Visiting Antarctica for the first time is one of the most awe-inspiring adventures of most people’s lives.
The White Continent’s harsh extremes belie its fragility and according to National Geographic photographer Michaela Skovranova, an opportunity to explore this enchanted land should not be missed.
Skovranova’s most recent opportunity was with OPPO on the Uncover Antarctica Expedition, where she was road-testing the manufacturer’s flagship smartphone, the Find X2 Pro in one of the world’s most forbidding environments.
An ardent environmentalist and nature photographer, this particular trip was Skovranova’s fourth to Antarctica but she says the experience changes dramatically every time.
“I had never been there that late in the season before. So, while I kind of had an idea of what to expect I didn’t really know what it was going to look like,” Skovranova says.
“Every visit presents its own set of challenges and you’re never sure what you are going to see. You hope to see penguins and wildlife but you also want to marvel at the extraordinary landscapes and seascapes that support so much wildlife as well.”
According to Skovranova, preparation for this trip was a lot easier than for most visitors because she had been there before.
There were two big variants on her previous trips. It was late summer so the forecast was predicting weather to be a lot warmer than usual and she was using completely different equipment.
“One goal for me was to shoot and narrate a three-minute video highlighting Antarctica on the smartphone.”
For Skovranova, capturing the Antarctic on a smartphone was an exciting new way to chronicle her travels. Not only did it represent an opportunity to photograph landscapes and wildlife on a small, handheld device but it provided her with a simple way to shoot video as well as record the often otherworldly sounds of the White Continent.
As soon as the expedition was underway Skovranova immediately began her photographic and video assignment and noticed how seamless it was to shoot with.
The expedition set sail from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego out across the Drake Passage. It’s the shortest route to Antarctica from any continent and it’s known as the most formidable and fearsome ocean crossing in the world.
On previous expeditions, Skovranova said the crossing had been quite benign but this time, “it was at its roughest and the crew told us we were getting the full Drake experience.”
“Icy cold winds coming up from Antarctica would hit the boat in huge bone-chilling gusts and the swell was huge. It got up to six to eight metres in height and the boat rolled around in the swell as we crossed.
“What it did give me was a real appreciation of what those first explorers must have experienced in the rough seas although we were lucky to be travelling in luxury onboard a great comfortable ship.
“The journey also made me realise just how remote Antarctica is from the rest of the world.”
A particular bonus on the journey down to the White Continent was Skovranova had an opportunity to road-test the OPPO Find X2 Pro in some pretty extreme conditions.
“I was able to capture some images of the swell on video and shoot some amazing stills. The beauty of the phone was I wasn’t overly worried about salt spray damaging the lens or even the movement of the ship.
“We were hit with spray, rain and snow on the trip down and because the phone is waterproof, I could just wipe it clean. What’s more, shooting on the phone meant I could keep myself stable in extraordinarily rough seas.”
As for those early photographs, Skovranova says she captured a number of great images especially as they sailed closer to Antarctica.
“The seascapes and the ice are iconic. You cannot see views like these anywhere else on the planet and the light is spectacular – it changes moment to moment.
“You never knew what you were going to see because we were sailing, always on the move and there was always something new to observe and document.”
And because Skovranova was shooting on the OPPO Find X2 Pro, she was able to just get out there and “point and shoot.”
“I wanted to give myself as many options as possible and with the phone, I could just shoot anything at a moment’s notice.”
Learn more about Michaela Skovranova's journey with the OPPO Uncover Antarctica expedition here.