It’s a quote attributed to everyone from Ansel Adams to a nameless photo editor, and even Weegee.
But it remains some pretty good advice. It means simply: You have to actually be there to get the picture. Seems simple enough. The reality though, is that depending where you are, this could mean waking up hours before dawn, staying out late in the evening stamping your feet trying to stay warm, or like in this instance, missing dinner.
We had had an amazing day slowly making our way south through the first-year ice in The Gullet, a small space between Adelaide Island and the main part of the Antarctic continent. At around 4pm the thickening ice caused our captain to turn around and head back north. We had spent all day on deck photographing in the incredible sunny weather, and everyone was beat.
I had sat down to dinner with some friends at around 7:30, and was just finishing my salad when my eyes were drawn out the side window. The light, it was getting interesting. Really interesting.
“I’m really sorry, you’re gonna have to excuse me. I have to go take pictures now.” I usually had my camera bag nearby for whatever whale or iceberg came into view, so I just grabbed it and headed out.
In the course of about an hour, I shot probably 50 different scenes. There was the light on the far mountains (above), Crabeater seals resting on ice floes, the sun setting through milky cirrus clouds over the broken-up pack ice, and even a Snow Petrel in flight (below). The light was amazing, changing quickly and causing me to run front and back, side to side, all over the ship to get a shot of whatever had just caught my eye. It really was an “F8 and being there” kind of situation: there was a great picture everywhere you looked.
I spent at least an hour out there, running around on deck photographing in all directions, while nearly everyone else was eating dinner. When I came back in my friends were just finishing their dessert. The waiter had kindly put a dome over my pasta so it would be there when I returned.
The pasta was still a bit warm, so wolfed some down. Was it worth it? Absolutely.