Patagonia Fitz Roy

Patagonia – Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno

Coming off the back of a photography expedition down to The Falklands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, I held little hope for poor desolate windy Patagonia.  Sure it has Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and the Pireto Moreno Glacier, but really how could it compare with the sheer mass of wild life in The Falklands/South Georgia Island and exotic draw of Antarctica .... well 10 days in Patagonia blew my mind.

We started our journey in El Chalten.  Fitz Roy in all its glory can be seen from town, looming in the distance.  Wisps of cloud traipsing and caressing is bulbous peak.  Calling out to the inhabitants of this small country town. I must say, its way more impressive than I expected.

I've never been a climber nor shall I ever be. For starters I'm not a big fan of heights and my main limitation, power to weight ratio is back to front.  Yet the the peaks of this region were calling to me.  Did I go don my climbing shoes, grab a rope, some cams and a harness?  Not a chance. But I did pack a hiking pack, a few days clothes and my camera gear and set off on the trails in the region to photograph this beautiful place.

Trekking in Patagonia can be a bit of a hit and miss. The weather can change at the drop of a hat. We had rain, snow and sunshine. And it's windy. Very Windy. Always Windy. Did I mention its windy?

To get to all the good vantage points there is quite some walking and a not insignificant amount of rock hopping.   Overall the knees coped, the back coped with my pack weight and the company of my fellow trail companions made the trip light hearted and enjoyable.  Though I must say I do miss the Australian experience of sitting around a camp fire at night, with Patagonia's high winds and dry fallen timber, fires are a no no.

Patagonia Fitz Roy

On our last night of viewing Fitz Roy, we had dinner, a glass of wine and were relaxing watching the sunset.  The sunset wasn't particularly awe inspiring but I was there, relaxed and enjoying the experience.   I was shooting a few frames of Fitz Roy. The clouds were covering the peak and I was talking to our marvellous guide when he squeals with excitement "I think I saw a puma tail! Its a puma!!!"

I replied "You're pulling my leg surely David?!?" and out from behind a tree across the river strides a Puma.  It stops, looks at us for 20-25 seconds and then disappears back into the forest.

I turned and looked at our guide. The look on his face said it all.   Flabbergasted he splutters out .... "I've been guiding for 14 years and never seen a Puma" I managed to capture a number of frames.  I only had a 70-200 at my side and the Puma was across the other side of a glacial river. But I still captured some frames.  Its fair to say I won't be winning BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year with this one. But I'm just happy for the experience.

Puma - Patagonia Poincenot Fitz Roy

Post the sighting we were discussing rare animals in the area and our guide told us about the Andean Deer.  Sadly, or luckily, I saw one within the first ten minutes of setting out hiking.  In my ignorance I didn't make much of it so I didn't inform my fellow hikers.  Our guide looked at me and said "Now you're pulling my leg!".

After the excitement and joys of a Fitz Roy and the Puma we headed over to photograph Cerro Torre.  We had a few days in this region photographing the peaks from a few different vantage points.  Our best shoot was on the last moraine before the glacier at the base of Cerro Torre.  Rising at 3:55am to hike out for sunrise, it was a cold blistering wind coming down from the glacier. But it was worth every moment of discomfort as we were award a beautiful warm glow as the sun kissed the peaks.  Returning to our campsite at 6:30am there was no way I could sleep after this experience.  So a few cups of coffee and some biscuits and I powered through until breakfast before hiking out of the Glaciers National Park into El Chalten for a celebratory dinner.

The next day we headed out to El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier.  What a marvellous and accessible glacier.  The weather wasn't the best but there was a break in the weather to walk on this magnificent mammoth glacier and having a wee drab of Whisky during the walk, before heading to the balconies to shoot it from another vantage point.   We retired to town to our new favourite restaurant for another great meal before flying out to Ushuaia.

Pireto Moreno Glacier Patagonia

Patagonia was an amazing place. Better than I ever could have anticipated. I've walked away with some beautiful images which I will share at a later stage when I have finished processing them back at my studio. Will I go back to Patagonia? I'd love to. Those majestic peaks are calling me.

