Santiago Bluguermann: Metallica, Antarctica

The Image

Santiago Gallo Bluguermann

Carlini Scientific Base Station, Antártida Argentina, Antarctica

Time / Date:
17:47 / Dec 8, 2013

The Technical


Camera Body: Canon 1D Mark IV
Lens: Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/250
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 15mm

The Story


This was a very unique event. I´ve been shooting concerts, promo and bands for almost 8 years now but this experience was a whole different adventure. I work for a major radio station here in Argentina as a host in a radio show and also the photographer of the station for every major concert that comes to Buenos Aires. In December 2013 Metallica was set to play in Antarctica to fulfill shows in all “continents”. There was a contest for fans from Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina. And there where only 9 members of the press, where I was included. We sailed from Ushuaia, at the last tip of South America, straight to the Antarctic Peninsula on a 95 meters vessel called Ortelius. It took us 60 hours to arrive. And we had come face to face with infamous Drake Passage, one of the roughest seas in the world. It gave us a nice welcome cocktail: 9 meters high waves and winds up to one hundred kilometers per hour. The ship went dancing on full gale rythm for 36 hours; we saw the waves hitting the Captain´s bridge, several meters above the bow. Recording and photographing that moment was almost the only entertainment on board during the storm. 2 days and a half later we are finally in Antarctica. We have to wait a couple more days while the crew works 12 hours straight, setting up the domes at the base. The band arrives on December 6th and everybody is living on board, sharing the bar and having a toast. Jaw dropped fans could not believe their dream come true. December 8th. Showtime. Everything is set. A metal dome, recovered in transparent vinyl is our “arena”. The placed is packed with 200 souls. Curious to see was people coming from another Antarctic bases. Chileans that came on by boat, a few polish guys took a hike through the mountains, lads from South Korea, and South African waving their national flag; science men from Peru, Ecuador and Colombia– even a guy in a full thick orange neoprene diving suit. Everyone, metalhead or not, had come to this once in a lifetime event. The production team supplied us a set of headphones to listen to the music. Due to ecological issues, every guitar and bass and James`s singing is not amplified by a regular PA. The only thing you can listen if you took your headphones out was Lars`s drum kit. So there I was, just beside the drums watching Lars Ulrich play at a distance only a roadie knows of. Then, 3 days after we sail to that magical place, in an unusual warm sunlight, I start shooting the show.

The Scene: 

So the shows stars and media is placed almost out of the dome, way back behind the fans and their extended, fleece covered arms. No clean photo at all. I started to struggle my way to the front when I felt a hand grabbing my shoulder. One big Mexican guy from the production team: “come with me”. He guides me around the dome and a few moments later I`m standing just beside the drums. A perfect spot to start shooting… the whole show! The played 75 minutes. The atmosphere was a nice mix of awesomeness and heavy metal frenzy. Just for a second I put down my cameras and watch the whole surreal scenario just in front of my eyes. We are at world`s end, with one of the ultimate rock acts playing at full throttle surrounded by virgin glaciers, pure air…and penguins. Unbelievable. The image shows a funny situation. Here is almighty James Hetfield watching me with this strange grimace of “who the hell is this guy with those cameras hanging frome his neck shooting us so close?” I`ve had that feeling a few more times during the show not only with him but with Lars too. But the little Danish is another whole character. When he realizes that I`m press he gave me some funny faces just in front of my fisheye.


A travel to Antarctica doesn`t come often so I not only packed my usual rock concert set up but put almost all I got in my bag. Besides the show we have had a few short trips on Zodiacs to sightseeing whales, penguins and landscape—a real photography binge. I went with two bodies: 5D MkIII and 1D Mk IV and 15 2.8 fisheye, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8 IS II and 300 2.8 IS, 580 Ex II flash, tripod and monopod. All from Canon but the Sigma fisheye. But for the show, the 300 stayed on the ship and I went with 24-70 in the 5D and the fisheye in the 1D. I kept the long zoom for close ups, but did not use it much this time. Everything was real close.

Making the Shot:

Although I was beside the drum kit, I was behind the other members of the band, so what I most want to shoot was James Hetfield´s face. Time to time he comes to the drum set and face to my position, so there was my key moment. There were no artificial light, of course, and the sunlight was pretty harsh. Keeping the faces and their black clothes well exposed and not getting the sky overblown was a difficult task.

Editing & Processing:

The show comes to and end, everybody is happy and ready to celebrate but I have to go back to the ship (no internet for public use at the base) to send some images from the show to Buenos Aires to make them public at the radio`s website. The usual workflow for me is: download the RAWs, open them in Lightroom 4, some fine tuning and voilà. For this image in particular I gave it minor adjustments in contrast and sharpening and a small crop to avoid the blown sky at right. Reduce size and send them via email at the astonishing speed of….96kbps—not your usual broadband speed down there.  I spent more than an hour to send ten 200kb images!

Looking Back: 

Looking at this and the other images I have now makes me feel happy for having the chance to be at the right time at the right place. This was not the usual packed photo pit at a Metallica concert. There where only two other professional photographers working with the band and me. I like the results I´ve gotten from the shooting, although I should have tried harder to gain another position for some variety, but also there where no press rules, no pit, the whole place was packed with fans and moving around in a full Antarctic dress was no easy task.


Be prepared, everything can come as fast as this has come for me. One day I was in Mexico City shooting a clip for another band and then I was in Antarctica shooting Metallica. Shooting shows doesn´t give you any second chances, so every moment counts or gets lost forever.


Well, I get inspiration almost from everywhere. Love to see other photographers work and try to imagine how the made to get that shot. Bob Gruen is a true legend, the guy always in the right spot and ready to make images that count.


About the Photographer

Santiago Gallo Bluguermann is a Buenos Aires, Argentina, based photographer and journalist. He has covered almost every major international and local rock gig for nearly a decade, working for mainstream radio stations. He also work as official photographer for several big local bands and made plenty record covers and images for inner sleeves and promo.

Twitter: @rock_pix

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Comments (6)

  1. Leo

    Gallo! Jodeme que sos vos man!
    Los escucho de vez en cuando desde Dubai, estoy laburando desde hace tres anios y medio aca y como laburo secundario tambien soy fotografo. Te felicito por el pedazo de foto que les sacaste a Lars y James! Abrazo de gol desde el “arenero” desertico de Dubai.


  2. Leo

    PD: Me encantaria algun dia laburar para la Radio cubriendo eventos tambien! En un par de anios me vuelvo a Argentina con todo mi equipo profesional.

  3. Richard Maude

    Great picture and a fantastic story to match.Interestingly,between Lars and James,in the background can be seen Ross Halfin,himself a legend.

  4. Gallo

    Hi Richard, thanks for your kind words. It´s Ross Halfin indeed, a legend of rock photography, but not the best pal to hang around, I don´t know if he was in a bad mood or what, but he made use of his full arsenal of bad manners with me. Anyway, the trip was a once in a lifetime experience.

    Thank You Fred, legends they are!