2019 Calendars

Calendar sample

Over the past couple years, I have put together a calendar of my landscape and wildlife images from my adventures over the year.  This year is no different and here is a sampling of 6 photos for my 2019 calendar.  Images will come from faraway places including England, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Antarctica!

Before I place an order for the calendars, I would like to get an idea of who wants to purchase one (or more). They will be the standard 8.5 x 11 size and I’m charging $20 to cover costs. They can be picked up locally in the Phoenix, Arizona area (specifically Chandler and Gilbert).  If you would like it shipped, the additional cost will be $6.70 through USPS priority mail to cover shipping. Please let me know if you are interested and would like me to order you one (or more).  You can contact me through my website, http://www.amysimpressions.com or email me at amy_novotny@yahoo.com. Deadline for notification is November 20, 2018.

I am still working on processing thousands of images from Antarctica and will resume posts from that adventure soon!


The Drake Crossing

Ship 7391 October 19, 2018

Image: The bow of Kapitan Khlebnikov in the Drake Passage. iPhone 7 Plus, hand-held.

As promised by our expedition leader, we entered the Drake Passage around midnight of October 20, 2018.  I awoke to rocking and rolling around 11:50pm, and although the motion wasn’t horrible, it shifted me around in bed quite a bit and I was sick  Later that morning it was not much better as the constant tilt of the ship from side-to-side did not let up for a second.  For hours and hours, the boat rocked as it went over the rough seas of the Drake Passage.  I went up to the bridge at one point in attempt to watch the horizon to calm my spinning head.  The rocking back and forth was greater higher up in the ship but the ability to see the horizon helped.  The adventurous side in me enjoyed seeing the ship crash down into the water and waves come up over the bow.

Ship 8349 October 2018

Image: The bow of Kapitan Khlebnikov in the Drake Passage. iPhone 7 Plus, hand-held.

I learned much about the design of the icebreaker from the expedition staff as they tried to justify the excessive motion of the ship.  The ship did not have a keel or stabilizers to steady the ship in the open ocean since it was designed to have a flat bottom to be able to rise up onto sea ice several meters thick and crush it.  It was extremely effective for ice and served a very necessary purpose to get us to Snow Hill Island, but it was one of the worst type of ship for the Drake Passage.  Even very seasoned staff and passengers said this was one of their worst trips and many who did not get seasick were taking medication.  That made me feel slightly justified as I eventually resorted to getting a new medication from the ship’s physician that promptly put me to sleep.  Below is an image I took during one of the instances of the ship’s sideways tilt when I kept my phone level with the ship so that I could see how much the we angled with the horizon.

Ship 8331 October 2018

Image: The bow of Kapitan Khlebnikov in the Drake Passage. iPhone 7 Plus, hand-held.

The second night was the worst.  I fell twice, once in the middle of the night and once the next morning trying to get out of my top bunk.  Both times the ladder came crashing down on me, but I survived with nothing more than a couple bruises and sore body parts.  More alarming was what happened to my cabin mate in the middle of that day when we were in a “holding” pattern in the middle of the Drake Passage for 25 hours.  We were both in the lounge area when she sat down on a chair in front of the water station.  I sat in another chair next to a table for support as the ship rocked greatly from side to side (similar to my image above).  The ship lurched even more to the side and flung her and the chair 10 feet across the room before my very eyes.  I screamed out for her as I saw her go sideways and slide into a table.  She ended up with three injuries including a possible elbow stress fracture, making us very aware of the power of the Drake.

Ship 7375 October 2018

Although we did not like hearing that we were stalling for a day in the Drake Passage, we realized the ship was not built for passenger safety in a storm so it was a necessary delay.   We learned many details about that previous night’s storm from the staff members who had access to radar.  It turned out that we had faced 60 knot (70 mph) winds and a wave height of 7 m (23 ft) overnight.  By morning, the storm had calmed down and the weather charts looked like this at our current position on Day 2.

We were able to begin moving towards Antarctica again the following morning (Day 3) around 4am.  I wasn’t able to catch a video of the worst of the storms but on one part of the crossing during mild weather, I caught a video of the ship negotiating some of the waves.  As you can see in the images above and in the video below, I tried to keep the phone level with the ship so that you can see the tilt when comparing it to the horizon.