So I'm now sitting here in Ushuaia writing this last blog post for 12 days in a cafe as Joshua Holko and I prepare to board for our 12 day Spirit of Antarctica expedition.  Another ship full of eager photographers chomping at the bit to get down to see the amazing wildlife and scenery, to set foot on the content and relish the surreal experience that is Antarctica.

Thats it from me for now. Signing off for now!
King Penguins South Georgia Island

The Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula Expedition has completed

I can't believe its over. The surreal experience of the Falklands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula expedition has been hard to put into words.  Whilst out shooting  I was watching the faces of our intrepid expeditioners adorned with a mix of bewilderment and awe.   How can one now be? With the sheer bio mass of South Georgia and the surreal remote landscape of our planets 7th continent.  It's fair to say my well of awesomeness experiences spilleth over.

The South Georgian Smile

The South Georgian Smile



Setting sail from Ushuaia, Argentina, our voyage out of the Beagle Channel was full of excitement and in-trepidation. First timers are wary of stories of the raging Drake Passage whilst those revisiting the Southern Seas soothed the fears of the wary with stories of the 'Great Drake Lake'.

A palpable excitement filled our first zodiac cruise as we silently rode to shore on New Island in the Falklands. A small walk and we were greeted by mammoth cliffs covered with the nests of Black Browed Albatross. Rockhopper Penguins interspersed throughout the cliff faces as Albatrosses soared above, below and around us. Caucau harriers battling for dominance of the skies above saw many aerial dog fights ensue.

Returning to the ship we sailed to our next location. West Point Island to a private farm property where we scales the hill to descend over the ridge line to intimately photograph the Rockhopper penguin colony and nesting Albatross.

With our fill of Rockhopper penguins we sailed onto Stanley the capital of the Falklands for an espresso a stroll through the museum and a few minutes of prehistoric speed Internet access.

Heading out to open sea to South Georgia Island a number of lectures are presented to keep all entertained and well rated before we arrived at the South Georgia Island coastline.  Docking in Grytviken, we explored its historic derelict whaling station and paid respect at the final resting place of Ernest Shackleton.

  Landings at Fortuna Harbour, Stromness Harbour, Gold Harbour and the magnificence of St Andrews Bay and Salisbury Plain provided magnificent photographic opportunities for King Penguins, Elephant Seals and Fur Seals.  The awe of the sheer biomass of King Penguins and their brown fluffy chicks was irrepressive. Walking around these rookeries, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of these majestic creatures. With their curiosity piqued, King Penguins approached photographers who remained motionless, watching intently and pecking at cameras and boots alike.  Fur Seals put on displays of bravado, whilst Male Elephant Seals surprisingly moved their hulking masses rapidly to defend their harems from other male Elephant Seals with wandering eyes.

  King Penguins South Georgia Island

  Casting off from South Georgia we set sail for the Antarctic Peninsula and all its glory.  Our first stop was at Point Wild.  It was hard to comprehend that 22 of Ernest Shackleton's team survived 105 days there after their ship Endurance sank in the Weddell Sea.  It certainly lived up to its name.

Zodiac cruising in Cierva Cove provided some stunning icebergs to photograph with much calmer weather than we had been experiencing in previous days. Landing at Neko Harbour provided the first opportunity for people to set foot on the continent on Antarctica. For many it was their 7th and final continent to set foot upon. Gentoo Penguins cavorting and hopping through the water provided more amazing photographic opportunities.  Paradise Harbour was majestic and calm providing a great opportunity for some quiet contemplation of the enormity of our surroundings.

After returning to the ship we set sail to cruise the Lemaire Channel.   Our intrepid crew deftly navigated our trusty vessel through this narrow waterway  jam packed with Icebergs.  The decks were laden as all were out photographing the amazing sights as the sun slowly set directly behind us in the Lemaire Channel casting pink and orange tones over icerbergs and ice encrusted mountain peaks like. Our final landing at Cuverville Island provided a true taste of Antarctic weather. The wind was up, the temperatures were down, minus 30 degrees celsius in the open.  Any spray from the ocean was turned to ice within milliseconds.  The bite of the chilling winds felt like needles on ones bare face.  The snow and ice blown by the wind looked like the start of a dust storm as it blasted past ones legs. These amazing environmental conditions provided amazing photographic opportunities as the colony of Gentoo Penguins walked single file along the beach and carried on their every day lives in the rookery un-phased by the piercing winds.  A perfect end to an amazing experience on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Our last few days were spent reflecting the numerous highlights of this amazing expedition as we crossed the powerful Drake passage around Cape Horn and back in to the Beagle Channel to dock in Ushuaia.

