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Antarctica: Flights, Stays & Cafés My Favorite Photographic Gear & Guide to a Successful Journey

As I prepare for my next trip to the southernmost location on the globe (I go) I thought to put together a photographic gear guide to Antarctica to help others on their journey, along with a short guide to how I navigate getting to this far-off land. In this read, I’ll go through these items from camera gear to clothing, and everything in between including my favorite cheeseburger stop in Buenos Aires. Little known secret about me if you don't already know, I am a cheeseburger nut and will seek out the best burger in any country, city, town, municipality, domain, or village. I will find it. Stay tuned and looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Sony 100-400mm, 198mm, f/9, 1/1000sec, ISO 1250

Antarctica is a special place like no other on the globe. Just getting to this beautiful location is an adventure, even before you depart from Ushuaia on your floating hotel that’ll be called home as you set out from the mainland and cross the Drake Passage. You'll likely need to traverse a hemisphere just to arrive at the departure point. Making your way to this southernmost port city is a journey in itself first getting to Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America, and changing planes which usually involves changing airports from Ezezia to Aeroparque which are an hour by taxi. It’s a trek! But the sights and experiences you will see and experience are like no other.

The clothing and camera gear you take on a trip like this is pretty specific, but not much different than what you would take on a cold-weather adventure or normal photography trip anywhere else. You need warm weather gear: layers, layers, and more layers. It’s simple ;) And you want your camera gear that cover the major focal lengths from near to far. What I find to work for me in the clothing department consists of the following and I approach with a 1, 2, 3 system being base, mid, and outer layers and for camera gear it is everything from 14mm up to 400mm.

Tamron 28-200mm f/8, 19mm, 1/400sec, ISO 100


Base layers: A heavyweight wool top like Smartwool or my current favorite, Icewear from Iceland. Anything Merino and thicker will do. I also wear some mid-weight (warm) Helly Hanson leggings. These keep me toasty at the core. Something I find that works well for me is a thin set of wool glove liners to wick moisture as I move around on land. Keeping warm and dry is key.

Mid-layers: For my torso, I love vests to keep my core warm. Down or synthetic are my preference and if possible, one that has side vents or the sides of the vest are fleece altogether making for breathability. It’s important to stay dry and allowing your core to vent is critical. From here a mid-weight jacket or jumping up to your heavier-weight parka can work great.

For my legs, I tend to bounce between a pair of Mountain Hardware down pants beneath my rain shell or simple base layers. This depends on how cold it is outside. But on a really cold day, I will wear these and be very comfortable. They are very warm, so if you plan to do any hiking or moving around a lot on land they can tend to cause you to overheat.

My rain shell pants I love that also work well for all of my other outdoor trips are a pair of Kuiu; they are tried, true, and tested. These are made to stand up to abuse hunters put on their gear withstanding the elements and being dependable when the conditions get their worst. As a landscape and nature photographer who gets off-trail and into the rough, kneels on rocks and debris, and likes softer, stretchier, and quieter pants, these are excellent. They are robust with pockets and features I love. Typical rain shells like Arcteryx and others simply don’t work for me and my needs. They are far too delicate and cost more. Kuiu are the real deal and there’s a reason they’re so popular and favored among the outdoor community.

Sony 100-400mm, 268mm, f/9, 1/1000sec, ISO 1600

My outer jacket is a simple heavyweight down jacket from RAB. I have found through my years of buying and trying countless down jackets the English do these among the best. The English know what is needed to be comfortable in wet, damp, and cold environments. Anyone who has been to Scotland in the winter will know firsthand how tough and wet the conditions can be. RAB and Mountain Equipment are two such brands and I live in their gear when I need one to trust.

Gloves are pretty simple yet important. Having warm hands is a big deal and keeping dexterity a tough balance. I am a big fan of leather gloves and ones with seams on the outside like Hestra and RAB have to offer are my preferred. I am currently using the RAB Khroma Tour Gore-Tex gloves as they're light and warm, waterproof, and have the seams on the outside making them more tactile for camera operation and ease of use.

Tamron 28-200mm, 200mm, f/11, 1/400sec, ISO 100


Camera gear is so subjective and I understand this. We all have our favorite lenses, favorite focal lengths and why. But one thing I feel that can be agreed upon is needing to be sure you cover yourself having wide-angle to telephoto lenses, and everything in between.

Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS - The king of the lens lineup down south. This will likely be your favorite telephoto lens and live on your camera. It isolates penguins in a grouping getting to just one, zooms into the far-off and distant peak a mile away, or it simply makes you look like a pro, this focal length is indispensable to so many wildlife photographer’s kits you can’t argue its importance. Sure, it's not the fastest glass, but it is versatility for those of us who cross over into the wildlife realm from landscapes and other genres are huge. This one lens's flexibility is excellent and will get you 90% of your images on land, on zodiac rides, and from the ship’s deck.

