Antarctica: Retracing Shackleton's Journey travel blog

We met the Expedition team on Wednesday morning, led by Tim Sopor and his wife Linnea. We are also joined by Tim Laman, an award-winning National Geographic photographer known for his work on birds of paradise and orangutans. The naturalists are all very well seasoned in Antarctica and most have good photographic knowledge, as well. There are even dive masters on board, a young man from Philadelphia and a young woman from Monterey who wear “warm suits,” designed with high-tech layers of cloth, chemicals, and electrical current, which i don’t understand. The girl truly looks like a blue Michelin Man when she’s got it on. Apparently, they take underwater photos and also check the ship’s propellors and undersides when we’re at anchor to be sure the ice hasn’t taken a big chunk out of something.

Interestingly, we didn’t have a lifeboat drill, because there’s just not enough room on the deck for 100 people. But we did wear our life preservers and got the zodiac drill. We were also told to bring any clothing or gear we wanted to bring on shore to have it vacuumed in case we had seeds or spores or organic material that might infect the wildlife. To my great embarrassment, the naturalist found some dog biscuit crumbs in one of my bags.

We also had a photography session, and I had the great pleasure of joining Tim Laman for the breakout group. He took us step by step how to set up our cameras for photographing birds or other moving animals: Cloudy light setting, Shutter priority at 1000, ISO at 400, wide open Aperture, continuous shooting drive, continuous focus, etc. Tim likes to place his subject off center, following the rule of thirds, and somehow he gets the most amazing resolution of detail for each feather on the bird’s plumage. We found out later at dinner with Tim and his father, that he grew up in Japan while his parents worked at a Presbyterian mission. As he described it, when he was in junior high, there were only about three students who had an interest in photography and the school was supplied for a hundred. So the dark room was his “playground” and he could do whatever he wanted. Eventually, Tim ended up at Harvard doing graduate work in the bio-sciences.

We spent time on the deck, in the bridge, and at lectures on penguins and on the Antarctic Treaty, established in 1959 and eventually signed by 40 countries with a claim or an interest in Antarctica and who have agreed to conduct research there only for peaceful purposes. We saw three humpback whales swimming together and many petrels and albatrosses.

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