On a trip to Antarctica, Alex Cornell came across a rare sight: an iceberg that had flipped upside down revealing its otherworldly glowing underside. Cornell gives us a breakdown of his trip, what he brought, how he shot and processed his image, and lastly how he released the image to the public, resulting in viral success that lasted two weekends:
What to Wear in Antarctica
On a trip to one of the coldest places on Earth, you need to bring not only clothing to keep you warm but the right clothing so you can still use your photography gear and access your equipment easily. Here’s what Cornell typically wore during his trip:
- Balaclava to keep his head warm
- Sunglasses to protect his eyes from the constant sun that reflected off the snow and ice
- GoPro on his chest to capture video
- Hestra snow gloves that were warm enough but also gave him enough dexterity to handle his equipment
- Arc’teryx outerwear
Once he was all padded and toasty warm he would head out, often in a zodiac boat, on choppy freezing waters. This resulted in some decisions on the camera gear he brought along.
In case he were to lose his camera overboard, Cornell chose to bring along an old Canon 5D Mark II that was practically falling apart. This way if he did lose it, he wouldn’t have to worry too much about replacing it. He carried all his gear in a Lowepro ProTactic bag, which he chose for its size and accessibility and which also has the added bonus of a rain shield hidden in the bottom. He also brought along three lenses:
Both images in the video were shot using the 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. He explains that it was the most versatile lens and since it was a wide angle lens, it was perfect for capturing the stunning beauty of Antarctica.
Post-Processing in Lightroom
Cornell shows us his workflow for two images: the flipped iceberg and a sunset. Using Lightroom, he makes only minor adjustments.
For the iceberg image, he wanted to make it look as realistic as possible and to reflect what he saw with his eye. He shot the original image in RAW using neutral settings so the camera wasn’t making any alterations before upload. Because of this, the image looks a bit flat and needs some enhancement. Here are Cornell’s suggestions:
- Take a look at the histogram to make sure there isn’t any clipping or crunching that needs to be corrected. Cornell only brought his global exposure up a little here to brighten the image without blowing out the sky.
- Bring up the shadows slider down to increase the dark places in the iceberg but be careful to monitor the waves in the water around the shadows so he wouldn’t lose the details there.
- Increase the clarity to enhance the contrast and bring out all the details in the creases of the ice and make the edges look sharper. He was careful here, since increasing it too much starts to make the ice look unrealistic.
- Increase the saturation to make the blues in the ice pop, especially since shooting in RAW didn’t leave the image looking as bright as the eye saw it.
- Add some sharpening.
- Enable lens profile corrections, which automatically correct the distortion from the wide angle and remove the vignetting around the edges.
- Skip over further enhancements/filters/grain to make the image look as realistic as possible.
Cornell didn’t do any major enhancements on this image, so he showed us a second edit with a photo from sunset that came out of the camera looking really blue. For this, he mostly did a white balance correction that warmed the image up significantly.
- Drag the white balance slider all the way to the right adding yellow back into the image to correct the cool blue color cast.
- Enhance clarity significantly, bringing out the details in the mountains.
- Enhance saturation significantly to bring out the colors from the sunset.
- Add the lens profile correction to correct the distortion and vignetting.
- Add a lot of grain for effect.
It’s unusual for Cornell to make this many edits, however, he felt it was necessary to create the effect he was going for. As you can see, the final image is much different from the first.
Managing the Release
To release this photo to the public, Cornell chose to only use one blog and picked Colossal for its huge audience. His view counts shot up to over 14,000 in one day, and the images went viral for two weekends—an unusual feat. When he takes a look at his referrer stats, he can see who else is also sharing his photo and this is a good place to find out where may be a good place to release photos in the future. This is also a great way to see who your audience is and who is enjoying your work.
Cornell tells us this image was nothing special and that anyone could have taken it (and did alongside him), but with the right post-processing and management of the release, an image can go from ordinary to viral within a day. Anyone ready to suit up for a trip to Antarctica?
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