Inspirations – Fire in the Sky by Edward Cooley
Phase One P65+, 45mm, ISO 200, 1/100 sec, f/11
Being my first trip to Antarctica, I was a little nervous. It was an expensive trip, the weather unpredictable and a 36 hour boat ride across rough waters of the Drake Passage added to my concern. The conditions were socked in most of the way across the passage and visibility seemed to be getting worse the further south we cruised. I am a landscape shooter and was getting more and more worried about the weather. Prior to the trip, I had heard horror stories about storms with 50mph winds lasting for weeks providing very little opportunity for landings let alone landscape photography.
Our first Antarctic landing was scheduled at Half-Moon Bay in the South Shetland Islands. Approaching the islands I anxiously waited on the bridge looking through fog for signs of land. Five miles off shore, the faint outlines of land slowly became visible. Over the next thirty minutes, maneuvering to the landing zone, the weather continued to clear. By the time we reached the bay skies were clear blue and the views were incredible. I was speechless inspecting the rugged, snow covered mountains that went from their peak straight to the ocean with glaciers visible in every direction. I was finally in the Antarctic and this first sighting of land was inspiring. It was as if we were floating through a flooded mountain range and those views continued for most of the next 7 days.
I’ll never forget the surreal sensation as we jumped out of zodiacs onto beaches covered with three or four feet of snow and literally hundreds of penguins. I decided to take a short hike to the top of a hill for a better vantage point to photograph the bay. Every few steps one of my feet would break through the hard snow dropping me thigh deep into the snow-pack. I looked over the crest of the hill and viewed this scene of Livingston Island with amazing clouds that looked like flames of fire reaching into the sky. The last remnants of the storm had passed south and I suspect the sunlight on cold snow was creating a strong updraft causing the formation. Needless to say my nervousness changed to excitement as I moved to best align the clouds with the mountains to capture my first landscape photograph of Antarctica. ~ Edward Cooley