South Georgia Island and Antarctica Expedition Packing List 2014

In just under a week I will be making the long trek from Australia to Ushuaia in South America where I will be co-leading both a twenty one day photographic expedition to South Georgia Island and Antarctica with my friend Andy Biggs, as well as a second Antarctic Peninsula expedition just before Christmas. In between the two expeditions I am taking some personal time for photography at Mount Fitzroy in Patagonia with a few friends for ten days hiking, camping and photography in the Patagonian back-country. This will be my second visit to Patagonia in as many years, but my first to the Argentinian side. Last year on the Chile side we encountered horrendous winds that made photography impossible for six out of the seven days we were in the park. I have hopes for better conditions this year.

With a love of the Polar regions I really lucked out being born in Australia when it comes to travel time. With recent changes to airlines routes from Australia it is now necessary for me to fly Melbourne to Sydney, Sydney to Auckland, Auckland to Santiago, Santiago to Buenos Aires and finally Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. And thats before we even board ship for sailing time to South Georgia and Antarctica. I have not counted the number of hours that is going to mean sitting around in airports and on aeroplanes as I quite honestly I don’t really want to know. The reality is for me that I would endure just about any amount of travel pain to visit and photograph in Antarctica. The pain of international travel is quickly forgotten when that first call of iceberg ahead! is made on the Drake Passage. Antarctica is a miraculous location and with each visit my respect and love for this continent grows in leaps and bounds. One of the most fantastic things about these expeditions is the camaraderie with all on board and the shared passion for photography. Asa  result I am looking forward very much to sharing the experience with all aboard.

As has become traditional I like to do a packing list post before I depart on an expedition. The purpose of this list is to both help me make sure I have not forgotten anything, but also to share what it is I take with me for those either travelling with me on these trips or considering their own future trip. Packing for both two Antarctic expeditions as well as a hiking and camping expedition in Patagonia presents some rather unique challenges and I have spent a good deal of time weighing up all my options for both camera gear as well as clothing. Thankfully I do not have to transport all of my camping gear to South America as we will be hiring what we need on location. You might note that my choice of camera bodies for this time away is not ideally suited to hiking. As much as I love the Canon EOS1DX (I just recently purchased a second one) it is not exactly what I would consider a light weight hiking friendly camera. I will instead loan a 5DMKIII from one of my good friends for the hiking component of our Patagonia trip and leave my 1DX cameras in storage.antarctica-gear

In addition to the usual camera gear I am also carrying an Aquatech Delphin 1D underwater sport housing, dome port and ancillary accessories for one of my Canon EOS 1DX cameras. I have long wanted to pursue some underwater and split photography options (half above the surface / half below the surface) in Antarctica and I am very excited about the opportunity on these two expeditions thanks to a new sponsorship arrangement with Aquatech. I hope to post some still images and video of the housing in use in both Antarctica and South Georgia Island as well my thoughts and experience on this type of photography in the polar regions.

- 2 x Canon EOS 1DX bodies (I recently purchased a second 1DX and finally retired my 1DS MK3)
- 1 x Sigma 15mm Fish Eye Lens
- 1 x Canon 16-35mm F4L IS
- 1 x Canon 24-70mm F2.8L IS MK II
- 1 x Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS MK II
- 1 x Canon 200-400mm F4L IS w/ inbuilt 1.4 TC
- 1 x LEE Foundation Kit
- 1 x LEE Foundation Kit and Polariser
- 1 x LEE 3 Filter Lens Wrap
- 1 x LEE 3-Stop Soft Graduated ND Filter
- 1 x LEE 3-Stop Hard Graduated Filter
- 1 x LEE Big Stopper Ten Stop Neutral Density Filter
- LEE Adapter Rings for 77mm and 82mm
- 1 x Canon Drop-in Circular Polariser

Gura Gear Chobe (Carry on Luggage)
- 1 x Apple MacBook Pro 15″ Retina
- 1 x Apple laptop charger
- 1 x Thunderbolt 1 TB external portable hard drive
- 1 x  USB CF card reader
- 1 x Sunglasses and sunglasses case
- 1 x Astell & Kern Hi-Rez Portable Audio Player
- 1 x Astell & Kern Charging Cable
- 1 x Inner Ear Stage Two Driver Headphones
- 1 x Leica Ultra-vid 10×42 HD Binoculars

Etcetera Case #1 (Inside Chobe)
- 1 x Canon 1-Series camera charger
- 2 x Power Adapters for on board ship
- 2 x Canon1DX spare Batteries

