Choosing the right camera for your trip can be overwhelming, and everyone has their own opinion. What is clear is that they all typically recommend bringing SLRs (Single Lense Reflex) as they tend to produce better quality photos.
There are two main types of lens that you might consider bringing along:
- A wide angle lens
- A long zoom lens
A wide angle lens is perfect for doing justice to the stunning landscapes you will be surrounded by; it has a wider field of view, giving you the ability to capture as much of what you're seeing as possible. They also have a great depth of field, meaning the photo will really draw you in, providing you with very vivid memories of your trip. Consider a 16-35mm f4.
With all the amazing wildlife in the Arctic, it would be crazy not to take a zoom lens with you. A telephoto lens will mean that you can get great action shots of animals while still maintaining a really nice shallow depth of field. Our resident photographer, Charlie, really loves the 70-200mm f2.8.
Seeing as so much of the landscape in the Arctic is white, having a filter for your lens is super important. One of the biggest issues with photographs of snow filled landscapes is that they end up overexposed, so an ND (Neutral-Density) filter would be perfect to avoid this. They reduce the amount of light entering the lens, and so should help you avoid over-exposing your photos.
Polarising filters are also useful for darkening skies or removing glare from the sun on the sea or the snow, which is invaluable if you're on a boat surrounded by icebergs!
You should be able to pick up both of these for a reasonable price. They are light too, so easy to pack.
This is a tricky one, as most people going to the Arctic will spend a lot of your time on a moving boat. However, if you want to capture stunning HDR landscapes while on land, a tripod will be useful. They can also be great for achieving things like motion blur on the water which can be really stunning, although they can be quite heavy unless you spend a lot of money, so it's worth thinking about what kind of photos you will be taking and whether you think you will need one or not.
On an Arctic cruise, you're going to have to protect your camera from the elements - snow, rain and spray - while you're out on deck or on a zodiac. Because of this, you could look at getting a camera that has Weather Sealing. This usually means that the joints and buttons will be covered and sealed with rubber to reduce exposure to moisture and dust, however, this does not make the camera waterproof.
Therefore you could also think about purchasing a rain sleeve. This is not the most technical piece of kit - it’s basically a plastic bag for your camera! It should only cost you around £8/$10.
Optimising Battery Life
One important thing to remember is that the cold conditions in the Arctic have a detrimental effect on your camera battery’s life. To counter this it's worth bringing more than one battery and keeping your spare battery warm under your layers of clothing.
One of the key things to avoid is condensation on the inside of your camera lens, caused by the marked temperature difference between your heated cabin and the outside. This can be avoided by leaving your camera in its bag when you come onboard, allowing a more gradual temperature change.
Using a Go-Pro
GoPro cameras can be great fun. As well as a funky time lapse feature, they are able to film and take pictures above and below the waterline, so filming humpbacks swimming under your zodiac is a real possibility. It’s a good idea to invest in some of the cool accessories, like the selfie stick and clamps, and have some fun experimenting with the various cameras functions.
We suggest you get some practice using your GoPro before going on your trip, as it can take some learning (especially the ones without an LCD screen on the back) and you don’t want to be spending time pushing the wrong button when that humpback is starring in the lens.
Among the current evolution of smartphones there are some seriously good cameras available, some of which are capable of shooting in 4K, in fact, many of our own films are shot on iPhones. The advantages are clear, they are light and easy to carry and use, they recharge quickly and will even log the exact time and location of your photograph. You can even buy additional lenses for very little to extend the functionality of your phone. Most people will not rely solely on a smartphone but it shouldn’t be forgotten, even just for its ability to capture the sounds of the Arctic.