Antarctica: Getting the perfect shot

Photographer Ashleigh Sim on the deck of the Ocean Atlantic.
Photographer Ashleigh Sim on the deck of the Ocean Atlantic.

It is common for phones and cameras to seize up in cold weather. Here are tips on how to keep snapping even when the mercury plunges below zero.

• Have two camera bodies. If one seizes up, you have another to fall back on. Carry spare batteries for each camera body and keep them warm by storing them in your clothes.

• If you are using a phone camera, consider getting one with a dedicated telephoto lens to get the best out of your wildlife sightings.

• Use a fast shutter speed of 1/250 on a moving boat and 1/1,000 for birds.

• A waterproof camera bag or dry bag is a must. Dry bags are preferred as you have to put all bags on the floor of the wet Zodiac boats used to ferry passengers for land excursions.

• Use a circular polarising filter to reduce glare and darken the skies for more dramatic shots.

• Take a wide-angle zoom lens to capture landscapes and icebergs, plus a handheld telephoto zoom lens, as some of the best wildlife shots are taken during Zodiac cruises which can be quite cramped. Leave your tripods on the deck for time lapse photography and videos.

• Pay attention to onboard announcements and during lectures to learn what geographical features and wildlife to look out for. Vary your shots to tell the Antarctica story.

• You can have the best equipment, but it is no use if your fingers are frozen and your toes are numb. Invest in sub-zero photography mittens, waterproof socks and sunglasses. Polarising sunglasses may interfere with the viewing of your LCD screen, so test them before use.


This was my equipment list for the Antarctica trip, which my colleagues helped carry. Do not overload yourself - you may fall if you plunge into knee-deep snow:

2 Nikon Z6 mirrorless cameras

1 Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 lens

1 Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8S lens

1 Nikon FTZ lens adapter

1 Nikkor AF-S 200-500mm f5.6E ED VR lens

1 GoPro Hero 7 Black

1 GoPro Max 360

1 underwater dome port

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 12, 2020, with the headline 'Getting the perfect shot'. Subscribe