Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Here Be Dragons
Documenting the wild world in expeditions that go to the ends of the earth
The best thing about expedition travel is that once you embark, it’s the ship that moves you from location to location, so there’s no constant packing and repacking as when on safari in Africa. These are true expeditions, where it’s uncommon to visit another port until you return, as opposed to more tame “cruises” that travel from port to port. And for polar travel, it may require flying halfway around the world just to reach the port where your journey begins.
The serious nature of ocean navigation makes it important to travel with an experienced adventure company operating state-of-the-art vessels. No matter with whom you travel or how you get there, you still need to plan your trip carefully. A quick Internet search yields dozens of companies offering voyages to the poles. Larger ships carry more passengers, so keep in mind that your time ashore may be limited, since operating guidelines require groups of 100 or less. I frequently travel aboard the National Geographic Explorer, which carries only 148 travelers, but many ships carry 200 or more. Booking a polar expedition is a big investment and a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so do your homework and choose wisely.
It’s important that you take time to learn your camera’s features and limitations—before you leave home. A good understanding of your camera, lenses and accessories will help you respond quickly to fast-changing photo opportunities that happen in wild places. If you have the time, consider taking a workshop or attending a local seminar. Give yourself an assignment to help you practice. Photograph your dog running in the backyard, birds flying at the feeder or close-ups of garden flowers. Practice and make mistakes in advance, rather than during your trip.
In addition, research all there is about your destination and the potential for wildlife encounters. Strive to become an expert. The more you know about natural history and animal behavior, the better you’ll be at placing yourself in the right situation for making great images.
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