tell you what sort of wind speeds and wave conditions you encountered?

 

Thanks,

 

Bill

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... do not mention the polar bear that ate the nikon

 

Wrong end -- it was a penguin.

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Well the strongest argument for bringing a film camera - of any kind let alone a Fuji, or an SWC or an Xpan etc etc - would be the other 40 Canon MkIIs. But that's me, always needing to be the rebel.....And I usually go on trips to get as far away from this thing I am currently sitting at.

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Thank you Nick for your report on the trip.

Now we better know what really happened.

 

Michael Reichmann also posted some comments on the plethora of discussions over the web about his failure report, to which I contributed myself...

:

 

"I won't enter the debate, but the partisan bikkering online over this is quite astonishing. What I will add are two comments.

 

1: We were unprepared for rain that day in South Georgia. We found ourselves ashore, it started to rain, and we kept shooting. None of us had anything more than a hand towl or plastic bag for protection of our equipment. There was nowhere to go for shelter, and short of leaving our cameras in their bags nothing to do except keep shooting in an extraordinary environment.

 

2: If there had been 45 Nikon and 5 Canons in use, rather than the other way round, I think it likely that the shoe would have been on the other foot.

I have used my canon 1Ds and 1Ds MKII in snow stroms, dust storms, heavy rain and worse. I've never had one die. Similarly in past years with Nikon gear. On my trip to Namibia last year the front element fell off a Hasselblad lens on its third day of use. The same thing happened to a new Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L on a shoot in Costa Rica a few years ago.

Pros and ardent amateurs use their equipment in all sorts of conditions, sometimes harshly, and sometimes not. But gear does fail. Sometimes its the elements, sometimes abuse, and yes, sometimes poor craftsmanship and materials.

But no one should draw any unwarrented conclusions from my report. There just arent enough facts available, and the sample was highly scewed statistically."

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Guest stnami
But no one should draw any unwarrented conclusions from my report. There just arent enough facts available, and the sample was highly scewed statistically."
... the failure to mention the bear caper is a concern...........many moons ago before that gaffa stuff this was magic

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.. bit of networking, hey its a global villiage

 

I'm sure polar bears would be more than happy to be introduced to the wacky world of penguin eating - they'd probably feel they'd died and gone to food heaven <grin>

 

Did anyone try to cheer up the film guy by telling him not to worry, even if his film had turned up it would have been fogged?

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LOL. I can just imagine the conversation...

 

"Well, there's good news and there's bad news, which do you want first?"

 

"I've been so worried about my film, I'll take the good news"

 

"The good news is your film's turned up"

 

"That's Great! And the bad news?"

 

"It's fogged anyway!"

 

:D

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Guest guy_mancuso

I have not read every thread here but by Nicks description of it. I think some of this is a simple case of anything can happen to any gear under really tough situations be it canon, Nikon , Leica or any other camera. Sounds like most partcipants did not expect it to be as harsh as it was. Failures are going to happen and some folks may have gotten hit worse than others so you really can't say Bobby went down but Sally survived the failures because they most likely were hit differntly to the elements. Nothing was exactly the same but it was a rough trip so one Canon or Leica going down compared to others going down is more random than anything else. Any kind of trip like this it is simply a matter of preparring for the worst case and maybe some folks did not . Like water proof bags and such. But just becuase a camera is weather proofed does not mean it will survive just the chances maybe better. Water will get in no matter what or humidity and condensation. Looks like some folks just were unlucky. You just have to feel bad it happened on a trip like this

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Hi Nick,

Would you mind elaborating a bit more on the conditions at sea, inside the ship? Did they tell you what sort of wind speeds and wave conditions you encountered?

Thanks,

Bill

 

The ship we were on was smaller than the icebreaker, but crushed through/past some pretty serious ice with apparent ease. The crew was a hard-baked lot of Russians, straight out of central casting. We grew to have enormous confidence in them and their knowledge of their vessel.

 

The accomodations were similar in size to basic cabins of large cruise ships, though more modestly appointed. Berths were generally comfortable single beds, though some of the less lucky had up-down bunk arrangements. All rooms had a desk and a sink, with lots of toilets nearby. The fancier cabins/suites had their own toilet and small shower.

 

The ship was not sound proofed in the way cruise-ships are, and the wall dividers and furniture creaked a lot in heavy seas. You could sometimes hear your neighbour's snoring, and always to comforting throb of the engines. The passing of "growlers" or small icebergs banging alongside was also common.

 

Showers consisted of small square areas of bulkhead steel with a light, a floor drain and a shower head, along with a lot of handles for gripping. There was a massive supply of scalding-hot water. Basic, but comfortable and functional.

 

We had unlimited access to the bridge, which was a popular hang-out, and offered the best views along with the interesting side-show of watching the crew navigate and sail the ship.

 

At sea, we had lots of rolling (max of about 32 degrees, though only in the 20s for any sustained period (blood to the head, blood to the feet, blood to the head, blood to the feet -- except for the handful of poor sods with berths parallel to the direction of travel, who had to hang-on to stay in occasionally). The rolling was complimented much of the time by pitching, and a healthy amount of laterally shimmeying. Mmmmm, movement on three axis....

 

The strongest winds we encountered gusted at over 60 knots, or well over 100kmph, according to the ship's gear, but a few blasts felt closer to 100mph. These were generally infrequent, though strong wind was consistent throughout while at sea.

 

I have no idea how high the seas really were, since the ship moved a whole lot even when it didn't look so bad. To put it in some perspective, though, waves frequently broke over our porthole, which was on deck three, and a good 15-20 feet above the waterline when in calm water. This was a combination of the waves plus the rolling of the ship to that side. There were several days where spray from waves hitting the bow splashed up onto the bridge windows on a regular basis, which were at least 10meteres feet above the water level.

 

The southern ocean and the Drake passage are all they are cracked-up to be. Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic Islands are protected by nature's biggest moat. And that's a good thing. The price of admission to these places should be high, if only to keep down the tourism. You can't help but leave with an enhanced respect for the sea (no matter how appropriately deferential a view you arrived with) and for those who regularly sail it in these latitudes.

 

This was a unique experience, and the company of my fellow photographers made it more so. If you are interested in true wilderness, I would certainly suggest making a voyage like this, whether on a workshop or not. It amazes, delights, and tests your mettle, all at once. (And does the same for your cameras!)

 

Work permitting, I hope to get something together with pictures to share sooner than later.

 

Cheers,

 

- N.

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A Holga! Yes - the ultimate backup! Take 10 of them. Just throw it in the trash when it goes down (I would say overboard but that's not enviromentally correct). Actually icebergs would look pretty great with a Holga - all that strong vignetting and eeriness. The photographer Lynn Davis did some nice photos of icebegs with a Rollei tlr. Not so impressive in book form, but the prints she did were wall size fiber and subtly toned blue. Fantastic.

 

I think sometimes when it starts to really pour rain it's prudent to put your $8000 camera under your jacket and call it a day unless the shot you are gonna make is potentially worth $8K. Maybe a bit of the Harrison Ford syndrome was the problem.

 

Sounds like a great trip though. Not my cup of tea - I find sometimes even travelling solo with a guide that the guide can get in the way. But I guess not much dealing with people in the Antartica.

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Nick,

 

Thanks for taking the time to communicate the firsthand accounts of your travels and the camera travails -- fascinating!

 

Larry

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