We were very grateful to enter the calm waters of the Antarctic Sound on Day 4.  Having never experienced seasickness for such an extended period of time, I was ecstatic! Crossing the Drake in a storm is almost considered a type of badge of honor among Antarctica veterans and I definitely earned it!

Next up, crushing ice!


The Voyage Begins…

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Image: Kapitan Khlebnikov in Ushuaia harbor, Argentina. iPhone 7 Plus,  hand-held.

Our new home arrived in Ushuaia’s harbor a half day early as we learned that a passenger on the trip before us had fractured a femur bone while walking on ice on Snow Hill Island and needed medical treatment.  We had also heard that that group experienced a “white out” that prevented helicopters from flying one of the days as well as -20 to -25 deg Celsius temps!! Fortunately, there were good endings, as the passenger received the necessary treatment and the group before us managed to see the Emperor penguins for 3 days.  We were hopeful and excited as we boarded the ship on the afternoon of October 19, 2018!

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Image: Amy in front of the Kapitan Khlebnikov, Ushuaia harbor, Argentina. iPhone 7 Plus,  hand-held.

The ship was large (132.4 m/434 ft long and 48.7 m/160ft high) and could hold 110 passengers and 70 staff.  We had just over 100 passengers from countries all over the world.  Some were serious photographers and some were not, but many had goals to visit all the penguin species in the world.  As I entered the ship, I took quick iPhone shots of the hallways, as I wanted to capture the feel of the ship.

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Image: Hallways of Kapitan Khlebnikov. iPhone 7 Plus,  hand-held.

I learned in one of the presentations from the expedition staff that the ship was built in Finland and launched in 1980 as an escort ice-breaker for other ships.  It was then remodeled in 1992 to carry passengers for Quark Expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic.  I was in one of the triple cabins on deck 6 and below is a snapshot of our accommodations for the two weeks. I was the lucky one who had the top bunk, which made for fun times when crossing the Drake Passage!

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Image: Triple cabin onboard Kapitan Khlebnikov. iPhone 7 Plus,  hand-held.

After dropping my camera gear in my new room, I quickly headed outside to check out the outer decks.  We boarded the ship on deck 4 and rooms were on levels 5-8.  The image below shows deck 8, the bridge level above it and the top deck.

Ship 7293 October 2018

Image: Outer deck 8 and above on Kapitan Khlebnikov. iPhone 7 Plus,  hand-held.

We had a short debriefing to meet the staff and learn the plan for the evening, followed by an emergency drill with our lifejackets.  There were 4 lifeboats onboard (see image below) as well as several zodiacs.  We were able to inspect the lifeboats and see inside them during the drill.

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Image: Lifeboat on Kapitan Khlebnikov. iPhone 7 Plus,  hand-held.

We were free after that to explore until dinner.  The top deck provided some great views of both the ship and the surrounding environment.

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Image: Kapitan Khlebnikov. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 27 mm, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

As we got underway, I took a couple final shots of Ushuaia in the evening light.  We were told that we would be sailing in the Beagle Channel for approximately 6 hours and would enter the Drake Passage around midnight.

Ushuaia 0968 October 19, 2018

Image: Ushuaia harbor, Argentina. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 44 mm, f/16, 1/200 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

I took some anti-seasickness medication at dinner and hoped that the Drake would be a “lake” and not a “shake.”   My wish was not granted…

For those more interested in the ship’s layout, please see the schematic below provided to us by Quark Expeditions.

01 - KK Deck Plan

Ushuaia–The End of the World

Ushuaia 9629 October 17, 2018

Image: Downtown Ushuaia, Argentina. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/13, 1/320 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

The trip to Antarctica began with a few days in Ushuaia, Argentina, also known as “El Fin del Mundo” or “The End of the World.” Since the ship to Antarctica left at a specific time and date with no leeway, it was encouraged to arrive at least a day early.  I had no trouble with delays or cancellations on the flights down to Argentina so that gave me 2.5 days to explore Ushuaia.  On the first full day, I went into town and walked along the main street.  I marveled at the beautiful snow-covered mountains surrounding the town that could be seen from the downtown area.

