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Preparing for Antarctica

Preparing for Antarctica

Having got the whole Christmas thing out of the way the countdown is on to our ‘trip of a lifetime’.
Had I know how much the trip was going to end up costing I don’t think I could have justified it.  As a result I’m very glad I didn’t know, and that I have not felt the urge to add it all up.
People tend to ask the same questions when they hear about the trip.

Do you sail from Tasmania?

Actually the trip is to the Antarctic Peninsula which is much closer to the tip or Argentina that any part of Australia is to Antarctica’s east coast.

How many people will be on the boat?

The  Ushuaia has 84 passenger berths, and our photographic group numbers about 20 people so we will be well represented.

How cold will it be?

From what I’ve read we’re expecting most days to be between -5 °C and 5 °C. I’ll let you know if that was wrong when I get back.

Where are you going?

The list of islands on our predicted itinerary is;
South Shetland Islands and the western side of Antarctic Peninsula, Livingston Island, Half Moon Island, Deception Island (volcanic crater), Paradise Bay and Lemaire Channel (gigantic icebergs and huge cliffs).

Will you see polar bears?

Ah no, they only live in the Arctic with Santa. I wonder if that’s where the Claus (claws) part comes from… And before you ask, no, you won’t see penguins in the Arctic. Bears north, penguins south. Tigers in Asia, Lions in Africa. Dolphins aren’t fish.  You get the drift.

Have you got warm clothes to take?

It’s all about layers.  It is difficult to know if we have enough or even too much stuff.  We’ve been given advice by the kind folk from World Expeditions so hopefully we are on the right track. Even so, just how many pairs of socks do we need?

My packing list
  • Socks, thick thermal 3 pair
  • Socks, liner 2 pair
  • Polar buff (neck, head, balaclava) 1
  • Beanie 1
  • Ear warmers 1
  • Gloves, outer 1 pair
  • Glove liner 1 pair
  • Snow pants 1
  • Light weight trek pants 1
  • Waterproof outer pants 1
  • Gortex jacket 1
  • Down, long sleeved puffer jacket 1
  • Thermal leggings, 2 pair
  • Thermal top, long sleeved 3
  • Thermal top, short sleeved 1
  • Polar fleece vest 1
  • Polar fleece jacket 1
  • Underwear
  • Passport (with troublesome Brazilian visa for day trip prior to the Antarctic voyage)
  • Camera bodies x 2
  • Laptop
  • Portable hard drive x 2
  • ipad (because some hideous people introduced me the The Room and I will now have v2 and v3 to play on the plane)
  • Go Pro Hero with head strap
  • Chargers x aargh
  • Lenses (18-200, 70-200, 150-600)
  • Dry bags x 3
  • Aquatech weather shield
  • Spare batteries x 3
  • Memory cards (totaling 480GB)
  • Lens cleaner
  • Spider pro holster
  • Kindle (fully loaded)
  • Rain cover for camera backpack
  • Polarising filter (just in case)
  • iPhone fully loaded with Audible books for travel and down time
  • Card reader with cable
  • Photocopies of insurance, passports, itinerary, flight details
  • Reading glasses
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Travel adapter / power board
  • Sneakers for on board
  • Hiking boots for prior travels
  • FastPictureViewer
  • Lightroom CC 2015
  • Open Live Writer so I can write blog posts even if I can’t actually post them
  • Canon camera manuals
  • courses for downtime
  • Zero Assumption Recovery software in case of emergency card failures
Things I’m leaving behind (with regret)
  • Penguin onsies
  • The dogs
  • Kitchen sink
  • Ug Boots
  • Playing cards
  • Many pairs of extra socks
  • More shoes
  • A Sherpa to carry all the stuff I AM taking


In the age of digital photography you can afford to have a number of misses to each hit. When I head out, camera in hand, I know that when I come home I’ll have anywhere between a few hundred and upwards of a thousand images to review. Shooting in RAW has lots of advantages, but the files are big and the process of going through each one to decide if it is a discard or a keeper can be a slow.

To ease the pain I use a piece of software called FastPictureViewer Pro. I’ve been happily using it for over two years now so I’m comfortable enough to share my experience with it.  To my great relief the Pro license I bought will allow me to install it on my laptop as well as the PC, so when I’m traveling to far off parts next year I won’t be without this nifty bit of kit.


The license, including codecs, cost me $50 when the AUD / US exchange rate was just about at parity.  I haven’t had to pay a cent for upgrades since, but apparently if/when there is a major upgrade I’ll get a discount. It’s available to trial for free.

So, what does it do? The codecs allow you to browse thumbnails of raw images through Windows explorer as you would jpgs. The viewer lets you review all of your images super fast, quickly rate or tag them, and apply workflow to delete, copy, rename, resize based on those tags and ratings, and a stack of other rules.

So my workflow goes like this;

  1. Plug camera into the PC and let the EOS utility download all of the images into a date named folder on my external hard disk (Called Photos – original).
    I have a card reader, but I really like the way the EOS utility works and prefer to copy direct when I can.
  2. Open FastPictureViewer
  3. Reviews images one at a time, zooming in with a click of the mouse to see which  images have what you’re looking for in the finer detail.
  4. Use the one key rating method to assign a xmp rating to each picture.
  5. Use the FPV Advanced Features – File Utility to delete or copy images based on my preset rules
  6. Import into Adobe Lightroom where it can read all the xmp ratings, and I
    can use Lightroom to create a third copy of my 4+* images for me to
    work on.

For reference my rating scale goes like this;

* Useless, this can be deleted at any time to retrieve space
** Next to useless, but you never know if you might need to come back to
this to figure out what you’ve been doing wrong.  Leave it on the
original disk but don’t copy it anywhere.
*** Meh, copy to the next stage but likely won’t do any further processing on this image
**** Keeper image, copy to hard disk for editing
***** Straight to the Pool Room, this one will get some attention and will
most likely be printed, used on a blog post or manipulated into a graphic for Redbubble

You can flag pictures for deletion, or for publishing and it can publish straight to Zenfolio, Facebook, Flickr etc. I prefer to do some work on my keeper images before they go anywhere else.

The interface includes some great features, which come in handy when you are trig to see at a glance why something worked, and something else didn’t. So aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering mode etc are all front and centre as well as a histogram. You can toggle those displays on and off as you wish.  They can also sit on your second display as they aren’t locked into the Viewer window.

I’m sure that by now there are other applications out there that do similar things, but I think it speaks well for this product that in two and a half years I have never once gone looking for an alternative.  It does the job I need it to, and does it well and you can’t say better than that.