Photography by Jill Schneider
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All About Ice: Exploring Antarctica with Photographer Phil Schermeister

Over the past 25 years, photographer Phil Schermeister has completed more than 40 assignments for National Geographic magazine and other Nat Geo publications. He has photographed in dozens of countries on four continents—from Antarctica to Iceland and the Pacific Northwest. In his search for “decisive moments” in nature, Phil seeks out drama in the forces that sculpt natural landscapes. We sat down with Phil to talk about his enthusiasm for Antarctica’s ice and his advice for photographers journeying to the White Continent.

Krystle Wright, Photographer & Cinematographer

Tell us about your most memorable trip to Antarctica.

Travel with National Geographic

14 Days

Journey to Antarctica

19 Days

South Georgia and the Falklands

35 Days

Epic Antarctica Voyage: The Peninsula to the Ross Sea

On a recent expedition cruise aboard the National Geographic Orion, heavy ice in the Lemaire Channel blocked our passage south. We could also see on the radar that a storm was migrating up north to meet us. Thanks to our expedition leader and captain, we changed our plans and managed to stay in front of the storm for the rest of the trip—and were rewarded with one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen, as well as multiple sightings of blue whales!

You’re joining us next year on our Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falklands expedition. What, for you, are some of the highlights of this trip?

If you want to explore the planet’s southernmost realms, this is the dream trip. Not only will you get a chance to cruise among gigantic blue icebergs on a Zodiac and catch an unforgettable glimpse of a breaching whale, but you’ll also have the opportunity to walk along the shores of South Georgia, surrounded by 100,000 pairs of king penguins and elephant seals. It's difficult to summarize such an extensive journey in just a few highlights—it’s simply incredible.

What motivates you as a photographer?

The trick to getting consistently beautiful wildlife and landscape photos is time. I love that Mother Nature offers us no guarantees; you just have to forget about the clock and immerse yourself in the environment, awaiting that spectacular moment when light, landscape, and subject all come together in picture-perfect harmony.

Tell us about a National Geographic assignment that you particularly enjoyed.

In 2013, I joined three American women as they traveled the length of the Amur River—the third longest free-flowing river in the world—on a project called “Nobody’s River,” supported by a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant. The two-month kayaking expedition was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows as we weaved our way through remote wildernesses and communities in Mongolia and Russia, documenting everything that we saw. It’s not too often in this day and age that one can achieve a feeling of being utterly untraceable—and during parts of this journey, we actually had no way to reach the outside world! It was surreal.

Why, in your opinion, is it important to travel?

I believe that travel is one of the best forms of education out there. It’s given me the ability to engage with the world around me rather than be stuck behind a screen in the confines of my home. The spontaneity of travel presents us with a host of challenges, forcing us to think outside of the box and leading us to unexpected places and extraordinary people, which we would otherwise never encounter.

What piece of advice would you give to travelers discovering Antarctica?

Even though the environments down south withstand some of the most volatile storms on the planet, they are extremely fragile. As a community, we need to continue to educate ourselves—and others—about these icy ecosystems, and emphasize the need to keep protecting them. Also: get ready for a wild adventure!

Learn the art of adventure photography with Krystle Wright on a National Geographic expedition cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falklands.