Tamron 28-200mm, 200mm, f/6.3, 1/3200sec, ISO 100

Tamron 28-200mm F2.8-5.6 Di III RXD - I could live with just this one lens if I had to choose one to stick with for the rest of my days shooting (Wow, what a claim! And, I'm not even paid to say this! :)). I love this focal length more than the 100-400, but this is just a personal preference. It’s just so flexible I rarely take it off my Sony A7RV, even on a normal landscape trip of mine (All my Workshops are here). Being able to have pretty much every focal length covered, and having a relatively wide aperture doing it, is great. Bokeh is decent and the images are SHARP! And for the travel photographers here, it stays pretty wide open up to around 110mm before getting to f/5'sh territory which makes portraits on this lens look great. At 35-50mm you are around f/4; awesome!

Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN A - Here’s where I find a focal length gets overlooked and oftentimes regarded as being not important or not needed. My one piece of advice is if anyone tells you one camera and one lens is all you need being the 100-400mm for a landing please don’t drink the Kool-Aid. We all have our preferences as I have already mentioned above, but some of my favorite images have been created on this lens, and had I not gone with my gut I wouldn't have certain images in my library I currently do. One such image is below. I can’t stress this one enough.

Sigma 14-24mm, 17mm, f/13, 1/250sec, ISO 100

12mm Voigtlander (or similar focal length; Discontinued) - This is extremely niche, but when you need one, you need one. Imagine riding a zodiac and you come up on an iceberg that is towering into the sky and you can see its base descending into the water below, but you are feet from it. You need to capture it all! There would be no other lens you could use to get this image.

These final two lenses in my lineup I saved for the end as they’re so important and I feel truly get shrugged off and overlooked. I saved them to the end feeling they’re critical and shouldn’t be left at home.


Sony A7RV - It may not be the fastest frame rate out there, but its AF is incredible and outside of two penguins fighting or two Fur Seals in battle, you just need to get a sharp image. And its higher megapixel count is welcomed when needing to crop in just a bit more to get the shot.

Sony A7iii - It’s nearing the end of its lifespan, but this little camera still holds its own. It’s small, light, and relatively fast shutter speed making this an excellent second body for me or backup when my A7RV isn’t needed. The 24mp sensor is a workhorse in low light and won’t chew through storage.

Sony 100-400mm, 400mm, f/9, 1/1000sec, ISO 200


This is a tough one and one I feel I’m still working out, but only in this environment. I also feel my current setup works pretty well overall balancing size, utility, and practicality both on the ship, in the zodiacs, and during landings in my everyday.

My primary bag is the Mindshift Horizon 180. I love this bag for its beautiful rotation design. I’m not sure why this bag isn’t more popular, but this is for another write-up. Currently, in Antarctica, you cannot sit, kneel, or lay on the snow due to the concern for spreading Avian Flu which is threatening wildlife and their future. I simply slip on the rain cover during zodiac crossings carrying my gear and keeping things dry. Once on land, I pull out my cameras, strap them onto my PeakDesign Capture Clips, and go. I have my extra lenses in the rotation compartment, lens wipes, memory cards, etc. at hand never needing to take off my camera bag, and am also able to distribute weight on my shoulders. I find this system to work very well, not only in Antarctica but anywhere I go. I use this bag full-time as I'm not a big fan of traditional backpacks as I never like taking my bag off and laying it down in sand, or snow; everything stays clean and dry.

Tamron 28-200mm, 126mm, f/8, 1/2000sec, ISO 250


For this upcoming trip, I am going to try out a dual BlackRapid strap system just to see if having both cameras on a tether will be more convenient and comfortable than trying to click them onto my PeakDesign clips that are on the shoulder straps of my backpack. I will still be carrying my camera backpack, I just would like to try this system working on dialing in the (perfect) system for me and my style of shooting.


A few tips not in the write-up on logistics and navigation to Ushuaia and how I like to break my trip up getting to the South Pole:

The trip to Ushuaia is a long one. As a result, I love breaking up the trip with a stopover in Buenos Aires for a day or two on each leg to rest and dive into local culture, history, and food. Anyone who knows me knows I travel for food, namely cheeseburgers, with photography a close second ;) Buenos Aires has its fair share of dives to riches in the food department, dives being top of my list. Anthony Bourdain was not wrong in finding holes in the wall among some of the best places to enjoy a meal. While on these stopovers one also needs to sleep and rejuvenate, and I find nothing better than slipping into local culture via AirBnB's.

