Antarctica – Stark and Minimal by Shreeram M V, PGP 2004

Antarctica is a land of superlatives. The roughest seas in the world shield its secrets. It is the coldest, highest, windiest, iciest and , ironically, the driest continent on the planet.

As one emerges from the dreaded Drake Passage into calmer waters, her fortresses of rock and ice present a forbidding visage. Clouds and snow amplify this magnificent mystery that is Antarctica. One starts to connect with the true meaning of the superlatives. The extremes define Antarctica. It is like a dream unfolding, albeit a distant one. No wonder, it was the last continent that we humans realised even existed! Our knowledge of the ice continent is still evolving. And it remains the wildest place on Earth, with no permanent human habitation ever in history.  

While preparing for my third trip to the Antarctic peninsula at the start of this year, I was a bit skeptical. Would this trip be any different from the previous ones? Would familiarity with the landscape colour my experiences? Would I be bored of the place? Turns out I was overthinking, as usual.

As my initial euphoria of being in Antarctica again sobered down, I consciously started connecting with my emotions. I wanted my photographs to showcase my version of Antarctica. The way I see it and feel it – stark and minimal. It is a galore of contrasts (like the superlatives), dominated by the ice. Mountains, rocks, clouds, seas, and most of the other big wildlife here make their presence felt and bring the contrasts to life.

Presenting a series of photographs from my January 2023 expedition to Antarctica. These photographs convey some of my deepest thoughts and emotions about the ice continent. I have processed some of them in monochrome to show the contrasts and the mood.

A storm gathers – This is probably the root of the thought process behind this series in my mind. In the background are the Martial mountains near Ushuaia. As the clouds enabled the peaks to play hide and seek, the Kelp Gull added that element of life that I needed to complete the photograph that I had in mind. Taken a day before we headed out into the Drake Passage, this is an integral part of the series for me. The nearly monochromatic scene made it redundant for me to remove colour from the scene.
Of fortresses and their secrets – The jagged snow-clad mountains of Antarctica tower over the Southern Ocean, merging into the clouds that almost form a permanent feature above the Ice Continent. Massive glaciers open into the ocean everywhere. The sunlight manages to break through, creating this gallery of contrasting elements. 
A Life Raft in an Ocean of Snow and Ice – It’s not all snow, ice and rock though. Life has managed to find a foothold on the Antarctic peninsula. A few species of penguins, including these Gentoo Penguins, have adapted to nesting on this extreme continent. Of course, it is a challenge for these ground-nesting birds to find space devoid of the snow and ice. Competition must be intense on this tiny piece of exposed rock, with so many penguins vying to get the dryer patches for their nests.
Arc of Life – Penguins love a good view, it seems. And long hikes too. With their patient gait, it takes them a while to get to their nest from the ocean and back. Of course, it is beyond their control that most of the dry snow-free areas for a rookery are high up on the slopes.
Highways – When the going gets tough, build a highway. But how does one make a highway through all that snow? Elementary – keep walking on the same path again and again. And encourage your neighbours to do the same. Following a well-trodden path is definitely a good thing, if you are a penguin. I have processed this in colour as the penguin highways come alive with their reddish hue.
Collision Alert! – Just 2 Gentoo Penguins crossing each other on parallel penguin highways
Enter the Skua – The white patches on the wings of the skua add to the contrast of this scene. Skuas, while not fishing or stealing fish, predate on penguin eggs. Goes without saying that they not treated with much respect around penguin rookeries.
Alone – A Gentoo Penguin takes a break on its long hike up from the ocean to its nest. Snowfall has apparently been heavy this season, whiting out the landscape. It has also made life, and the continuation of it, harder for penguins. In some rookeries, nests have been destroyed by the heavy precipitation and these penguins are trying a second time halfway into the summer.
A Content Life – Is life tough for the animals that call Antarctica home? Or have millions of years of evolution given them an attitude of que sera sera? It is tough not to anthropomorphise the Weddell Seal’s “expression” – the nice big smile. Must be having a delightful dream while it rests on a bed of snow, with snowflakes descending from the heavens.
The lone mountain – I’m still at a loss of words as to why this simple mountain, rising above the snowy slopes in the foreground, continues to enamour me. Is it the symmetry? The loneliness in a desolate landscape? 
Heaven’s rays – A mountain that looks like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. An iceberg that looks like a ship making its way towards the mountain. The clouds clearing up just that little bit giving way to gorgeous light. Just one of those magical evenings.
Ephemeral colour in a monochromatic landscape – At sunset, wisps of clouds use sunlight to whip up surreal colours.
Spaceships – Last evenings in Antarctic waters can be dramatic, both visually and in one’s mind. The mind is abuzz with myriad emotions and memories of experiences. The snow-capped landscapes of Antarctica look their best under the soft glow of the late evening sun. And then, there is trepidation at the thought of the journey back. The towering lenticular clouds seem to signal the stormy seas that the Drake Passage will bring over the next couple of days.
Antarctica – the crowning glory! The almost perfect symmetry of the mountain peaks is so arresting. Antarctica appears at its majestic best.

All these photographs are available as high-quality prints, and it would be an honour if you want to put them up on your walls. Please write to me at if you want to know more about purchasing them.

This blog was written by Shreeram MV, a PGP alumnus from the batch of 2004. Shreeram is a professional wildlife photographer who has traveled across the world to capture awe-inspiring and captivating images of animals in their natural environments. We are extremely thankful for this contribution. You can catch more of his travels through his blogs at