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Image: Downtown Ushuaia, Argentina. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 55 mm, f/13, 1/200 sec, ISO 200, hand-held.

A few people were out and about but it was still early for Argentinians.  The stores do not typically open until around 10 am since there is often nap time in the afternoon, and as part of the culture, people stay up late at night.  I walked along the streets, taking a few photos to get a feel of the town.  Many shops were geared towards tourists and advertised souvenirs or clothing for cold-weather climates.

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Image: Downtown Ushuaia, Argentina. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/16, 1/500 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

After walking along the main street, I headed down towards the docks and saw a beautiful old ship in the harbor.  It did not look like it was in use and I wasn’t sure if it served any other purpose but I enjoyed photographing it with the mountains in the background.

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Image:  Old ship in the harbor, Ushuaia, Argentina. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 60 mm, f/13, 1/400 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

There were a few birds flying around the harbor and I got acquainted with the dolphin gull, a bird native to southern Chile and Argentina.  It was fun photographing them with their vibrant red bill and ring around their eyes, and it gave me a little practice at wildlife photography for the upcoming voyage.

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Image: Dolphin Gull, Ushuaia, Argentina. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 340 mm, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

The next day I explored the nature preserve surrounding the Arakur Resort.  The trails began at the back of the hotel and led to a couple different areas.  One of the hikes took me to a peat bog that still had remnants of a recent snowfall.

Ushuaia 9910 October 17, 2018

Image: Peat bog, Ushuaia, Argentina. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 56 mm, f/14, 1/200 sec, ISO 400, hand-held.

The scenery got better and better as I explored the trails that took me into the native forest.   Occasionally I came to some openings in the forests but the area at the peat bog provided the most scenic views.

Ushuaia 0060 October 18, 2018

Image: Peat bog and surrounding mountains, Ushuaia, Argentina. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 70 mm, f/16, 1/25 sec, ISO 100, on tripod.

Later that night, I went out to photograph sunset and the city lights.  The Arakur Resort sits halfway up a mountain and provides a great overlook of Ushuaia.  As the sun set around 8:30pm, the sky lit up with pink clouds.  It was windy and cold (around freezing) but worth the effort.

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Image: Ushuaia, Argentina at night. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 24 mm, f/16, 1/3 sec, ISO 100, on tripod.

As it got later into the night, I captured the city coming alive.  Although it would have been fun to stay in a hotel in the downtown, I really enjoyed being closer to nature on the mountain and having the opportunity to photograph the whole town at night.

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Image: Ushuaia, Argentina at night. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 38 mm, f/8, 15 sec, ISO 100, on tripod.

The following morning (departure day!), I woke up very early to hike up to a hilltop before sunrise.  The light was nice and the ground was frozen and icy as I slowly made my way to this scenic view.  This image looking to the west and the next two are views from that same hilltop.

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Image: Ushuaia, Argentina before sunrise. Nikon D750, Nikkor 14-24 mm at 21 mm, f/16, 1.6 sec, ISO 100, on tripod.

As the sun began to rise, this view of Beagle Channel and the Chilean mountains in the distance began to glow.  I knew I would be on the icebreaker later that day going through this channel as we headed out to the southern ocean and the Drake Passage.

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Image: Ushuaia, Argentina at sunrise. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 60 mm, f/16, 1/25 sec, ISO 100, on tripod.

The wait for the sun in the freezing temperatures was well worth it.

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Image: Ushuaia, Argentina at sunrise. Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-70 mm at 28 mm, f/22, 1/30 sec, ISO 100, on tripod.

