Antarctica Here We Come

The Magellan Explorer – The Perfect Expedition Ship

PhotoPXL and Rockhopper Workshops are headed to Antarctica. I have been traveling to Antarctica since 2004. Five years ago, my wife and I got married by the ship’s captain on a beach in Neko Harbor. See below for a few photos of our wedding. The 60 other photographers who were on the trip with us attended the wedding. Antarctica is my favorite place on the planet, along with South Georgia Island. Anyone who has traveled there with me will have to agree. On every trip, something special happens to make the experience unique and life-changing. I can’t wait to see what this year’s special moment will be.

The Captian of The Ocean Nova presides over our wedding
Our wedding ceremony in Antarctica.  Christian Fletcher, Art Wolfe, and Micahel Reichmann are my best men
Our wedding ceremony in Antarctica.  Christian Fletcher, Art Wolfe, and Micahel Reichmann are my best men
The vows
Exchanging vows
my wedding
Debra and I on the beach at Neko Harbor

This year, we are departing on a brand new ship, the Magellan Explorer, which is run by Antarctica 21, the charter company I have been working with for years. We will all meet on February 14 in Punta Arenas, and then we will fly to King George Island, where we will Zodiac out to our ship for departure. You can see the details of this trip on our Rockhopper Workshops page.

A Video Showing The Magellan Explorer

I am very excited about traveling on a brand new expedition ship built especially for Antarctic waters. Below is a video of the Magellan Explorer. This is a big step up from the other ships I have sailed on. Our original trips were on Russian research ships converted to expedition ships. The Russians weren’t fooling anyone, as these were really decommissioned spy ships. They were comfortable but rough, and you really felt like an explorer when you were on them.

Ocean Nova
Ocean Nova

The Ocean Nova is by far my favorite ship. It is like a floating Ikea—still a bit rough and basic, but very capable. The crew and staff on the Ocean Nova are some of the finest and friendliest out there. I have sailed the Ocean Nova not just in Antarctic waters but also in the Arctic and Greenland.

Amazing things that will be seen

Now we enter a whole new phase of luxury and expedition ship design. Antarctica 21 spent the last two years designing and building the Magellan Explorer in Chile. This ship has larger, more comfortable cabins, stabilizers for smoother sailing, an ice-hardened hull, and all sorts of other modern amenities. The big plus is it will still carry just around 60 passengers. The size of this ship allows us to go where many other, bigger cruise ships can’t.

The instructors on this trip are Art Wolfe and Michael Durr. Everyone should know Art. He’s not only a great friend but also, in my opinion, one of the best photographers living today, not to mention one of the best instructors and lecturers I know. Art and I have been on many teaching trips together, to all corners of the globe, and we are both looking forward to the new ship and to meeting up with our attendees. Michael Durr will be making his first trip with us. He’s a PhotoPXl staff member and is responsible for our videos. He’s a high-energy guy, always happy and fun to hang with. Plus, he’s a very creative photographer and brings some young blood to the scene. Michael has two young sons at home, the youngest only a few months old.

We look forward to welcoming 28 guests onboard for an amazing adventure. You can read about the itinerary and details of this workshop on our Rockhopper Workshop page.

What to Expect


For photographers, this trip will be a bit overwhelming. The number of photographable scenes will be amazing. No matter where you point your camera, there is a shot. There will be birds following the ship that you can spend hours photographing. There are stunning coastline scenes. Then there will be hundreds of icebergs of all shapes and sizes. Some will be as large as cities (no kidding).

Leopard Seal up close

On our landings, we will see more landscapes and beaches teeming with wildlife. We’ll see more penguins than you have ever imagined. There will be abstract shapes everywhere that we can explore, sunsets and sunrises. And let’s not forget whales, dolphins, and seals. You think of Antarctica as a formidable place, and then you see all this wildlife, and you’ll wonder how they even exist.

Typically we make at least two land excursions each day with Zodia and ship cruises in between.  This is a non-stop trip and there is always something to see and photograph.