Another amazing photography expedition and another amazing group of photographers to create some more beautiful memories with.

In a few days I'm headed back down to the Antarctic Peninsula for a second expedition.  I must say I'm very excited to be sharing this experience once again with some more fellow photographers, some for their first time, to this majestic continent with all its beauty.

Jobu Design Jr. 3 Deluxe Gimbal Head Review

Recently I purchased a Jobu Design Jr. 3 Deluxe Gimbal head.  I'd spent quite some time searching for a gimbal head.  There are quite a few well known brands out there, Wimberley, Really Right Stuff, Manfrotto, Kirk, Benro, Induro just to name a few.

I wanted something light, I hate hiking long distances carrying heavy gear and I've already got a Really Right Stuff BH-55 which weighs a tonne, so I didn't want to add too much more weight to my pack weight and at 1.5lbs (680grams) it comes in as quite a light gimbal head.  But it had to be able to support a 1D Series Canon, 2x Extender and at least a 500mm f/4 IS lens, along with a 580EX with compact battery pack along with a Better Beamer.

I wanted something strong and the  Jobu Design Jr. 3 Deluxe Gimbal head has a one-piece hollow, cast, heat-treated body, making it extremely stiff.  Its curved design and tubing has a very solid feel. The main body has a matte black textured finish which gives you confidence when holding it.

Jobu Jr.3 Deluxe Gimbal

Jobu Jr.3 Deluxe Gimbal



I wanted a gimbal head that fitted with all my existing lens feet, base plates L-brackets etc, so the Jobu's swing arm has an integrated Arca-Swiss compatible quick release mount which helps keep the overall gimbal head weight down and is finished matte smooth black finish.  I'd have preferred a similar finish as the swing arm body, but the differing surfaces do not detract from my appreciation of this gimbal head.

The swing arm has an adjustable offset for the swing arm giving configuration possibilities to suit balancing different lens setups with the use of an allen key.  Combined with my 4th Generation CRX-5 Low Mount replacement foot it was easy to find a comfortable balance for my Canon 500mm f/4 IS Mk II and 1D Mark IV.

The custom-designed fluted knobs give the two drag knobs on the main gimbal assembly a nice feel.  The swing arm itself has a smaller plastic knob  which matches the smooth black finish of the swing arm, but doesn't have the same tactile feel as the main body knobs.  Given that the rubberised knobs are used for adjusting drag where as the smooth plastic is for fixing a lens to the swing arm so I'm more than willing to pass over the difference in feel.

Adorned with a small orange jobu design logo on the main body and a website and model number on the top of the tripod mount , the gimbal head is relatively unadorned and inconspicuous.

I've seen various configurations used for mounting a gimbal head.  Some people put a quick release plate on the bottom of it for easy mounting to a levelling base or tripod head. Others like myself go with the tried and proven (and recommended) method of screwing the head straight to the tripod.   It does take a bit longer than a quick release plate when it comes to changing from a ball head to a gimbal head, but in my opinion, its makes for a more stable mount.

Overall I've been extremely happy with my Jobu Design Jr. 3 Deluxe Gimbal Head,  a welcome addition to my bag and now travels everywhere my 500mm goes.
Veiðivötn, Iceland
Canon 5D Mark III 17-40 f/4 L ISO 100 @ f/11 for 5 seconds

Veidivotn, Iceland – Back in Black

Covered with vibrant green moss, volcanic rock and gravel, mirror glass finished lakes and for most part a layer of fog, (Veiðivötn), Iceland is an amazing area photographic experience.

Spending two days in this marvellous location giving me time to experiment and visit a number of locations in the area. Our first night of camping, we were exhausted after a long drive into Veidivotn we'd set up camp in the fog. Exhausted and starting to falling asleep when out of the fog comes the feint sound of music. As it got louder it became clearer, it was AC/DC's 'Back in Black'. Louder and louder it got until an SUV drives past our tent full of inebriated Icelandic men singing at the top of their lungs "Coz I'm back in black!". A surreal experience when we hadn't seen a single soul for 12 hours.

