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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Here Be Dragons

Documenting the wild world in expeditions that go to the ends of the earth

Labels: Locations

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Polar bear, Hinlopen Strait, Svalbard, Norway.
Equipment And Getting There
What to pack? My answer is always the same: Bring only what you can carry, but bring the arsenal. Less is more when it comes to equipment, especially if heavy lenses and tripods bog you down, so it’s important to be efficient.

For most ship-based expeditions, you fly to the port of embarkation, so be sure to research the type of aircraft you’ll be flying and any weight restrictions. Do what’s needed to get there, then reconfigure your gear once onboard. I fit as much camera gear in my carry-on as possible, which usually is a rolling bag that fits in the overhead bin. This includes two DSLRs and an assortment of zoom lenses. My laptop computer, external hard drives and other important peripherals travel in a soft shoulder bag with divided compartments inside, which is my personal item. Extra equipment like battery chargers and spare lenses are packed in a hard-sided Pelican case that fits inside a waterproof duffel for checked luggage. In a second larger rolling duffel are my tripod, monopod and camera backpack packed with clothes, foul-weather gear and other essentials.

For navigating airports with my luggage, the computer bag slips on the handle of the rolling camera bag, and the waterproof duffel rides on top of the rolling duffle. It takes strength, but I can move all the gear by myself from the curb to check-in—not a perfect system, but it works.

Once at the ship, I reconfigure my gear from the rolling bag into the backpack for hikes and the Pelican case for Zodiac® cruises. The tripod is used when going ashore and the monopod when shooting on deck. I also travel with a beanbag neck support that doubles as a camera support on the ship’s rail. To protect gear from splashes and foul weather, it’s critical to have a good camera backpack with a raincover. It’s also a good idea to have rubber boots and a protective dry bag for getting you and your gear ashore dry.

Essential Gear For Ship-Based Expeditions

Gimbal head for long lenses
Two camera bodies, with extra batteries and memory cards
Wide-angle zooms (16-35mm ƒ/2.8, 24-105mm ƒ/4)
Medium zoom (70-200mm ƒ/2.8)
Long telephoto zoom (100-400mm ƒ/4-5.6)
Long telephoto fixed (300mm ƒ/2.8 or 500mm ƒ/4)
Tele-extender (1.4x)
Off-camera flash
Rain hood for cameras and lenses
Camera backpack with raincover
Laptop computer
Two 500 GB external hard drives


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