North Face Rolling Thunder Duffle
- 1 x Arćteryx Atom LT Hoody
- 1 x Arćteryx Kappa Jacket
- 1 x Arćteryx Kappa Pants
- 1 x Arćteryx Alpha SV Goretex Pro Bibs
- 1 x Arćteryx Alpha SV Goretex Jacket (For Patagonia)
- 1 x Arćteryx Gamma Pants
- 1 x Norona Svalbard Pants
- 1 x Devold Expedition Thermal Long Johns
- 2 x Devold Expedition Thermal Tops
- 1 x Scarpa Hiking Boots (For Patagonia)
- 1 x Skins Hiking Lycra (For Patagonia)
- Other regular Clothing
- 1 x Sleeping Bag Liner (For Patagonia)
- 1 x Jobu Deluxe Gimbal Head with Dovetail Base
- 1 x Petzl Headlamp
- 1 x Heat Company Heat 3 Cold Weather Gloves
- 1 x Sandles (For footwear inside ship)
- Personal Items
- 1 x Aquatech Delphin 1D Underwater Sport Housing
- 1 x Aquatech P-70 Extension Ring
- 1 x Aquatech PD-85 Dome Port (For Canon 16-35mm F4L IS)
- 1 x Aquatech Pole Shutter Kit
- 1 x Pair Aquatech Sensory Cold Weather Gloves
- 2 x Aquatech Sport Shields for 70-200mm and 200-400mm lenses

Etcetera Case #2 (Inside North Face Duffle)
- 1 x Arctic Butterfly Sensor Cleaner
- 1 x Filter Wrench
- 1 x Zeiss Cleaning Fluid and Lens Cleaning Tissue
- 1 x Micro Fibre Lens Cloth
- 1 x Rocket Blower with Hepa-Filter

Ortlieb 120 Litre Dry Duffle Bag
- 1 x Really Right Stuff TVC24L Carbon Fibre Tripod with RRS Levelling Base
- 1 x Really Right Stuff Set Tripod Spikes and fitting Alan-key
- 1 x Arctic Sport Muck Boots

There is one other important piece of documentation I will be taking with me on this expedition and that is an Australian Customs Declaration form. If you are travelling internationally from Australia you can read about the benefit arming yourself with this documentation HERE.

What Camera Gear is being left at home?

I always find myself in a bit of quandary when it comes to deciding what to leave at home when packing for a workshop or expedition. Despite my intentions, I often find a lens I planned to leave at home sneaks its way into my bag at the last minute as the fear of wanting it outweighs the thought of the extra weight in the camera bag. On this occasion however, I feel quite confident in my lens selection. I have all the major focal lengths covered and although some of my favourite glass is staying at home (The Canon 17mm F4L TSE and Canon 24mm F3.5L MKII TSE) I do have these focal lengths covered in the new 16-35mm F4L IS and 24-70mm F2.8L MKII. As much as I would like to also take the Canon 600mm F4L IS MKII the sheer weight and bulk of this lens in combination with everything else really preclude it as a viable option so in this instance it is staying at home.

The Bitter Sweet

It is always somewhat bitter sweet for me to be heading overseas on a photography expedition. On the one hand I love spending time in the outdoor polar regions with other photographers who are passionate about their craft. I am fortunate to meet and travel with some fabulous people who are not only talented photographers in their own right but also a source of continual inspiration. Many of these participants have become friends and I just want to take a moment to acknowledge their photography and thank them for their participation and input. The bitter for me is that I am leaving my two young kids for an extended period of time. Thank goodness for technology and Skype.

Purchasing Equipment

If you are considering purchasing any of the items listed in this packing list for your own photography please consider doing so by clicking on the links on this page. It helps me keep this blog running and pay for the hosting fees with a small commission on affiliate sales when you purchase through this site.

Read more.. Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Photo Review Magazine – Ice Work and Cover Photograph December / February Issue

The new December / February issue of Photo Review ‘Inspiring Australian Photographers’, will soon go on sale and includes a feature article ‘Ice Work‘ on my polar photography as well as one of my recent photographs from Antarctica on the cover. The cover shot was taken last November during a photographic expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula and is of a Gentoo Penguin calling its mate during a heavy snow fall. I cannot recall the exact location I took this image as we visited so many different islands, coves and bays during our two weeks visiting and photographing in Antarctica. It was shot with a Canon EOS 1DX and the new Canon 200-400mm F4L IS lens with inbuilt 1.4 Teleconverter. I was able to create a more intimate and evocative photograph by lying down in the snow in order to be at eye level with the subject. The heavy snowfall was a bonus and this really adds to the atmosphere and interest of the photograph for me. Scoring the cover of a magazine is always a huge thrill. Magazines rarely  advise you prior to publication that you have made the cover so it is always a wonderful surprise to see the issue for the first time. You can click on the image below to download the full article or HERE to download as a PDF. Photo Review is available in both print as well as digital editions for the iPad or PDF for other electronic readers.PhotoReview-CoverIt is less than ten days now until I head back to Antarctica for two back-to-back expeditions to South Georgia Island and Antarctica. The excitement of heading to one of the world’s most remote and magnificent destinations for photography is as strong for me now as it was with my very first visit and I am really excited to share these expeditions and the majesty of Antarctica with all aboard. I still have many loose ends to tie up before I board that first plane for the long haul to South America in a weeks time – not the least of which is the traditional packing list blog post. I hope to have this finalised in the next few days.

