Scott Portelli’s captivating journey through the world with photography

antarctica iceberg provided

In this insightful article, we delve into a fascinating interview with renowned photographer, Scott, who has spent more than ten years capturing breathtaking visuals in the polar regions. Scott candidly shares his most unforgettable experiences, discusses his unique philosophy toward photography, and offers invaluable tips for shooting in the world’s most challenging conditions. This exclusive interview not only showcases his profound passion for photography but also his deep respect for the environments he works in. Overcoming extreme weather, getting up close with polar wildlife, and continuously adapting on the fly, Scott truly embodies resilience and the spirit of adventure. Join us as we embark on his extraordinary journey through the sublime beauty of Antarctica and the subantarctic and arctic regions. His captivating stories and expert advice will intrigue both budding photographers and seasoned travellers alike.

We had a chat with him to understand more about his beautiful world:

Scott, having spent over a decade in the polar regions, can you share one of your most unforgettable experiences and how it has impacted your photography?

Being in Antarctica is a privilege, to say the least, and pinpointing those special moments can be tricky as each day is surprising and new. One moment that stands out is one morning when I was sitting in my zodiac adrift in the clear, calm waters waiting for operations to commence and unexpectedly a Minke whale began to circle my boat. I was so overwhelmed by the encounter, I even forgot to take a photo. It was at this moment that I learnt two things about photography, one is to always be prepared and two, that is it is okay to just enjoy the moment.

seal pup provided

You’ve photographed in some of the world’s harshest environments. How do you prepare yourself both mentally and physically for these extreme conditions?

Preparing for an expedition like my upcoming one with Majestic Whale Encounters requires physically adapting to the cold by building your endurance up and staying comfortable in a changing environment. Mentally I will prepare by envisioning myself in the environment and understanding how it will affect everything I do, this ensures I have a backup plan to ensure everything goes smoothly.

For you, photography is all about the journey. Can you share a bit more about this philosophy and how it informs your work in Antarctica and the Subantarctic and Arctic regions?

Photographing these incredible destinations is not just about taking pictures and going home, it is all about the journey and what you learn along the way. The Antarctica Expedition with Majestic Whale Encounters allows you to fully immerse yourself in the surroundings and experience the destination in its entirety. From lectures onboard with subject matter experts such as marine biologists, historians and geologists to excursions in the icy wilderness, you have a visual feast of scenery, wildlife and history that tells the story of a place of exploration.

On this trip we will have the opportunity to snorkel and dive below the icy surface, it is something very few people on the planet can say they have done, making it one of the most amazing experiences for any seasoned traveller.

How does your approach to wildlife photography differ in polar regions as opposed to other environments, and what unique challenges and opportunities do these areas present?

The Polar regions are such pristine environments with very unique wildlife, being able to get up close with these creatures in their natural habitat is a privilege. The biggest challenge for a destination like Antarctica is the extreme conditions. In this part of the world, the changing weather dictates everything you do, but it becomes worth it when you spot penguins zipping through the ocean in Antarctica. In my position as a photographer in these extreme conditions, I ensure I am always prepared for the cold as well as being patient and persistent because you never know what can happen.

As you’ll be sharing your expertise with guests on the Majestic Whale Encounter’s Antarctica Expedition 2024, what are some key tips and techniques you plan to impart for photographing in challenging conditions?

Bring a long lens, as often the action happens when cruising in the ship or out on a zodiac cruising around the ice and landscapes. Ensure you are ready for a breaching whale, porpoising penguin or seals hauled out on the ice.

The freezing temperatures and weather will affect all your camera gear, so bring covers for cameras, rain jackets for camera bags and spare batteries as the cold will deplete the batteries faster than you think.

Make the most of the facilities on the ship you are travelling on. For my upcoming photography expedition with Majestic Whale Encounters, we will be aboard the Sylvia Earle vessel, which has one of the best decks to spot many animals including the albatross, petrels, prions and other marine birds that often fly close to the ship. This makes for some close encounters and great photography.

Read more at the Majestic Whale Encounters Antarctica Expedition 

All photos courtesy of Scott Portelli.