No longer just a dream, now very much a reality. The time had come to fly south towards the coldest continent and stand atop the summit of 16,050′ Mount Vinson in the Ellsworth Mountains of Antarctica. I hoped for two things; firstly that the weather wouldn’t stand in the way of a successful summit, and secondly that my camera equipment wouldn’t fail me – reading about off the chart temperatures as low as -70ºF gave me cause for concern! Due to weight restrictions on the flight from Punta Arenas, Chile to Union Glacier on the Antarctic continent I packed only my Nikon D810, Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D Lens and B+W circular polarizer, perfect for the endless white landscapes I was hoping to encounter.

The Russian Ilyushin IL76 aircraft touched down on the Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions blue ice runway at Union Glacier to extremely brisk temperatures. This was not a good sign of how cold it could become up high on the mountain.

Ilyushin IL76 aircraft maintenance

First impressions were how well could I photograph such white scenery, with no horizon the glaciers and snow covered terrain just blended into the sky. Fortunately conditions changed continuously over the three weeks offering plenty of opportunities for clear skies, stormy skies, near whiteouts, and much warmer temperatures than I had anticipated. With continual daylight and brightness from the relentless white it was not such a big deal that I didn’t bring a tripod, and if I had it would probably have just sunk into the snow and lost its usefulness!

The vivid white backdrop ensured everything with color popped…

Fatbiking at Union Glacier

ALE Union Glacier camp

Heading to Vinson C1

At the main Union Glacier camp the boundary restrictions kept the terrain beyond absolutely pristine, with no footprints or sled tracks to ruin shots of an imposing Mt Rossman. The ever changing light and weather delays that kept suspending the twin otter flight on to Vinson basecamp meant there were many opportunities to practice and experiment in such a prominent location.

The mountainous interior of this vast continent is all about the landscapes, humans being the only signs of life. We certainly make great extras, contrasting perfectly to the sometimes featureless whiteness.

Mt Rossman above Union Glacier

Antarctica color contrast

Descending with Mt Shinn behind

Moving on up to Vinson basecamp and beyond meant being surrounded by the peaks of the Ellsworth Mountains, and whilst not on the level of the bigger ranges still very imposing. The mixture of mountains and white plateaus complimented the landscape perfectly and the ability to switch between different white balances provided subtle variations within the same scene.

Fortunately, whilst my primary reason for being here was to stand atop the highest peak there was still plenty of hanging around time to be outside the tent playing with composition, white balance, and challenging myself in this amazing environment. I think due to the lack of variation and being stuck in the same condensed areas for days at a time I shot far fewer images than I initially thought, eventually accumulating in excess of 1200 images.

Daylight white balance

Cloudy white balance

Whilst I think that the location was stunning it did have its limitations, mostly being the monotonous tundra of the interior. Although the lighting and weather changed the mountains remained the same, and with the almost 24 hour daylight sunset never occurred enough to capture new colors. Anything other than a variation of black, white and blue was almost always human introduced, a necessary addition to many of my images.


If you would like to purchase any of the photos taken in Antarctica or any other location that my travels have taken me then either visit my online store or contact me through this website. If nothing appeals to you right now then thanks for looking and hope to see you again soon. Wayne