Archives For Expedition

DW in snow with slider

David shooting lynx tracks for the BBC series “Secrets of Our Living Planet” using his homemade camera dolly and ladder for track

There are a lot of camera sliders and dollies on the market but we were happy to try out a new offering from

Before our Trost review, I must say I was a little skeptical when I first saw the units. I have been using a small camera dolly running on a ladder or plastic pipes (2″ white poly pipe) and have enjoyed the flexibility and ease of setting such a system in unusual places. It also lends itself to long runs (6′-16′)

The smaller size of the two Trost units seemed less useful at either one metre or 1/2 metre lenghts. Then I got to try them out in the field and my opinion changed dramatically.

Rather than retasking skate board wheels like many sliders / dollies manufacturers, Trost have decided to go with a soild rail that can either mounted on a hihat, straight onto a tripod head, or even vertically.

The rails are on the heavy side, but this is required in order to make them sturdy enough and also means camera moves are smooth and positive. The cart that travels down the rail wraps around the unit, meaning that you can tilt and pan the fluid head as usual and don’t get any unwanted motion in the slider, other that the required left/right motion used to create great reveal shots. Systems that rely on a cart running on rails, and based on a wheel system, mostly have to be kept level.

David shooting in Wales Alaska

David shooting in Wales Alaska

We have tested the units in far north Alaska in the early spring when temperatures only reach minus 20 degrees C, as well as in the tropics of Brazil while shooting a recent music video with recording artist Luisa Maita, represented by Cumbancha Music.

David and Cotton working with recording artist Luisa Maita

David and Cotton working with recording artist Luisa Maita

We both love the versatility of having a short slider directly mounted on the fluid head. Not only can you do great reveal shots by combining a pan with a slider move to come out from behind an object to reveal a subject, but if an actor / performer does not quite hit their mark, you can subtly slide the camera to make sure framing works well. Then being able to add a tilt without fear of any unwanted movement or the system falling off the rails, is the a great way to keep the camera moving. The rig can then be picked up and thrown over the shoulder, in order to move to the next location.

Cotton and David working at Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Cotton and David working at Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

There are still times when I will definitely use the long rail system I have but the new Trost sliders are a very welcome addition the travel kit. We have already strapped one to my backpack and dragged it on a 6400 mile journey through South America and are departing today with it for the Antarctic. We both agree that we are VERY impressed with the build quality and reliability, ease of transport and we are still discovering exciting new ways to use a slider that can be combined with a fluid head to create three axis of camera movement. We would recommend it to anyone in the business or anyone just shooting for fun.

Can’t wait to see what other new products Trost come up with in the future!

Now off to the airport, first stop the Falklands, then South Georgia and the Antarctic on board the NG / Lindblad Explorer to teach another digital storytelling workshop.

Here is a better view of the 100cm version for our Trost review.

trost-bottom trost-side trost-top

Technical specs for the sliders

1 rail (100cm)
1 carriage with folding 3/8″ stud
Adjustable drag speed control
2 rotating baseplates
3 quick release collars
total dimensions     40.3 x 3 x 1″
024 x 76 x 25 mm
max carriage travel     31″
weight    15 lbs     6.8kg
temperature of operation    -31°F-212°F     -35°C-100C°
head compatibility     carries any tripod head with female 3/8″ hole or another Trost slider with Trost quick release collar
support compatibility     mounts on top of any 3/8″ or 1/4″ male screw or C-Stand end, or on tabletop.

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.

2013 is going to be a great year for Expedition Workshops with amazing opportunities for the people that join us on the adventures. Perhaps the most anticipated is the trip to South Georgia, one of the world’s best wildlife destinations. Prior to that, the adventures starts in Trinidad and we then sail to Buenos Aires visiting some of the most spectacular and hard to access locations in South America. For more information go to “Epic South America

Here is a taste of what you will see if you book with Lindblad

Kings of South Georgia from Planet Earth Pictures (LSF) on Vimeo.

The last thing you want is to be in one of the world’s most spectacular places and not have the right equipment to capture your adventure or not know how to get the best images from your camera.

That means one of the biggest challenges is preparing for a photo or video shoot. The same goes for when we go on a shoot for a client like National Geographic or you join us on board the NG Explorer for an expedition with organized by Lindblad.

After many years of working for clients like National Geographic, in some of the world’s most difficult locations, we are sharing our secrets of the trade to help you get a head-start so you know what equipment to bring and how to use it.

Over the next few weeks we will be releasing a series of videos to get you started and sharing invaluable tips to make sure you are well prepared for your trip.

Episode One- Introduction

After being too far south in the Antarctic to be able to connect with the satellite for the last few days, Cotton is making his way back north to Argentina on board the National Geographic Explorer and just re-connected. Here is his report on the best external hard drive to take on an expedition.

