'What Aperture for Antarctica' 28 April 2020   

JC CalifateOn Tuesday 28th April, the camera club’s Zoom meeting was attended by over 40 people to listen to Josh Cooper’s talk - What f-Stop for Antarctica?
Josh started by explaining that, on retirement a couple of years ago, he and his wife decided that it would be a great idea to go on a “trip of a lifetime” beyond their usual constraints of Europe. Having aborted a prospective trip to Australia and New Zealand, they eventually settled on Antarctica.
Their first stop was Buenos Aires which, contrary to their expectations, they found was surprising European and friendly. Josh later discovered that much of the city had been designed along the same lines as Paris.
JC sealsOn to El Chalten in Patagonia where Josh thought the mountainous landscape was magnificent, although he bemoaned the changeability of the weather and the lack of opportunity to explore compositions. He did, however show us a few great cloud enshrouded mountain images. Next on their journey came El Calafate where they had an excursion walking on the massive glacier leading into Lago Argentino. Josh’s images illustrated the wonderful blue colours of the ice sheet.
From El Calafate right  they travelled on to Ushuaia, on the Beagle Channel, where they embarked on a small ship carrying 100 passengers bound for the Falkland Islands. At West Point Island the party boarded Zodiacs, not for the last time, and headed for shore. Despite Josh’s claim that he rarely takes wildlife images, we saw some great shots of albatross, fur seals, rockhopper penguins, and even some turkey vultures sitting on the roof of a farmstead that had been built in 1879. At Blanco Bay, Port Stanley Josh told us that there was still evidence of the 1982 war and that mine clearing was still going on. He also showed us some great images of the Lady Elizabeth, an iron barque that was badly damaged rounding Cape Horn in 1912. She limped on to the Falkland Islands but hit a rock and limped into Port Stanley where she was eventually declared a wreck in 1913. In 1936 her mooring lines broke and she drifted into Whalebone Cove in Stanley Harbour, where she still lies.
JC penguinsAfter 2 further days at sea, and crossing the Antarctic Divergence, when the sea and air temperature dropped dramatically, the ship arrived at South Georgia where the group visited 10 separate locations. Josh told us that the whole party were subjected to very rigorous bio-security checks before and after landing on the island. Josh was mortified when a seed was detected on a piece of velcro among his camera kit, but, after cleaning it away, he was allowed to accompany the party!
At Stromness Bay, the destination for Ernest Shackleton’s rescue journey, the old whaling station has been converted into a repair shop. He also showed us images of the surrounding 3000m mountains which Shackleton had to walk over to reach the whaling station, including shots of mountain streams and the views of the bay taken as the party walked over to Jason Harbour in the next bay. Here they all went kayaking amongst the fur seals and Josh found it very challenging trying to take photographs without capsizing. He took images at the largest King Penguin colony in the world at St Andrews Bay and managed a few shots of the surrounding mountains glimpsed through the clouds.
At Grytviken, the largest whaling station on South Georgia, Josh found loads of photo opportunities among the industrial remains and ruined boats. They also visited the South Georgia Museum and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave.
JC kayakThe last stop on South Georgia was Cooper Bay, where they started to see icebergs and where Josh took a series of images of macaroni penguins and fur seals. Josh seemed frustrated that he was unable to take more images of the wonderful landscapes, but he was obviously hampered by low clouds or the movement of the ship. But he did show us a lovely panoramic shot of a headland which he had taken as 5 vertical hand-held shots stitched together in Lightroom.
Josh told us of the Citizen Science project that they became part of on board the ship. Observations and photos of weather and wildlife were sent off for logging, tracking and comparison with other reported sitings. When an animal that had been logged by the group was reported elsewhere, they would receive a notification so that they could see where the animal had moved to.
The next destination was Elephant Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsular, where Shackleton’s team spent 4 months waiting to be rescued. The landscape amounted to massive sheer cliffs and glaciers, but Josh showed us images from their travels down the peninsular of humpback whales, leopard seals, Weddel seals, chinstrap penguins and orca. There were pictures of huge, tower block sized icebergs with amazing shapes and colours, capsized icebergs with even more amazing shapes gouged by the water, a moonrise over the South Shetland Islands, and kayaking in the brash ice to get nearer the icebergs and whales. To finish this sequence Josh showed us a video taken in a kayak as whales swam and surfaced around them.
In conclusion, Josh said that the trip had been challenging photographically as he was constantly taken out of his comfort zone. He loved the landscapes in Patagonia, he has become more enthusiastic about wildlife photography, and he thought Antarctica was amazing and such a different pace. And in answer to his original question “What f-stop in Antarctica?” he said “start with f/8 and adjust according to the conditions”.
Steve, our chairman, heartily thanked Josh for a wonderful evening with some fantastic images, saying Antarctica is a place he would like to go to in the fullness of time.The Zoom audience agreed and applauded. DF
Images © Josh Cooper