Read more.. Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

ATA Carnet – A Passort for your Camera Equipment

There has been quite a lot of chatter and confusion recently on some of the forums and social media platforms here in Australia about ATA Carnet’s for international travel with photography equipment.

Let me say right at the start that I have never used an ATA Carnet (or even a Customs Declaration form) in all of my travels and not once to date have I ever been pulled up by customs and immigration in relation to the extent of my photography equipment. This could easily change though and it is worth taking a bit of time to discuss both Carnet’s and Customs declaration forms to both correct some of the misinformation out there, but also to ensure you are covering yourself in a suitable manner should you find yourself in a situation where you are asked if you are holding one of these documents or being asked to pay duty on equipment.

Lets start at the beginning with what is a Carnet?

Carnet or ATA Carnet (pronounced kar-nay) is an international customs and temporary export-import document. It is used to clear customs in 84 countries and territories without paying duties and import taxes on merchandise that will be re-exported within 12 months.  Carnets are also known as Merchandise Passports or Passports for Goods. See “What is a Carnet?” Video. In effect, a Carnet is a passport for your photography equipment that protects you from having to pay duty on equipment you export and re-import. Carnets facilitate temporary imports into foreign countries and re-importation into your home country. There are 84 countries and territories that accept carnets. See a complete list of Carnet countries here.

A Carnet effectively consists of two parts, the first of which is an export document that is presented to customs when you are leaving your country of origin. It includes a list of your equipment as well as your intended use for that equipment and is stamped by customs to show you are taking the equipment out of the country and that the equipment is not subject to import duty when you return. The second part of the Carnet is presented to customs on your arrival into a foreign country that is part of the Carnet system. This document also lists your equipment and protects you from being charged import duty by the foreign country on both entry and exit from the country. It must be shown at the time of entry into the country and at the time of exit. If you fail to exit the country with the equipment you imported you will be charged duty (which will be taken form your Carnet security deposit). See below about the Carnet security deposit and how this duty is charged. See also International Chamber of Commerce.

Here in Australia it presently costs $451 AUD to have documentation prepared for a Carnet by VECCI and you need to apply for a Carnet not less than three business days before you depart (and they recommend two weeks). There are processing fees over and above the $451 dependant on wether you take out a Carnet for three, six or twelve months. A Carnet must list all of the countries you plan to take the equipment that are part of the 84 countries in the Carnet system as well as your intended use for the equipment. There is also a bond that is taken by VECCI to secure your equipment against possible duty charges. This bond is equal to 50% of the commercial value of the goods you plan to travel with. So if you are travelling with $50,000 AUD worth of camera gear you are required to leave a deposit here in Australia with VECCI of $25,000 AUD. VECCI justify this ridiculous security bond because they are covering themselves for the variance in customs duties per country. If you know the specific duty that the country you will be visiting charges you can have this 50% bond amended by VECCI to the same as the country charges. For example: If you are visiting ‘X’ country and ‘X’ country charges 10% duty then VECCI can amend the bond to be 10% in this instance.

The reality of the situation is that a 50% security bond deposit is well above any potential customs duty you may be charged should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being charged import duty on equipment you are carrying internationally. The positive of the ATA Carnet is that you protect yourself from being charged duty and that you will receive back 100% of your bond on return to your home country with all of your equipment. You just have to be prepared to tie up 50% of the commercial value of your goods in a security bond. VECCI do not consider a credit card number a suitable security bond – you have to leave them the actual money.

It is important to note that there is no dollar value minimum or maximum on a Carnet. You do not suddenly need one because the value of your goods has reached a certain amount – there is no minimum threshold and no maximum. A Carnet can be requested for something as small as $100 trade show samples or as large as multi-million dollar private jet. Now, if you are importing a multi-million dollar yacht for an international yachting race, or you are Peter Jackson filming Lord of the Rings and you need to import a few million dollars of equipment for clear commercial purposes then an ATA Carnet is pretty much a mandatory document. But if you are an amateur or professional still photographer like myself who travels extensively with a reasonable amount of camera gear this document is optional. It is worth noting VECCI recommend you do take a Carnet with you, but they also note it is not mandatory and that there is an alternative you can use at least in Australia. You should also note that different countries enforce Carnet’s differently. Presently both New Zealand and the USA are noted by VECCI as rigorous enforcers of Carnet’s.

