Ponting was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire in the south of England, on 21 March 1870.

Pointing was one of the first men to use a portable movie camera in Antarctica. The primitive device, called a cinematograph, could take short video sequences. Ponting also brought some autochrome plates to Antarctica and took some of the first known color still photographs there.

The expedition’s scientists studied the behavior of large Antarctic animals, especially killer whales, seals, and penguins. Ponting tried to get as close as possible to these animals, both on the Terra Nova in the sea ice and later on Ross Island, and narrowly escaped death on one occasion in early 1911 when a pod of eight killer whales broke up the ice floe in McMurdo Sound on which he was standing.

During the 1911 winter, Ponting took many flash photographs of Scott and the other members of the expedition in their Cape Evans hut. With the start of the 1911–12 sledging season, Ponting’s field work began to come to an end. As a middle-aged man, he was not expected to help pull supplies southward over the Ross Ice Shelf for the push to the South Pole. Ponting photographed other members of the shore party setting off for what was expected to be a successful trek. After 14 months at Cape Evans, Ponting, along with eight other men, boarded the Terra Nova in February 1912 to return to civilization, arrange his inventory of more than 1,700 photographic plates, and shape a narrative of the expedition. Ponting’s illustrated narrative would be waiting for Captain Scott to use for lectures and fundraising in 1913.