In honour of this surreal experience, and AC/DCs Back in Black this image was produced at Veidivotn, Iceland. It includes no fluorescent green moss no lake but its back in black ... and white. Enjoy!

Veidivotn, Iceland Canon 5D Mark III 17-40 f/4 L ISO 100 @ f/11 for 5 seconds

Veiðivötn, Iceland
Canon 5D Mark III 17-40 f/4 L ISO 100 @ f/11 for 5 seconds

Antarctica Ushuaia

Ushuaia: Gateway to Antarctica

Ushuaia Argentina, it's the gateway to Antarctica and its hard not to see it. Walking down the street there are signs everywhere talking about Antarctica.
Looking down to the docks from the vantage point of my guest room, I can see a number of Antarctic bound vessels including ours, the trusty Polar Pioneer.

Its hard not be be excited. Theres a palpable air of excitement on the streets as I run into friends, clients and fellow travellers all eager to set sail tomorrow on our Expedition. Flying into Ushuaia a few days ago to 0 degrees Celcius and snow has been a bit novelty with the last day or so been sunny and warm. The snow on the surrounding streets has melted but the snow capped mountains surrounding Ushuaia are glowing with their white caps in the afternoon sun. Sampling some traditional Argentinian marinated meats, walking up and down the streets, visiting a number of sights around town has given me a great feel for this small port of Ushuaia.

Tomorrow we'll sail out via the Beagle Channel towards the Falklands then onto South Georgia Island and Antarctica. I must admit, spending time in South Georgia Island is what has been creating a well of anticipation. My impatience to set sail has become overwhelming. I'm ready to go. Only one more sleep .... I feel like a child on the night before Christmas, but luckily for me, tomorrow will the first of many consecutive days of wondrous and joyful presents.

May good light and calm seas be with us for the next 20 days.

All Packed for Antarctica

I'm all packed for Antarctica!  Packing for Antarctica follows a very similar packing regime to that of my Arctic expeditions except that I cater for a slightly colder climate. This time its been a little different as I've packed for two expeditions to Antarctica with a hiking expedition to Patagonia in between.  Being two distinctly different styles of expeditions has meant I've had to pack some different equipment.

Hiking in Patagonia has really mixed up my packing regime.  Lightweight and minimal bulk have become a priority given our trails will see us hiking 17 kilometres some days with ascents of over 1,000 metres some days.  My lightweight Gitzo carbon fibre tripod and a very small ball head are packed in my Arc'teryx Altra 65 hiking pack.... "A hiking pack?" I hear you say.  Yes I'm leaving my Gura Gear Bataflae bag in secure storage whilst hiking, along with all my video rigs and other gear. The Gura Gear is a great bag, but its not the bag for multiple day hikes requiring me to carry hiking gear, clothing, water as well as camera gear.

For the Patagonia Expedition I'll be going with minimal gear.  A Canon 5D Mark III, 17-40 f/4 L, 70-200 f/2.8 IS L, a selection of filters, cable release , my super light Gitzo tripod and a super light ball head.  Along with the requisite hiking gear of Scarpa boots, merino thermals, North Face hiking pants, pack light Goretex jacket and pants, sleeping bag, tent, hydration pack and other equipment I'm good to go!

My gear for Antarctica I've got my Kathmandu down jacket, my North Face insulated Goretex pants, Free hands gloves, merino/thinsulate beanie and my trusty Sorrel Caribbous.

Sticks and heads wise, I've not brought along my usual gear. Given that I needed an ultra light weight tripod for Patagonia I've decided to make that work for Antarctica as well.

My trusty Really Right Stuff BH-55 normally comes everywhere. I love it. Its perfect for landscapes and combined with my RRS L-Brackets and even my 4th Generation designs replacement lens feet. It just works and it works well.  But with luggage limits flying in from Australia and the extra gear I need for Patagonia, its just too heavy and I've left it behind in favour for a small lightweight ball head from Sirui. Its definitely no scratch on the Really Right Stuff but weight wise its about 20% of the weight.

