I recently had the privilege to travel to the Arctic for a workshop with Joshua Holko (www.joshuaholko.com) to spend 10 days aboard the M/S Origo and sail north to photograph the King of the Arctic, Ursus Maritimus, the Polar Bear. I booked the trip in October, which gave me 9 months to sort out my camera equipment needs. Here is my equipment list with my thoughts.
I brought 3 bodies with me. 2 X-T2’s and an X-Pro2. The X-T2’s both had extended battery grips with Fuji or 3rd party batteries. Battery life was never an issue and I really appreciated the tilt screen for images that I took either laying flat or at weird angles. An X-T2 and the X-Pro 2 both have L-brackets to use with a tripod. I only used my tripod when I did time lapses. The built in intervolometer was super handy and performed flawlessly. I have a quest for the perfect camera strap and used 2 systems. On the bodies with the L-bracket, I use the Peak Design strap. I’m primarily a landscape photographer and I like how quickly I can disconnect the body when it’ s on a tripod., one less potential for shake. On the other body I have a Black Rapid R strap. When we would go out on Zodiacs I’d were the double R strap and attach a camera to each side. My auto-inflating vest went over that and was surprisingly comfortable and only slightly dorky. The cameras were all set up identically and I shot in RAW, sequential. Primarily single focus point and spot metering with the shutter at Continuous High and the bracketing option was set to 3 exposures, +/- 3 stops. I generally used aperture preferred, at f8 or f11, with the Auto ISO set so the minimum shutter speed was 1/500th of a second. I exposed to the right and used the exposure compensation dial constantly. The “Q” menu was very handy for making adjustments quickly with gloves or mittens on.
*10-24 f4 Zoom
When I’m in Iceland, this lens never leaves a body. I was surprised how few images were taken with this lens. Out of the 22,223 images taken, 187 were with this lens. *16-55 f2.8 Zoom This lens never sees a lot of play in my photography. This was the 2nd most use lens of my trip. Out on Zodiac boats, we were never super close for wide shots of glaciers and this was the perfect lens for those shots.
Zoom I have a love-hate with this lens. I wanna love it, but I just don’t. Longyearbyrn is a super dusty town and this is where this lens really came into its own. Maybe I’ll start to like the lens.
*50-150 f2.8 Zoom
A usual go to lens. I was surprised how infrequently this lens saw action. I only used it to photograph birds when they were near the back of the ship. It truly is a stellar performer.
*100-400 f4.5-5.6 Zoom
I hardly ever use this lens. This trip made up for that. It never left a body and quite often had the 2.0x tele-convertor attached. Beautiful contrast and quick focusing, I do recommend leaving the focus limit off. Sometimes you’re closer than you think and need the full focus range. Not very heavy, the Canon and Nikon shooters were pretty jealous. I had a tripod with a gimbal head for bird photography but it was unnecessary as the lens is very easy to maneuver.
*The lens I was missing.
Please, please, please Fuji give me a fast 200mm f2.0 lens that I can use with the tele-convertors. Please! I’m desperate! I see that something long and prime is listed on the Fuji Lens Roadmap and I’m waiting to see what it is.
I packed my trusty 13” MacBook Pro loaded with Lightroom, Photoshop and Luminar. My images and catalog were stored on a LaCie 2TB hard drive and Lightroom was set up to automatically duplicate the images onto a second hard drive. When I traveled, the original drive was in my carry on and the duplicate was checked through. My original plan included backing all the images into my Smug Mug account as well. The 22,223 images were too much for the Internet in Longyearbyrn in the 18 hours I had from arriving on shore until my plane departed. Although all the images were not keepers, I never delete until I get home. The original SD cards were locked and placed into my 2nd carry on bag.
I packed a power convertor for 220V to 110V and my Watson battery chargers. I missed having a dedicated Apple 220 adapter for the laptop. That would have been handy when working in the main Salon on the ship. I did bring my Gitzo tripod, a RRS ball head and Jobu gimbal. As I mentioned earlier, the tripod was only used for a few time-lapse sequences. On my next trip to the Arctic, I’ll probably leave my tripod at home and bring a GoPro instead.
As a landscape photographer I travel with Polarizer filters and some very dark ND filters. They will stay at home next trip. 2 smaller dry bags will be added to my kit for the next trip. I had just one really big one for the Zodiacs and it was kind of awkward.
Layers. Merino Wool and more layers. 2 or 3 thin layers are much warmer than 1 thick layer and you have the added bonus of the ability to shed a layer if needed. A few extra hats, gloves, mittens and glove liners so things can dry is essential. Gore-Tex, Muck Arctic Boots, and splurge on electric mittens for the long wet Zodiac rides back to the ship. All the expedition grade clothing is now made with really cool space age material and is super thin and light. You no longer feel like the Michelin man…