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Where have you always wanted to travel to for photography? For f-stop Ambassador Antonio Liebana he fulfilled a childhood ambition by visiting the Antarctic to capture both the wildlife and the landscape. We caught up with him after he got back to hear about his personal highlights, the gear he used, and hear his plans for the next places to tick off his list - and to enjoy his stunning images from the Antarctic...
You recently traveled to Antarctica and came back with some amazing shots of both wildlife and landscape. What was the primary focus of your trip?
Thanks. Yes, last month I got back from my first trip to Antarctica, and without a doubt it was an incredible experience - as well as fulfilling a dream I have had to go there since I was a child. As this was my first trip the objectives were clear... photographing absolutely everything that caught my attention! I especially wanted to shoot the wildlife, although when you get there it is difficult to resist the incredible frozen landscapes offered by the white continent. It was certainly a trip that I will repeat soon!
Antarctica is perhaps one of the most inhospitable and remote regions of the planet with temperatures that are constantly below zero. It is a true white paradise that is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the photographer.
In this case, for me I was full of enthusiasm for being able to photograph different species of penguins. Once there, when I went to work in the penguin colonies it was like a true photographic frenzy: thousands of subjects near you, and a thousand things happening at once ...and you have to focus on one of those thousand interactions that take place simultaneously!
Without a doubt, it is a unique experienceto stand with your camera in hand in the midst of of a penguin colony, and to try and focus and do your best while still observing which will be your next scene.
Working in such harsh conditions must present some challenges for the photographer. Can you explain your day-to-day shooting routine there?
As with any photographic trip it is non-stop. You get up at 5 o'clock in the morning on the boat, have breakfast with one eye on the scene outside through one of the ship's portholes. After a short briefing, you disembark for the morning session, come back to the boat for lunch and with barely time to back up your cards, go back to out on the ice again or cruise in a zodiac boat looking for whales or seals.
The pace is frantic and with hardly a spare moment. Even when you are back onboard, the best opportunities for landscape photos are often from the deck of the boat, and on top of that it is not uncommon for seabirds and whales to pass very close by. The time you spend on deck, waiting for something to happen is certainly exhausting but very exciting at the same time.
On this trip we noticed that you switched up packs. What were you using to carry your gear?
For this trip, when landing from the main boat, I was traveling a small Zodiac semi-rigid inflatable boat, so you need to be hightly mobile to avoid falling into the water if the sea was rough! So I decided to change from my usual inseparable travel partner - my Tilopa set up - and instead used the Lotus pack with the Wrap Kit, wrapping all my lenses except the 500 mm. This way I could fit two full frame bodies, a 16-35mm, a 100-400mm, a 500mm with a 50 mm multiplier, and my laptop when travelling. The most surprising thing was that there was plenty of space in the pack!
Now you have fulfilled a dream ticking Antarctica off your list, what will your next project be?
So far this year, in just five months I have traveled to Kenya, Antartica, Finland and India, in addition to travel within Spain. That has already taken me to a lot of incredible corners of the globe for nature photography, so my next project will be closer to home.. literally! I am working on highlighting a conservation project with urban Peregrine Falcon hawks in the city of Madrid. Some eight pairs have settled right in the center of the city, and with the selfless work of conservation biologists the trend looks likely to increase. This is something that I feel is worth highlighting, something truly special - not just because it is in the city where I live! Being neighbors in the same city with these wonderful birds makes a wonderful photographic subject. I find it amazing to go and photograph these metropolitan wild hawks that have chosen to make their home in Madrid!