My Jobu Design Jr. 3 Deluxe Gimbal head is also absent from my bag.  And to round out my list of absent heads I have left the Manfrotto 502HD Pro video fluid head at home too.  At 1.75 kilograms its too heavy to be accommodated in my luggage allowance and has thus been replaced by an inferior, but immensely lighter at 0.4kg, Benro S2.  This fluid head is OK for video work. Its a  balance of features vs. price but predominately its in the bag due to its super light weight.  I'd prefer to bring to my Manfrotto but airlines won't allow me carte blanche on luggage.

Along with my tripod, ball head and fluid head, I've packed a DSLR Video cage, my trusty slider and a glidecam. The sheer bulk of camera equipment support gear I've packed in my bags must cause some amusement with the luggage scanners operators at airports. Its becoming harder and harder to pack in my roller duffel as well. I'm now using my clothing as protective wrapping and padding to keep all these wonderful pieces of steel and aluminium from rubbing against each other in transit. Adding to my above camera gear listed for Patagonia, I'm adding my Canon 1D Mark IV, Sigma 50mm 1.4 and the Canon 500mm f/4 IS Mk II to round out my 35mm kit.  A recent addition to my kit for video is the Panasonic Lumix GH4 with the beautiful Panasonic Lumix 12-35 f/2.8 and a variety of speed boosters to facilitate the use of EF lenses on the GH4. Its 4k Video quality absolutely surpasses anything I've produced with my Canon 5D Mark III by a significant margin. And of course my GoPro Hero 3 Black rounds out my kit. Once again shooting video as well as stills on these expeditions has meant a plethora of portable HDDs in my bag.  I'd love to find a better solution to packing 6 x 2TB hard drives.  I'm kind of hoping for the development of 3TB and 4TB 2.5" drives but I'd be loathe to put such a large amount on data on any one drive given their propensity to fail during transport.  I've considered going to SSD external drives but at the present capacities available its not financially practical to carry 12TB of SSD. Packing for Antarctica and Patagonia at the same time has really forced me to compromise my gear packing list and go with a more minimalist approach to packing. Sitting down and looking at my gear, its fair to say I have more bulk in cameras, lenses, tripod, heads, rails, sliders and glidecams than I do in clothing.
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Trip Report: Jewels of the Arctic 2014

Another successful photography expedition photographing the Jewels of the Arctic has completed. It was another amazing trip with great weather, great light and more importantly, a great bunch of photographers.

Setting out from Isfjordur Greenland, we had a relatively calm passage over the Denmark Straight. Accompanied by a pod of Humpback whales we were soon in sight of the East coast of Greenland. Greeted by Northern Fulmars and Kitty Wakes, our excitement piqued even further by a sighting of a Polar Bear relaxing on the rocky shore line. Rolling playfully, he took in sights and smells of our ship the Polar Pioneer and its crew of intrepid Expeditioners before rolling over to retire for a mid morning rest. Rømer Fjord's thermal hot springs were an oasis of life full of vibrant greens and funghi a stark contrast to the tundra of Greenland.

Scoresbysund is the absolute highlight of Greenland. Its a photographers playground providing so many photography opportunities, mammoth icebergs, glacial fronts and fjords towering hundreds of metres above. Upon entering the every amazing Scoresbysund we visited Bjorneøer, located at the junction of Scoresbysund and Øfjord, provided a great display of glacial icebergs in wonderful overcast conditions. With their turquoise skirts, deep blue stripes and dimpling produce by melting and air bubbles made for some dramatic subjects. Rounding on Sydkap we came across some the biggest glacial icebergs on the planet. Ice caves, double arches, towering walls of ice saw all return to the ship bearing smiles from ear to ear with full memory cards and depleted batteries.

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Nordbugten provided more spectacular Icebergs. Spectacular blue bergs and precarious arches made for an Arctic paradise for our intrepid expeditioners. Our first encounter with Muskox proved fruitful with some great encounters with these primal shaggy creatures grazing on Greenland's famous tundra. Scattered through the tundra we had intimate encounters with numerous Arctic Hare.

