Air Miles with Danie Ferreira

1 Nov 2022 by Hannah Brandler
Danie Ferreira

Danie Ferreira is a South African photographer, cinematographer, and producer

What attracted you to the profession?

I evolved into the profession. My dad has always been a keen photographer, and I enjoyed the thrill of “alchemy” in his black-and-white darkroom throughout my childhood. It was in Antarctica I realised I wanted to work across the sciences as a photojournalist.

How do you prepare for expeditions?

Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Proper preparation is the cornerstone of any expedition to the polar ice fields. Acquiring the necessary skills can be hiring a specialist or doing courses, getting the required qualifications, and physical training.

How often do you travel?

At this stage in my life, I don’t see travel as something apart from “normal life”. And I’m in transit as long as we have ice on our planet. 

How did the pandemic affect your line of work?

As with everyone, life ground to a halt. During the height of the pandemic and the imposed state of isolation, I started to write about my own experiences and put images and text together. My pandemic-project ended up as a boxset of two books, consisting of three journeys to the Arctic and three to the Antarctic.

Ed Tritton. Hurtwood Press

How has climate change affected your travels?

I have witnessed a dramatic decline in ice everywhere on the planet. This past summer, on an icebreaker in the Central Arctic, we encountered no multiyear ice. Alarmingly, various stretches of open water gave us access to the geographic North Pole much quicker than anticipated.

What’s your favourite photo that you have taken?

It’s like asking who my favourite child is or, of all the dogs I’ve ever had. It’s not possible to answer. My favourite photo is the one I’ve not taken, and that keeps me going.

Is it challenging to travel with equipment?

Travelling with photography gear remains a challenge. Sending gear as cargo is no longer an option. Getting equipment released from customs can result in unplanned delays. Flexibility is crucial.

My only option is to travel with gear as checked personal luggage, with the most fragile as hand luggage. After years of travelling, it all works out in the end.

Is it hard to settle back into reality?

When I’m out in the cold as a photographer/cameraman, I must remain an opportunistic hunter to get the shot, and at home, I’m a gatherer. I curate field notes, research, photographs, and thoughts.

Moving between the two mindsets requires a hard re-boot. Fortunately, home is shared by loving family, friends, and animals. But, don’t dare to whistle when you start packing for the next expedition. It upsets the people closest to you.

Which shoot left a lasting impression?

During the austral summer [Nov-Feb] of 2010/11, I filmed the Amundsen-Scott Centenary Race to the South Pole. During this gruelling race, I witnessed phenomenal human endeavour in athletes. It was a privilege being at the end of the world and looking into the eyes of people achieving a very personal dream exactly 100 summers after [explorer Roald] Amundsen’s arrival.

What’s been your most rewarding travel experience?

An expedition to the Svalbard archipelago with friends. We sailed into the Arctic just after winter. We would then hike across the shore-fast ice, visit abandoned hunting cabins from a previous era and ascend mountains.

And most challenging?

At the time of the Amundsen-Scott Centenary Race, I came equipped to shoot a documentary and be a functional producer cameraman. I’d underestimated the amount of physical work required to just exist in this challenging environment. Exposure to the elements was severe.

What are your dream destinations?

I get emotional when I think of the blue season in the Arctic. This is when the Arctic is the most mesmerising, covered in winter ice and when residual light takes on a predominantly blue hue, anywhere above the polar circle during February and March.

What’s your indispensable travel gadget?

An Aeropress coffeemaker. My coffee routine is a daily, near-religious ritual.

What’s your IFE pick?

A good wine list.

Out in the Cold by Danie Ferreira is published by Hurtwood, £2,500.

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