We recently caught up with Alex Cornell, a designer, filmmaker and periodic musician, who had just returned from a trip to Antarctica. It’s easy to see why Antarctica is a bucket list item for every outdoor photographer. The jet blue icebergs are a spectacle to see in film, we can only image what it must have been like in person. Seeing one capsized from underneath is truly special and rare. Alex was kind enough to share his gallery of images with us as well as some insight into his trip and the gear he used.
AGW: What took you to Antarctica?
AC: I came to Antarctica on vacation with my family. We’d planned the trip for years and it was exciting to finally get to experience it. Quite an adventure!
AGW: What were some of the challenges shooting in such a cold climate?
AC: Oddly, Antarctica isn’t as cold as you’d expect in December. It’s technically summer there; the temperatures are usually hovering around 30-40 degrees. It’s very dry, so there isn’t much concern about condensation on the equipment. I’ve had much tricker shooting conditions in Iceland! All things considered, Antarctica is a very pleasant place to shoot. The biggest concern is probably ocean splash from waves hitting the Zodiac cruisers. I also found that eye-strain could be an issue — squinting and peering through tiny little camera viewfinders, in intense sunlight.
AGW: If someone wanted to take a trip like you did and capture these great icebergs, could they?
AC: There are a number of ways to visit Antarctica, but make no mistake, it’s not easy to get to regardless of how you do it. It’s not a place you can just grab a backpack, a couple of buddies, and set off for. You need to go with an established expedition company or science vessel. There is no “winging it” in Antarctica. We took a boat, but I’ve heard you can fly! I’d recommend crossing the Drake Passage via boat because it’s a very unique experience.
AGW: Aside from photographer gear, what other outdoor or clothing items would you recommend?
AC: I packed very light for this trip and centered everything around a series of layers. My primary outer layer was a jacket by Arcteryx. It was insulated and weatherproof, which generally meant I could get away with just a lightweight Under Armor tshirt underneath. I also wore a balaclava to prevent sunburn as the sun is insanely powerful down there. Good gloves are important — I chose Hestra ski gloves because they fit really tight and allow for camera manipulation while still being really warm.
AGW: If people want one of these prints for their home, can they purchase them from you?
AC: I am planning to sell large format prints of these. I used to work at ISO50 and ran the print shop there; I’m looking forward to setting up a similar thing for these and other photographs of mine. People can stay updated with the progress of this on my Twitter.
Alex Cornell – The Gear List
From Alex: “This is an overview of the perfect travel rig for shooting professional photo and video. The foundation is two carry-ons that can be easily transported between cars, planes, hotels, and the field. This rig is meant for a solo-operator, in an extreme location, when time, space and image quality are crucial concerns. It is optimized for quick setup and breakdown. This rig is “lightweight” relative to a full pro kit — it is not intended to replace a hobbyist’s backpack.
To watch a video of Alex going over his entire setup, click here.
The 1DC is the primary photo unit, also used for 4K video when appropriate (weather sealed). The C100 is the primary video unit, thanks to the autofocus and waveform monitoring. Three lenses cover 16-200mm focal lengths and can be used on both cameras. Accessories include ND filters, external SSDs, tripod, and storage. The two storage units operate best when combined with a small shoulder bag or sling, to use when walking far distances with either camera. A note on the A7s below.
Pelican 1510 Case (link):
– Canon C100 Dual AF (link)
– Canon 1DC (link)
– Canon 16-35 f2.8 (link)
– Canon 24-70 f4 (link)
– Canon 70-200 2.8 (link)
– At anyone time, each camera has a lens attached. Case is customized to fit them like this to allow for quick access.
InCase DSLR Pro (link):
– Macbook Pro 13″ (link)
– Monster Overdrive 1TB SSD (link)
– Gopro Hero4 (link)
– Lexar Dual CF/SD Reader USB 3.0 (link)
– Lexar CF and SD cards in Pelican 0945 Case (link)
– Extra batteries for C100/1DC
– ND and Polarizing Filters by B&W
– Gitzo GT1542T with Manfrotto RC2 (link & link)
– Black Rapid Curve with FR-T1 (link)
– Ikan D5 (duplicative if you are mostly shooting with C100) (link)
There are a number of different options that would work just as well for this rig setup. I personally prefer the Canon image and found that this combination was best for traveling in Iceland and most recently, Antarctica. Obviously a camera like the Sony A7s would be lighter, but in testing, it proved to have worrisome battery life and awkward ergonomics; it’s also not weather-sealed. The 1DC is bulletproof, has a better image to my eye, and is shooting 4K internal — all combined with an absurd photo-platform.
I did not bring any loupes, like the Zacuto Z-finder, because taking them on/off can be really annoying when going quickly in and out of a case or bag. For the C100 I relied on the waveform to ensure proper exposure and autofocus to ensure accurate image. On the 1DC, when I did shoot video, I did my best to use the LCD and shot a little under to protect the highlights.”
If you have any questions for Alex, please leave them in the comments. You can review his other works on his website at AlexCornell.com.