“This morning I am heading back to Ushuaia, Argentina, after completing our first Antarctic Expedition in the 2013 season. What a trip it has been. We have spent time with Humpback, Finn, and Killer whales, seen all the Penguins, including the Emperors, and sat quietly close to sleeping Leopard Seals on their protective bits of ice.

For these trips I wanted to field test the new Drobo mini, to see if this product could satisfy my needs as a photographer and filmmaker working in remote locations. I thought an expedition down to Antarctica might just be the place to see how it worked.

What’s new about this model is size (form factor) and speed. Its running via Thunderbolt off my new MacBook Pro 15” and Final Cut X. The Drobo mini is targeted for laptop users, like myself, who want safe and reliable storage on the go. Back home I will transfer my precious digital assets over to my Drobo 5D, but here in on board the National Geographic Explorer, I really need the small form factor, for space is at a premium. The Drobo mini can hold up to four 2.5-inch hard drives for a maximum capacity of 4TB, plenty of space to hold my AVCHD Sony clips and stills.
My set was the following: Four 750 GB Drives giving me a total of 3TB (2.72 TB actual)

I had no problems at all editing ProRes 422 (HQ)-quality 1080p HD. For those of you of have worked with Drobo’s in the past, their technology is truly unique. With their propriety technology at work, I know that I am safe, even if one drive were to suddenly fail. My Drobo lights will turn from Green to Red, letting me know which drive needs replacing. All I need to do is swap out the bad drives, slip in a new one, and Drobo will take over and automatically rearrange the data across all the drives, keeping all my data safe and secure. They call it the “beyond RAID” philosophy. These new models are now focused on making sure the drives are fast enough for constant video editing and rendering.

Faster speed transfer takes place using Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, as well as using a small mSATA solid state drive into the underbelly for faster speed. Drobo calls this their Drobo Accelerator bay which uses the SSD to buffer the data between hard drives and my laptop for fast transfer rates.

I have been out shooting all throughout the day, in all kinds of inclement weather, and the Drobo mini has performed just as I had imaged it would. I am very happy to know that my creative material is safely backup up, and I no longer have to carry with me 4-5 separate back-up drives. It also saves me a lot of time being able to store the data in one secure place. Will of course keep this blog updated as I continue to sail and shoot in the Antarctic peninsula on board the National Geographic Explorer.”

PS- We should also mention that it is a busy day over at Drobo as their new product the 5N starts shipping today. Its a perfect solution for connecting a drive to your network at home or for business. Check out their website for details.

Photo credit: Sisse Brimberg

It’s an auspicious day as the National Geographic Explorer crosses the Antarctic Circle on its trip south and the National Geographic Society celebrates 125years since its creation. What better way to mark the anniversary of such a great organization.

Last night’s update from the ship via the satellite link as Cotton shoots with the help of the SmallHD DP4 viewfinder

“We are sailing through the Lemaire Channel heading for Booth Island. So happy to be on top deck shooting with my Sony A99, 16-35mm Carl Zeiss lens, with my SmallHD DP4 veiwfinder- super bright clarity, makes manual focusing a breeze. The best part of the morning was cruising through “iceberg graveyard” since once the bergs float into this area, they can no longer leave. Nice soft overcast light, really pulling out the bright blue colors. Now heading for the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station famous for collecting meteoric and ionospheric data used in ozone research.”

Photo Credit: Sisse Brimberg

For more information about SmallHD’s great product line, go to their website….

They have an exciting new range of monitors that truly allow you to see exactly what your camera is shooting as you work including the AC7

A special thanks also goes to Helly Hansen for helping the team keep warm and dry in even the most challenging of conditions!

In the summer of 2012 we ran an expedition video workshop on board the National Geographic Explorer and made landfall in Lerwick, the main port in Scotland’s beautiful Shetland Islands. Today Cotton made it to South Shetland, literally the other end of the globe.

Cotton’s post

“On our first landing on Half-Moon Island of the South Shetland Islands, I chose to bring along the Genustech Variable ND filter to use with my Carl Zeiss 16-35mm to take stills with my Sony A99. It turns out to be a very nice package, allowing me to maintain shallow depth of field and still retain full aperture control. The black and white conversion was made using Nik Software’s plug-in for Apple Aperture called Silver Efex Pro using High-Structure. The motif was a chinstrap rookery on a very beautiful rock formation. Lucky for me, Sisse was there to take a nice shot of me working.”


Photo credit: Sisse Brimberg (on of me at the rookery) and Doug
Gualtieri for the close-up of me shooting with the Variable ND.