Tamron 28-200mm, 200mm, f/16, 1/8sec, ISO 100

I love staying in Airbnb's, especially in South America. I find the accommodations to be super luxe at incredible price points per night, and a vacation from (my) reality. I love staying in neighborhoods feeling a bit more like a local, sliding into the culture and disappearing a bit; becoming one with the rest. I love to assimilate as much as I can in my short window of time. My favorite neighborhoods are around the Palermo and Montserrat areas. This puts me at a close hop to airport Aeroparque (AEP) day of my flight to Ushuaia. More on this below.

Anyone flying into Buenos Aires will arrive at Ezeiza International Airport (EZE), and many times, will connect to Ushuaia (USH) via Airport Aeroparque (AEP). These two airports are about an hour apart as AEP is in the city's heart along the eastern edge. Making this connection after you’ve already flown overnight is a struggle, but can be done. Just be sure to give yourself at least four hours between flights this day if you choose to be a hero. This is why and where landing EZE in the morning, getting a cab into the city to any one of the city's many delicious cafes for a croissant and cafe while you await checking in is priceless.

Sony 100-400mm, 333mm, f/5.6, 1/3200sec, ISO 100

- Pro tip: nightly rates at many AirBnB's are in the ballpark of USD $30-$50 so I pay for the night before my arrival letting the host know exactly what I am doing. I explain why I wouldn’t be collecting the keys the day prior during the normal check-in period and that I’d need them first thing the day I arrive. They are always so helpful. Do I enjoy hotels: yes. But I love supporting local and this is just one more way to do it and as a bonus, it’s so fun getting new ideas on how you might want to decorate your home one day.

- Eat

  • The Burger Joint, Jorge Luis Borges 1766, C1414 CABA, Argentina. A total neighborhood spot with writing on every part of the wall, floor to ceiling. I always go for the basic cheeseburger.

- Sleep

  • Palermo or Montserrat neighborhoods.

  • Hotel: I love Be Hollywood Hotel Buenos Aires when going for a hotel. It's excellent, clean, well-located, and always accommodating.

    • Humboldt 1726, C1414 CTR, Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • AirBnB’s: These are my preference. Just search the neighborhoods listed above and be sure to read reviews from previous guests. I keyword search “bed”, “clean”, and “quiet” in my keywords when in the Reviews section. I also make sure they are a Super Host. This just adds a little bit more peace of mind. This is in no way to suggest AirBn'B's are not safe or comfortable. Contrary; I find them to often be better than hotels in this regard as the owners are cleaning and preparing only one guest spot with all their attention there. In these reviews, you can see what others have read making sure anything you find important to you and making your stay as comfortable as can be boxes ticked.

- Drink


  • Busier and with great breakfasts: Von Berry House, C1425FVB, Fitz Roy 2192, C1425 CABA, Argentina

  • One I find more artisan and local-vibe, no food: Clout Café Collective, Paraguay 5020, C1425BTD CABA, Argentina

Happy Hour:

- ATM (very safe and with regular security. Very centrally located when staying in these neighborhoods)

  • HSBC, C1425FSC, Av. Juan Bautista Justo 801, CABA, Argentina

- Pro tip: Charles Schwab offers a free checking account that refunds all ATM and foreign fees. These can amount to a lot over time. I also transfer only a small amount into this account from my Wells Fargo account before leaving home. If I am mugged or have any issues while away this card and the account it is attached to limit the financial amounts potentially stolen.

How do I stay organized with all these flights, hotels, taxi cabs, dinner reservations, and more, and rental cars?! TripIt, it will help you so much. Trust me as someone who has multiple flights, hotels, rental cars to collect, AirBnB's to check into, and in one trip, it is indispensable. It will also tell you metrics about any neighborhood you stay in rating safety, accessibility, and more. It has been truly life-changing for me and my travels.

Sony 100-400mm, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/3200sec, ISO 160

In Buenos Aires there is so much to do. Between eats and drinks, museums to cafés; you’ll have more to do than these couple of days will allow. But this will get you started.

I hope this short write-up will be helpful. Trimming down a trip like this into a short read isn’t the easiest feat, but I hope it was concise and gives a bit of a window into how you can prepare for your adventure to Antarctica, or Buenos Aires for that matter. For anyone wishing to join me on one of my photography workshops, please visit my Pro Page at Muench Workshops which lists this trip among the other workshops I lead. I love getting off the beaten path both when creating my images and when in the field teaching which is my passion. I would love to travel with you and hope to see you on a future photographic adventure.

Good light to you and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this piece. Please feel free to comment in the comments section below and I would love to see you on a future workshop of mine.

- Joseph Royal -

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