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Exploring the Kamchatka coast

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I just returned from exploring the rugged coastlines of Chukotka and Kamchatka to photograph native villages, wildlife and the region’s landscapes in this far outpost of the former Soviet Union. Based on board an expedition ship, life is easy, but each day, trips ashore meant transferring into a zodiac and braving the turbulent oceans, relentless salt spray and waves crashing over the bow. This is followed by a ‘wet landing’ on a beach, dodging the surf and attempting to get onto dry land as soon as possible.

On shore, we then faced the uncertain weather conditions that the wilds of Siberia would send our way. There to take photographs, it meant keeping camera equipment safe in these challenging conditions, one mistake could mean it is swamped by salt water and ruined. I watched this very thing happen a year ago while making a landing at Gold Harbor in South Georgia. It is a truly spectacular wildlife location as the beach is home to hundreds of thousands of king penguins. Eager to get a shot, a fellow traveler has his new digital camera around his neck and ready to shoot as we approached the beach. Six foot swells pounded the landing site and as the zodiac hit the beach, it was pushed sideways by the powerful swell and a wave dumped right on top of us. In an instant, $6000 of camera equipment was lost and to make matters worse, the photographer no longer had his camera to use and we still had two weeks to go, visiting some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife locations on the planet. This must have been heart-breaking.

 

 

D24wXeds_000140Over the years of doing this kind of expedition D24wXeds_000139everywhere from the heat of the Kimberley coast in Australia, Antarctica and now the Russian coast of the Bering Sea, I have tried many different combinations of cases, dry bags and packs. The pile of packs in my office closet tells the story of never finding quite the right solution. Then on a recent trip to start shooting a story on the water crisis in the Owens of Valley of California, I decided to take a look in an outdoor equipment shop in the town of Bishop. A pack immediately caught my eye. Light weight, waterproof and made of a very durable material it looked ideal for my ship borne adventures. Produced by Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I researched the company and to my surprise found out that is based in my home state of Maine. Its great to see such a well made product that is made locally. Their innovative product line is ideal for everyone from hikers wanting to keep the weight of their packs to a minimum, to adventure sports fans that play around the water as the roll top closures make the bags waterproof.

During my trip to the Russian Far East, we visited villages like Tymlat and Lorino where I shot a portraits of the villagers, we also hiked in the mountains of Kamchatka experiencing everything from sun to torrential rain. My new Hyperlite 2400 accompanied me on all these adventures, providing a ideal way to get my camera gear ashore safely, as well as giving quick access through the roll top when I needed to quickly change lenses or a battery. Although the model I have is designed for ice climbing, the outside pockets and straps also provided an ideal place to keep a can of bear spray handy, essential as we passed dozens of brown bears on our shore trips.

I have more adventure planned that include sailing around the coast of New Zealand and Macquarie Island, back to the Kimberley and also exploring the coast of Chile. The Hyperlite pack will be with me all the way.

 

Special thanks for the photographs go to fellow adventurer Luca De Santis. A talented photographer & graphic designer, he also helps produce the Italian travel magazine Meraviglia Paper

Hyperlite Mountain Gear - Ultra Light Hiking Gear

Its great to support a US based manufacturer and even better when they are from our home State of Maine. We are about to test out a new pack from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. These packs are super light weight but waterproof, which makes them perfect for using in bad weather or on a boat where spray and breaking waves can be an issue. Can’t wait to test it on the upcoming trip to the Russia Far East!

Details from the Hyperlite website

Having been all over the world, including Antarctica, the 2400 Ice Pack is the choice pack for technical ice climbing, sport climbing or alpine day trips.  Weighing in at 33.8 oz (958 grams), this 40 liter, minimalist designed climbing pack has everything you’ll need for carrying ropes, rack, crampons, helmets, and winter clothing for alpine adventures.

The 2400 Ice Pack is constructed from our Cuben/50d Poly hybrid fabric and includes two vertical daisy chains, four side compression straps, a spectra hardline crampon patch with shock cord crampon keeper, two ice axe holders, y-top compression over the roll-top closure, two vertical compression straps, an internal zippered pocket, and a removable hip-belt with optional pockets or gear loops with slots for ice clippers.

New features for 2014 include fully sealed side seams for improved water resistance, a more durable double-reinforced 150d pack bottom, added hip-belt length and the optional re-designed hip-belt pockets for improved utility.  Recommended carrying capacity range for this pack is 20-40 lbs and as with all HMG packs, a rain cover is not required, however we do highly recommend Cuben fiber stuff sacks to compartmentalize your gear and as an added level of water resistant security.

Note: This pack can be custom-fitted to carry skis upon telephone request.

2.1lbs : 33.8oz : 958g

 

 

 

 

Finding the right camera bag seems to be an ongoing struggle. It constantly reminds me the Goldielocks and the three bears…. I am always trying to find just the right on.

The parameters are protecting the camera gear, having a bag that is  light, but strong and also comfortable. To my wife’s dismay, I think I have every shape and size on the shelves of my office. Then I discovered Gura Gear. They produce a line of camera packs that are to be the ideal combination of quality, strength and are still light weight. Perfect for a trek in the mountains or a day photographing in the city. With weight restrictions also being a concern at airport check-ins, this bag is also a great solution for plane travel.

I have been testing out their Bataflae model (see above), which even my very discerning wife doesn’t mind wearing when we are out for a hike. The pack is well designed and very versatile in terms of fitting the straps to ensure a comfortable fit what ever size you are.

The other challenge we face in traveling is packing gear in shipping cases so that airport security guards don’t damage items when they place things back where they may not have started out. Gura Gear have the solution for that too. They have a great line of pouches they have branded the Et Cetera line. As there website suggests “a great way to handle your extra stuff and organize the chaos”. The pouches each contain items like my radio microphone kit or video monitor. Not only can I quickly find locate each of those kits, but they are safe inside the larger shipping case, even with the roughest treatment the baggage handlers can throw at it. With transparent lids so you can see the contents,  strong enough sides to afford extra protection and a place to label the gear, more pouches the Et Cetera line will be on my Christmas list.

We have two exciting trips coming up with National Geographic / Lindblad, Epic South America & South Georgia/Antarctica.While on board we will be teaching two film-making workshops, please let the reservations folks at Lindblad know if you would like to attend, as spaces are limited. As fun as these trips will be, they will demanding in terms of protecting gear in the rigors of climates that range from the tropical heat of the Amazon, to the frigid temperatures of king penguin colony. The Gura Gear pack and their Et Cetera pouches will be traveling with me to meet the challenge. If you are getting ready to join us on these adventures or heading off on your own, Gura Gear is a great option to carry you gear. Excellent build quality, design and so light that it will really help you stay within airport weight limits for carry-on bags.