A 360° glimpse at the inky black under sea ice at Cape Evans Antarctica as Waikato University diver Prof Ian Hawes descends.
An ongoing series of micro-videos produced for Antarctica New Zealand as a response to my 2016 residency at Scott Base, Antarctica as part of their Community Engagement Program.
Some research into photography/video in Antarctic conditions.
In practice – my own findings
We went to The Ice in late October which is early in ‘the season’. At that time of year the sun is up 24hrs a day but gets very low in the sky between 12 and 2am. Really quite nice light. It did mean it was still quite cold. Most days were about -20°c without windchill (which could easily push it down to -35°c). In short … bloody cold.
Obviously this meant wear sensible clothes. As your mother would tell you “wear a jacket”. AntarcticaNZ go a bit further and issued us with some amazing kit!. I was never really cold with the very notable exception of my nose and fingers. In order to use the cameras I often had to compromise what gloves I wore. When possible I opted for a pair of polyprop liners and some medium weight outers but even then holding the cameras was painful after 30 minutes or so. On rare occasions I took my outer gloves off to do fiddly things which I usually regretted doing almost instantly. AntarcticaNZ gave me some chemical glove warmers which helped, especially to get the feeling back when you stopped shooting.
Anything metal becomes a nightmare to hold for even a short time. I wrapped as much of the metal surfaces of cameras and tripods with thin closed cell foam and insulation taped which definitely helped.
Another hassle with wearing thick gloves was that it became hard to feel my way around a lens so I would occasionally turn the focus when I wanted to zoom etc. I put a cable tie and insulation tape around focus ring to make it easier to feel and it worked a treat (see red tape on lens in the photo above).
The next biggest issue was glasses and goggles fogging. You have to wear a neck warmer or something over your mouth and nose which meant that my sunglasses tended to fog (and then freeze). Goggles where better but harder to look into the viewfinders. I do recommend the neoprene face masks with vents for nose and mouth. As expected the bright conditions made it very hard to look at the screen on the back of the camera unless it had a viewfinder on it. I found the Zacuto Z-Finders worked perfectly – no fogging.
Condensation was really only an issue when things got steamy – in Hagglund vehicles with lots of body heat or in cooking tents etc. See the tips below which helped to a degree.
On the whole batteries were not as big a drama as I was expecting. They definitely didn’t last as long as usual but the onboard batteries in the Nikons were ok. I used an external pack for the D800 for a while but the cable froze solid and snapped! The one battery type that really didn’t work well was the GoPro batteries which lasted as little as 15 minutes at -20°c. Underwater where it was only -3c they were better. The Nation Geographic crew had larger external batteries (I think they wee third party) which seemed to last better.
The cameras themselves were little troopers! Big ups to Nikon and Black Magic! All the cameras just kept on functioning without too much drama. After long periods the screens would slowly crap out. LCD’s would fade and become sluggish, the rear monitors would have pixels crap out and develop alarming lines down them (BMPCC) but they came right in the warm and the cameras kept taking pictures.
The absolute hero was my little Nikon CoolpixA – small enough to always be there, I could put it on my pocket to keep warm and even when frozen solid it kept going even though it was covered in frost and the screen went blue!
I am yet to get to the bottom of an autofocus issue with the D800 – it may be an issue with one lens. Other than that it was fine.
I used ND filters most of the time to control the 24hr sunlight. An absolute must!
All the lenses where fine most of the time. The only real issue was when my Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM lens focus froze solid (both manual and auto-focus) after about 2 1/2hours at -20°c … but by then my fingers were so cold I didn’t care!
Microphones all worked fine – the big shotgun mic with a blimp was essential to work in the wind. As expected the audio recording on the BMPCC was … well it was totally shit … reference only. The Zoom H6 was outstanding!
For more of my pre-trip research read the Sub zero photography page
The wall of my MDes office is slowly being taken over by small prints from the Antarctica: Sixty Shades of White project. It represents a tiny proportion of the 1TB of data, stills and video I collected while on The Ice in October. It is still very early days but at least five possible collections/projects are emerging … this will keep me going for years!
Warren played a short gig at the bar in New Zealand’s Scott Base in Antarctica as part of our visit there. This is a short sample of what he played. Sean Tracey joined us from McMurdo Station (the American base) to play harmonica.
It was magical moment at the base with most of the personnel crammed into the small bar with guests from the nearby McMudo Station. Huge thanks to Scott Gilbert for bringing over the guitar etc.
A bit of Antarctica fun for a Friday.
One of the first things you do when you visit Scott Base in Antarctica is to go “field training” where you learn survival techniques and spend a night camping in -20ºc.