On a more serious note, everyone is asking what we will see regarding the effects of global warming. I’m afraid we may see a lot. Antarctica is warming faster than any other part of the earth, and to ignore or brush off global warming is very dangerous. Just yesterday, the temperature was a record high of 64°F on the peninsula we will be visiting. This is very serious, and we will have lectures aboard the ship. We will try to come back as better ambassadors of the dangers of global warming and as spokesmen for what we can do.

Look for more on our trip when we return.

Our Gear for Antarctica

Kevin’s Gear – a Sony a7riv and Sony a9. @4-70mm G-master, 16-35mm G-master and a100-400mm G-Master.

Michael and I got together the other day and did a few videos about getting ready for the trip. 

Because we are flying over the Drake Passage, we will be saving almost five days of sailing on the roughest seas, but we face some restrictions on the amount of weight we are allowed to bring. The total weight for passengers, including carry-on, is 44 pounds or 20 kilograms. This means, as photographers, that we travel heavy on the camera side and light on the clothing side. I have done many of these trips, so I know it can be done, but it does require a bit of juggling and planning.

Below are the videos of what camera gear we are bringing and how we packed it. There is a video for both of us showing what we are packing and why. The fourth video is weigh-off. So once we know what our camera bag weights, we can work on the clothes side of things.

It’s not all that bad because there is a laundry service on the ship. I take a large rolling duffle with all my clothes to get to Punta Arenas. Prior to the trip, I pack all the items I will need on the ship. I bring along a small duffle bag, and when I get to the hotel in Punta Arenas, I take what I need and pack it in the small duffle. We can leave our bigger rolling duffle in storage and pick it back upon our return.

In my small duffle for the ship, I pack two pairs of pants, a set of long underwear, two hats, two pairs of gloves, my reduced size toiletry kit, sleepwear, two pairs of heavy socks (for the boots we will wear), and two lighter socks for onboard the ship. I bring a lightweight pair of deck shoes for the ship, medication, and power cords and such for computers and cameras.

Going to the ship, I wear long underwear, regular clothes with waterproof pants, a down vest, an outside jacket, and a waterproof shell. Since I wear all of this, it doesn’t count toward my weight limits.

The bottom line is that I use all my allotted 44 pounds, and I use the ship’s laundry to get things cleaned, and somehow it all works.


Michael’s Gear

The Videos
(For those who are interested, these videos were made with the Sony a6500) 

This video introduces the trip and the challenges of packing. 

This video shows what Michael is bringing.

This video shows the gear I am bringing. I do not bring a tripod. It’s too heavy, and I have never needed one for the type of photography we do there.

Finally, this last video is our weigh-in and shows how we packed our packs.


For many of our guests, this will be the trip of a lifetime. A number of guests are returning for a second time. As I mentioned in the video, the key to success is to not bring a ton of gear that you will end up not using. It’s hard, especially if you are like me and suffering from a crippling case of GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I am happy with what I am bringing. The Sony a7riv will give me high-res files that will be outstanding for larger prints. The Sony a9 will give me the AF and FPS I need to catch fast-moving wildlife. The G-Master 100-400 is a lens I will use for most of the trip. Check out my past article and video—My Favorite Lens —to see how well this lens works. 

I’ll also have my MacBook Pro with me and will download files after each excursion. I try to cull and do initial adjustments while on the ship. I have our 2TB external SanDisk drives with me for backup, and I do this sometimes two times a day. I do not erase my SD cards. When needed, I use new ones. This is another form of backup. Once I return home, I’ll move all my images over to my servers and then do a second copy at the gallery.

We’ll publish videos from this trip as well as images once we get home and work through a large number of RAWS we anticipate getting. So stay tuned. Michael and I will be staying an extra day in Santiago doing a day trip to Valparaiso for a special video and photo project.

I am leaving the site on autopilot and in the capable hands of Chris Sanderson and Debra while we are gone. Thanks for being part of the PXL family, and I do hope that you can join us on one of our workshops. I’ll be back in my office in major catch-up mode on February 26.

Kevin Raber
February 2020
Kevin Raber
Indianapolis, IN

Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.

Article Type: News, Columns, Videos, MISC

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