Rode Ø delivered an enormous array of bergs, crammed into and around the island. Many were grounded and provided amazing visuals are we zodiaced through the maze of bergs. Going ashore we were greeted by a large booming crack, a sign of a large glacial berg about to calve. A large triangular berg was rocking slowing crashing into its neighbours before calving off a massive portion of its above water mass crashing into the sea below. The boom along echoed off neighbouring bergs and the walls of the fjord, the iceberg tsunami radiating form the iceberg caused a cascade of calving from other icebergs the wave of destruction. This 5 minute iceberg calving show settled down as all the icebergs found a new centre of balance and once more, there was silence. A small walk to the top of Rode Ø saw some amazing views of the maze of icebergs as the colourful kayakers meandered through maze of turquoise skirted monstrous bergs.

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We dropped into the inuit township of Ittoqqortoormiit. Its small population of 450 people live on hillside covered with colourful Danish style houses. Many of the local residents dressed in traditional garb to greet us combined with the local sled dog team numbering some 100 sled dogs provided some interesting cultural insight into the history and lifestyle of these people. Ittoqqortoormiit's cemetery high on the hillside overlooking the town reminds us of the harsh existence lived by the people of this township which can experience -50 degrees Celsius in the peak of winter.

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Leaving Scoresbysund we set sail into the Kaiser Franz Josef fjord complex. A sunrise zodiac cruise provided some stunning photographic opportunities. Cruising through grease ice we pushed further through the brash into the Upper Kaiser Franz Josef fjord. A lick of sun as it came over the horizon gave a touch of peach coloured warming to the peaks of the fjord in stark contrast to the blue of the icebergs below. 5 hours into the zodaic cruise it was time to return to the Polar Pioneer to warm up, download our cards and partake of warm drink and share in the excitement of another stunning zodiac cruise.

Blomsterbugten provided some close up iceberg calving action. Shooting from ashore from the caramel colored coastal rocks we watched first hand a grounded iceberg calving 100 metres offshore. This teetering berg provided little warning before calving, sending a 1 metre high wave of water and ice rolling to shore. A post calving ring of iceberg debris combined with the caramel colored rocky coastline made for great images for all.

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Kap Humboldt shore walk provided us with some great Muskox and Arctic hare photographic opportunities and our first sighting of the elusive Gyr Falcom perched on a rocky outcrop on cliff face. The Gyr Falcon, Falco Rusticolus, is the world’s largest falcon with a wingspan of 130–160 centimetres and breeds in Greenland.

Sailing the Greenland sea, expeditioners were treated to presentations on photography, post processing and Lightroom cataloging techniques to help all further enhance their skill sets. Our passage was accompanied by a plethora of Northern Fulmars as we headed up 80 degrees North West of Spitsburgen to be greeted by sunrise over the pack ice. Temperatures plummeted as we pushed through the pack ice. The deck of the Polar Pioneer was covered in ice as we came across a large bearded seal who well within his rights to suggest that he had the right of way on the sea. Sitting in the pack ice provided some more amazing photographic opportunities.

At Hamiltonbukta, we were greeted by flocks of black legged kitty wakes high on the cliffs nesting, Glaucous Gulls and fledgling chicks accompanied us as we photographed Sandpipers picking through seaweed along the shoreline. As we approached the base of three glaciers we spied the skeleton of which has recently been picked clean.

At Smeerenberg we observed a group of some 35 or so Walrus who had hauled themselves ashore resting. Photographing from shore we were able to approach, setup and observe this massive pile of blubber and tusks. Young males played just off the shore line putting on a display of tusks with rolls and swimming on their backs entertaining us with their inquisitive nature and frolicking whilst old warriors, adorned with scars of battles fought.

Travelling on to see Lilliehöökbreen glacial front. The expansive wall of ice grumbled groaned and cracked as we pushed through the brash ice to get the best vantage points to photograph some more amazing glacial carving.

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Docking in Longyearbyen, we concluded this amazing expedition through the Arctic. And once again we were delivered with majestic beauty that I cannot wait to revisit in 2015 when I lead this expedition again. (For more information visit Jewels of the Arctic 2015).

To read what Di East had to say about the Jewels of the Arctic expedition visit here.