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Spotlight: Liam Hopkinson

Liam Hopkinson is a design student at Massey’s Wellington campus, who has been lucky enough to flock with the penguins and make a splash with humpback whales in one of the most majestic places on Earth – Antarctica. He recently sat down with the team at Massive to talk about his adventures.

What do you study at Massey?

I study a Bachelor of Design with honours, majoring in visual communication design.

Tell me about your trip to Antarctica?

Being in Antarctica is one of the most overwhelming experiences you can have in the world. Standing there surveying its vast, endless landscape, can leave you in tears with its incredible beauty. Few things can make you feel so small and insignificant in the world compared to the magnitude of everything that lives and makes up the great white continent. Everything from the static bold mountain ranges piercing out of the monolithic glaciers, to the great whales surging out of the icy waters. The word that best describes this place is ‘grand’. Every day while visiting I face new surprises that leave me questioning what is going to happen on the next day. I have seen penguin colonies that extend as far as the eye can see. In every new bay, off the face of each glacier, there are new and different sculptures of ice. Icebergs that make our small cruise ship dwindle in size. My favorite experiences though are with the whales that seem to be just as curious of us in our long orange kayaks as we are of them.

How did you get involved?

I have grown up living at my parents whitewater kayak school in the South Island, and with that working towards becoming an instructor my whole young adult life. Unfortunately New Zealand Outdoor Instructor Association (NZOIA) raised the age of required to apply for whitewater qualifications. So when I gradutated high school with some time to spare before university, I jumped at the opportunity when a family friend offerd me an internship on expedition cruise ship in Svalbard, Norway. After three weeks of proving myself in the the Arctic I had secured a summer job in each polar season as a Adventure Concierge or a Sea Kayak Guide. From there I went on to work with the company on their southern adventures in the Antarctic.

How many times have you been?

I have made the trip across the great Drake passage six times in my life. I have worked down there for the past two summers making trips from Ushuaia Argentina, to South Georgia, the Falkland Islands, and eventually the Antarctic Peninsula. In each season down there the expedition cruise ship makes several voyages with a new group of passengers each time to this incredible place.

How does it feel to have travelled somewhere where only few people have gone?

I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to explore such a unique and isolated place like this. Not a day goes by where I don’t count myself lucky for what I have experienced. To do my part in return for this good luck, I try and be an ambassador to a place that can’t speak for itself. I try and advocate, repsect, awareness, and environmental prowess about this incredible place as much as I can. Anything from articles, to photography series, I do my part to raise awareness and support.

How cold is it there?

In Antarctica there are two things that heavily affect how cold it feels. On average the temperature sits at about zero degrees celcius. But  the sun and the wind can change this drastically. If the sun is out it can make all those layers (puffy jacket, thermals, dry suit) feel like an oven, so you always need to know how regulate your body heat with taking on and off things like hats, scarfs, and gloves.  If the wind picks up, and the clouds descend it can make that zero degrees feel like negative ten in seconds. Then on the really extreme blizzard days it’s just the staff having fun out in the catastrophic weather.

Would you rather be a penguin, a humpback whale or a leopard seal for a day? Why?

That’s a tough choice between a leopard seal and a humpback whale. On one hand the leopard seal is apex predator of its realm and can be one of the most dynamic terrifying creatures around. But the reality is I would have to go with being the great humpback for a day. There is a lot not known about why humpbacks fully breach out of the water. But most people think its because they just like to play, and to play around like a humpback for a day would be one of the most epic experiences ever.

Where is somewhere else you would love to travel and why?

There are so many places on my hit list to travel to in the world. Going to Southeast Asia or Africa would be high up there. But if money wasn’t an issue I would love to explore Norway. The geography there looks insane! From lake valleys a kilometre deep, to the incredible mountain ranges. Exploring through those vast realms would be my dream.

Your photos have featured in Massive Magazine. What do you love about photography?

The thing I love most about photography is the ability to tell your own story and share memories with people around you. With the right playing around and accurate captures you show people how you see the world. It can be used as a platform to express what is important to you in life and show how you have began on your own adventures and where they take you.

What is the best experience you have had as a photographer?

Its hard to describe what moments in life I was there as a photographer and which ones I was just  lucky and adventurous enough to experience just bying being me. Most of the time I just happened to have my camera along with me and managed to pull my jaw off the floor long enough to capture; the whale breaching in front of me, my friend dropping a awesome line on a river, or the righ light to ascentuate that perfect landscape.

What makes an amazing photo?

An amazing photo is something that can capture the attention of someone from any walk of life. To draw the viewers’ attention to the subject and make them desire to keep scrutinising each detail. As well as having nice composition, balance, it needs to inspire emotion from them. From adrenaline and adventure, to love and serentiy, through relation and/or fantasy to the subject. You kow your doing well when people stop to do a double take.

Who is someone famous you would love to photograph?

Does Yogi Bear count? People and materialistic things are not my ideal subjects when it comes to photography. Sure it would be cool capture a nice picture of someone who is a role model to me. But there is no story behind it other than I took this photo at this angle as they stood there. The reality is I draw so much more passion from a landscape, abstract composition, a wild animal, or a friend or family member I am fond of. Something that has a feeling of accomplishment or can relive a story is what I yearn to photograph.

Quick fire questions:

Wine or beer?

Beer, nothing like a cold one with mates after a good kayak on the river.

Summer or winter?

Summer. I am a summer child. I grew up moving back and forth from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. Basically living in perpetual summer and spring. To this day I have never had a full winter…

Go out or stay home?

Go out. You can’t stay couped up in your house your whole life. Everything is passing you by outside. Get out and take up a sport, meet some new people, try a new place for dinner, do something to spice things up and expand your knowledge of the world.

Facebook or Instagram?

For getting media out there Instagram is so much easier. It narrows the down the realm of people I am sharing with. Facebook is a platform for such a variety of things that is hard to feel like my photos have gone anywhere. Where as Instagram is so much more of a ‘photography appreciative’ app.

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