After two hours driving in the Hagglund tracked vehicle we arrived at our camp site with Mt Erebus standing guard. We slept in tents very similar to those that Scott used and made a cooking area with blocks cut from the snow. The Field Trainers from Antarctica New Zealand were superb. That wonderfully New Zealand combination of friendly and relaxed but totally on to it and experienced.
So join Warren and I on a very quick, lighthearted look at camping in Antarctica.
Not long after we arrived at Scott Base, Antarctica my project partner, Warren Maxwell sang a stunning waiata to mark “International singing day”. Purea Nei by Hirini Melbourne
A real highlight of our expedition to Antarctica was camping out on the ice with a team of scientists/divers at Cape Evens. And a highlight of that highlight was when we dropped a GoPro down one of the dive holes to get a glimpse of the world under the 2m thick sea ice.
Little did I know that seconds before I pulled the camera up a Weddell Seal cruised by to check out the rope (this footage has been edited because it sat on the bottom doing very little for a while).
Earlier that day Warren had dropped a hydrophone down the hole to reveal the constant chatter of the seals – wait until you hear what he captured! The background audio on this pales in comparison.
The divers cut a hole through the ice using a “heat drill” and park a modified shipping container over the hole to give them a sheltered work area.
Weddell Seals are now my favourite animal!
After three days of planning, weighing, rationalising and packing our gear is just sneaking in under the 25.5kg weight limit for flying to Scott Base in Antarctica. Not everything has made the final cut but most has. A huge proportion of this mountain is batteries because the life of batteries plummets dramatically in such cold conditions.
A wee gem from my research into the portraiture for the Antartica project #60shadesofwhite
German photographer and filmmaker Stefan Heinrichs lives and works between Berlin and London.
Huge congrats to two of my 222.357 Video students, Luke Hoban and Kyle White, for making the semifinals of the 2016 Adobe Design Achievement Awards.
Their project Focused on raising awareness to the harmful effects within the fashion industry.
An awesome result receiving well earned praise.
Below is the video they made. You can read the full story on the The Adobe competition website.
I’m super stoked to announce that I’m going to Antarctica this summer on the Antarctica New Zealand Community Engagement Program to work with the scientists at New Zealand’s Antarctic base, Scott Base.
Exploring and celebrating 60 years of Scott Base, this project aims to connect new audiences with Antarctica by allowing them to experience the life and work at Scott Base through the eyes of the scientists, explorers and personnel that have been there. Details of the project outputs will evolve over the course of the project but are likely to involve multi-channel immersive video instillation, photography and other online videos.
The working title of the project is “Antarctica: 60 shades of white”. Watch for the hash tag #60shadesofwhite on my Twitter feed
This project will be the subject for my MDes project at Massey University’s School of Design for the next two years and many other outputs beyond that I’m sure. Details of exactly when and how long I ‘m going to The Ice so watch this space for more detail.
I have set up a project page on the site where I will document progress.
HUGE thanks to everyone at Antarctica New Zealand for saying yes!
While updating my website I rediscovered this interview with me just after the kermadec voyage. It took me back
Video interviews of the other artists can be found here.
Thanks as always to Bruce Foster
Make/Use explores what might occur if we consider not only the aesthetic of the garments we wear, but also the way we use them and the waste we create when we make them. This video was designed to accompany an exhibition of the garments and demonstrates the way the garments are formed (with zero waste)
Video crew: Jason O’Hara (Creative Director, DOP, Lighting, Post), Monish Patel (Design, Camera & Post), Hannah Dellow (Dancer/Model – Kirsty Bunny Management), Willis York (Hair), Elise MacMillan (Makeup) and Evoke (Music – Bittersweet ft Bijou. Frequent remix)
Thanks to Make/Use Team, Holley McQuillan (Garments), Greta Menzies (Textile), Jen Archer-Martin (Space), Emma Fox Derwin (Object), Jo Bailey (Graphic), Karl Kane (Graphic) and Bonny Stewart MacDonald (Stills Photography)
Thanks to Massey University CoCA
Shot on RED (Thanks to Rocket Rentals)
It is titled “Surface Tension” and represents the tussle between the ‘opposing currents’ of PEW/artists and the NZ Government as they meet at the line in the ocean that is the Kermadecs. The calls of the various proponents for and against can be heard over the unerring rhythmic beat of the ocean. At one stage the debate escalates and the waters redden but the ocean roars back and returns bluer than ever. It is deliberately left inconclusive.
The soundtrack is actually constructed from recordings I made when we were “hands to bathe” (swimming) on the Tropic of Capricorn – slowed down, layered and played backwards in an attempt to represent an inverted take on the moment (i.e. when viewed from below). The video was shot using my home-made lens.
Here is a sneak preview: