CNN Travel Writer Chris Bach had a trip to Antarctica on his bucket list of ten things he wanted to do before he dies. He came back and called Antarctica Awe-Inspiring. I know you recently went on our Antarctica tour, tell us your thoughts about the experience.
Antarctica was definitely on my list of places to photograph. I set a goal personally to step on all seven continents before I turned 40. I am traveling with iExplore to Southeast Asia in a couple weeks and will achieve that goal five years early. It's funny, I thought Antarctica would be my last continent; however, Antarctica became more intriguing to me as I continued to research it. Most people think of Antarctica as this white barren wasteland. It is something completely different. The colors down there are awe-inspiring and the photographic opportunities were boundless. The sheer grandeur of the place and its majesty will leave you speechless.
I would imagine there would be great challenges to photographing Antarctica. Tell me about it.
Photographing winter scenes is especially challenging because of the wide range of contrast in a scene. Antarctica was particularly challenging because of the difference in tonality of the bright whites and dark deep blues. I shoot predominantly in the 6x17 panoramic format. My camera equipment is bulky, heavy and difficult to set up. I was fortunate to have several days of advantageous weather and lighting conditions in Antarctica, with not too much wind or snow. There were days, however, when Antarctica's wrath reared its ugly head and made shooting very difficult.
What percentage of photos from a trip are pre-planned versus spur of the moment that you were inspired to take along the way?
That is one of the best questions anyone has ever asked me. A very small percentage of my images are pre-planned. I find that most of my best photographs are those which I stumble upon. Notwithstanding, once I decide on a destination I immerse myself into as many photographic books as I can to view how other photographer "see" a scene. Then, when on location, I try and get a different angle or perspective than other photographers have gotten. Be unique. Yes, I get the shot of the landmark from the well-known vantage point, but I also try to capture life on a day-to-day basis and capture common things that people might pass by and not really "see".
I am going to Southeast Asia next. I have already envisioned how I want to capture Angkor Wat, for example. Everybody has seen the temple and knows what it looks like. But from a panoramic standpoint, I would like to capture it early in the morning when the sun rises over the top and the towers reflect into the lotus ponds. That's the way I see it. Also, I know that there is substantial tree growth inside the temple walls, which will lend itself wonderfully to some intimate panoramic landscapes.
How do you work with your travel partners like iExplore to ensure you have the flexibility to get the shots you want?
I don't like to travel with large groups for a number of reasons. Large groups move around too fast and I need the time and flexibility to set up my shots. iExplore has been very accommodating to my needs and has set me up with some fantastic private guides. In certain circumstances a helicopter may be required and iExplore is always able to connect me with an able pilot who gets me where I need to be.
What is your favorite destination from a traveler's point of view and from a photographer's point of view?
It is truly hard to answer that question. I like all of the places I have traveled for different reasons. If I had to pick one location from a traveler's perspective it would have to be Southern Africa, particularly Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The close proximity of the wildlife, unique culture and exposure to an area where you are not at the top of the food chain were all life-changing experiences for me individually. From a photographer's standpoint, I would say Antarctica because of its remoteness, desolation and sheer pristine beauty. The ice formations alone could provide a photographer with a lifetime of material.
Have any tips for amateur photographers to get the best photos on their next adventure?
I still shoot film. However, a lot of people are using digital SLR cameras these days, which are great. A digital SLR camera gives you the freedom to make adjustments on location to gain a better result. I would suggest that if someone is serious about getting better pictures that they learn to take their camera off the automatic settings and learn to use the semi-manual or manual settings. There are a number of classes that teach technique offered around the country, some of which are only one weekend day. A photographer can learn basic techniques such as using "shutter priority" to stop animals in their tracks or smooth out a waterfall. Another tip to someone wanting to get better pictures is to get closer to what you are shooting. If you think you are close enough you probably are not!
You've said your hope is your work touches that sense of adventure in everyone and that viewers of your photographs will be transported to another time and place, even if its for just a moment. What time and place does your favorite photo transport you?
The Antarctica photo of the blue ice (above), is one of my favorite images. It is hard to gain a perspective of how massive this ice flow was. I generally don't like to have people or man-made objects in my photographs, but it might have been a good idea to have a zodiac in the frame to give the viewer a better sense of perspective. Oh well, I got the shot I wanted and am very happy with it. To me, this image transports me to another place in time every time I look at it. In one word it is extraterrestrial.
Dean will be traveling to Indochina later this fall. When he gets back we will be sure to touch base with him and share more photos and tips from Dean. In the meantime be sure to check out his online photo gallery.