I captured a few shots and headed back down the trail to get ready for the adventure that awaited me…

A Welcome Greeting on Snow Hill Island


Image: Adult Emperor penguin, Snow Hill Island, Antarctica, iPhone 7 Plus

I arrived back in the United States this morning after a very eventful 16 days! I will write more later but wanted to share a few details of the expedition. We made it to Antarctica and Snow Hill Island for three days of spectacular weather and photography after a very rough crossing of the Drake Passage. I have never seen anything so precious as an Emperor penguin chick, and in addition to photos, I have several videos to share in future posts. For now, please enjoy this iPhone image of my first encounter with an adult Emperor penguin. As we walked a kilometer across the sea ice, this adult penguin greeted our approach from a distance. I stopped and knelt down to observe and give it space.  It walked up to me within two feet!!  My camera was packed up in dry bags in my backpack, but I was able to pull out my iPhone for this quick unplanned shot. I was in heaven. 😍

Stay tuned for more images and stories…

Good bye Ushuaia! Next stop, Antarctica!

Hello All!

We are about to leave for the ship and begin our voyage to Antarctica! The past three days in Ushuaia have been fun exploring the town and the nature preserve behind the hotel. I took a lot of photos but did not have time to process them. Internet has been very poor and I politics that I haven’t been able to access texts, many apps and emails.  Supposedly, there is a website that allows you to track Quark Expeditions ship Kapitan Khlebnikov but I was unable to find the exact tracker to show where the ship is in the ocean. It is all wonderful though and can’t wait to share when I get back.  Stay tuned for more after October 31…

Next stop, Argentina, then Antarctica!

Antarctica journey 1

The long awaited trip to Antarctica has begun!  We are currently on our way to Orlando International Airport to fly out tonight for the long trip down to Ushuaia, Argentina, also known as the “End of the World.”  It will take us 3 flights and a bus ride between airports in Argentina to make it down there by Tuesday evening.  We will then have Wednesday, Thursday and half of Friday to explore Ushuaia while we stay at the Arakur Resort.

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Image: A view of the Arakur Resort in Ushuaia, Argentina.  Photo borrowed from Arakur’s website: www.arakur.com

We will have an orientation with the Cheeseman’s Ecological Safari staff Thursday night and board the polar-class icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov Friday evening, October 19!  Below are a few photos of this ship, one from the Quark Expeditions website and the other from the Cheeseman’s website.

Antarctica journey 5

Image: A view of the icebreaker ship, Kapitan Khlebnikov.  Photo borrowed from Quark Expeditions’ website: https://www.quarkexpeditions.com/en/our-ships/kapitan-khlebnikov

I will be in a triple room with two other women from other parts of the world and we will be among 110 guests and 70 staff and crew.  There is a small indoor pool, gym, library, sauna, and theater to keep us entertained while at sea!

Antarctica journey 4

Image: A view of the icebreaker ship, Kapitan Khlebnikov.  Photo borrowed from Cheeseman’s website: https://www.cheesemans.com/trips/antarctic-snowhill-oct2018

We will then spend the next 2-3 days crossing the Drake Passage of the Southern Ocean, a 500 mile stretch between Cape Horn on the tip of South America and the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica.  This passage is renowned for having the roughest seas in the world, but sometimes ships cross the ocean without trouble. (Fingers crossed)

Antarctica journey 2

We then go by the South Shetland Islands and head into the Weddell Sea.  If you have never read Alfred Lansing’s book, Endurance, about Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to cross the South Pole and his ship sinking in the Weddell Sea, I highly recommend it (Maybe read it after I get back).  The ship will then head to Snow Hill Island where we will anchor, depending on ice pack and weather, and spend the next 6-7 days attempting to find and photograph the infamous Emperor Penguins.  One of the two helicopters on the ship will take us to the island where we will trek a mile across the ice fields with our gear in hopes of photographing the 4ft tall penguins with their chicks.  None of this is guaranteed and all depends on the weather, access to the island due to the movement of the ice packs, and finding the penguins themselves.

Antarctica journey 8

On October 29, we begin the heading back across the Drake passage to Ushuaia, hopefully landing back in Argentina on the morning of October 31 so that we can take flights out that same afternoon for arrival in the US on November 1.  I hope to post an update or some photos from Ushuaia, Argentina before Friday, but it will depend on WiFi and internet access at the resort.  I know for a fact that I will not have access to the internet while aboard Kapitan Khlebnikov and will post something when I return after November 1.  Please stay tuned for the adventures to come…

Cheeseman’s website: here

Quark Expeditions’ website: here

Arakur Resort’s website:here