Pix and Grids 1: Antarctica

This is the first in what I hope will be a slew of posts marrying three things I love:  travel, photography, and … crosswords!  Every Wednesday, I will post on my free crossword site, JeffsPuzzles.com, a puzzle inspired by a photo or photos from a place I’ve visited.  I’ll also make a post here with a link to the puzzle and some background on the place and the photo(s).

Here’s a link to the related crossword.

The photo that inspired 1 Across/6 Across in the puzzle. Taken (inside!) with my iPhone XR from the 4th deck of our expedition ship, looking straight out at waves cresting around 40 feet.

My brother and I traveled to Antarctica in February 2022.  I posted about the trip extensively at that time (search that date or click on the “Antarctica” category) and even constructed a penguin-themed crossword in celebration of the trip. 

I’m leading off this series with Antarctica because it’s the most evocative place I’ve ever visited:  every animal, ice berg, and glacier seems freighted with meaning and connections. (All pictures were taken with a Nikon Z6 camera with either a 24-200 mm or a 200-500 mm lens unless otherwise noted. I generally shoot in aperture mode and do very little post-processing other than cropping.)

Adelie penguin, Yalour Islands, taken from the ship’s deck in a brisk breeze, to put it mildly

A solitary penguin, bent like an old man, becomes a monk contemplating life’s mysteries (like, who decided leopard seals were a good thing?).  

Contemplative Gentoo penguin, Pleneau Island. Taken from the shore while surrounded by penguins squawking, braying, sliding, and waddling.
Taken from a bouncing Zodiac in the Yalour Islands. Holding the camera still was a challenge, so I made sure the shutter speed was fast enough to counteract the motion. The blue ice can be 10,000 years old!
“Sinking ship” ice berg with our non-sinking ship in the background. Taken from Stonington Island, our first shore stop in Antarctica

Icebergs are the Rorschach inkblots of the sea.  One seems to have sprouted a small house; another resembles a sinking ship; a third is a teapot or perhaps a swan. 

Teapot? Swan? Taken from a bouncing Zodiac, Yalour Islands.

The sunlight and shadows reveal faces in the mountains and heavenly auras.

Face in mountains, Marguerite Bay. Taken from the ship in calm conditions
Heavenly aura, Lemaire Channel. Taken from the ship in calm conditions with my iPhone XR

Tips and Equipment.  The cold weather rapidly drains camera batteries, so bring an extra battery if you have one.  Lighting can be a challenge, shifting from piercing sunshine to leaden overcast and back in moments, and the snow can be so bright that the subject turns out too dark.  I found myself taking the same shot multiple times with varying exposure compensations.  (It would have been easier to figure out “bracketing,” but I was too lazy.)  I brought two lenses with me – 24-200 mm and 200-500 mm.  Unlike several other photographers on the trip, I barely used the longer lens.


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