The alternative to an ATA Carnet is an Australian Customs Declaration Form. An Australian customs declaration form is designed to protect you from having to pay duties on equipment you leave Australia with and then bring back into Australia on your return. Unlike an ATA Carnet, an Australian customs declaration form is free, requires no bond and you can complete this document yourself without a third party. You present this document to Australian customs when leaving the country and have it stamped and your equipment inspected. You then present this document on your return to Australia if you are challenged to pay duty on your equipment on re-entry.

There is a very clear difference between an ATA Carnet and a Customs Declaration Form. The former is designed to protect you from paying duty in both your home country as well as the participating Carnet country you will be visiting – it is in effect a passport for your equipment. A Customs Declaration Form is designed to protect you only in Australia; although you could certainly present this document internationally if you are challenged to pay duty in a foreign country as proof you intend to take all of the equipment home. It is important to note that the foreign country is not in any way obligated to accept an Australian Customs Declaration form and could still legally charge you the full duty amount. Only you can decide if you need a Carnet or an Australian Customs Declaration form. You can download the Australian customs declaration form HERE.

All of this red tape could be a real headache if you are unfortunate to be pulled up by a grumpy customs official who decides to exercise his overt powers and charge you import duty on photography equipment you intend to take home with you. So at the very least you should know how the Carnet system works, what it is and why you should consider if you need one.

It is also important to note that individual countries have their own policies for import duty, their own documents and procedures. You should do your own research on the country you plan to visit and find out what their requirements are for bringing in camera equipment and what can happen if you are challenged and are not able to produce documentation to protect yourself from duties. You should also research the specific laws in your own home country for export and re-import of photographic equipment – even just for personal use abroad.

Personally, I intend to take Customs Declaration forms with me from now on to at least protect myself from duty in  my home country. The ATA Carnet system would me by preferred approach but frankly the cost of doing so is ridiculous and I have no desire to tie up large amounts of cash in security bond deposits with VECCI.

Read more.. Monday, October 20th, 2014

Aquatech Imaging Solutions Sponsorship for South Georgia Island and Antarctica

I am very excited to share the news that I have recently signed a new sponsorship agreement with Aquatech Imaging Solutions here in Australia. For the last fourteen years AquaTech has been designing and manufacturing professional photographic accessories for photographers who work in wet weather conditions.  They first began manufacturing their Sport Housings for professional photographers and cinematographers and mainly focused their products towards surfing and ocean sports.  Today their Sport Housings are used in several different genres of photography such as advertising, surfing, sailing, documentary, fashion, fishing, Olympic water sports, and more.Rain ShieldI am looking forward to adding Polar photography to the list of genres for Aquatech and will be taking one of their Delphin 1D underwater sport housings along with dome port and ancillary accessories with me to Antarctica and South Georgia Island in a little under two weeks time. I have long wanted to pursue some underwater and split (half above water / half below water) photography in Antarctica and am very excited about this new opportunity.Delphin 1D frontFor those of you travelling to South Georgia Island and Antarctica with me this year who are interested in learning more about underwater photography and the use of housings, the equipment will be available to see, use and try for the duration of the expedition. I will also have several of the Aquatech Sport Shields and Sensory Gloves on hand for all to try. The best and fastest way to get up to speed with the Delphin underwater housing and accessories is to check out the Aquatech online videos on their website HERE.

Read more.. Friday, October 17th, 2014

Outdoor Photographer Magazine – Antarctica: Planes, Planes & More Planes

Outdoor Photographer magazine are running a multi-issue (six + issues) feature on the expedition I am leading this November to South Georgia Island and Antarctica with Andy Biggs.  It is now less than two weeks until I will be leaving for this expedition and a blog post on packing and equipment will follow shortly. I will also be announcing a brand new sponsor in the next few days that will be helping to support this expedition with some equipment that is going to make for some very exciting photographic possibilities – stay tuned for that announcement.outdoorphotographer2014This series of feature articles is sponsored by my good friends and manufactures of my preffered camera bags – Gura Gear. The fifth part of the new series is featured in the brand new November 2014 issue. Subsequent issues will include what leads on from South Georgia and Antactica and then at the conclusion of the expedition there will be an issue reporting on our experiences along with a number of photographs taken during the expedition. You can click on the image below to Download a Larger Version of the second article.  Be sure to Subscribe to Outdoor Photographer magazine for the follow up issues. Subscriptions are available in single issue or multi-issue in Print, iPad, Zinio and more. Just choose your favourite reading medium, subscribe and enjoy. The South Georgia and Antarctica expedition is sold out, but I will soon be announcing a future expedition to both the Weddell Sea and South Georgia Island in 2016. If you are interested in joining us please Contact Me with your expression of interest.

MEDIA2014_AntarcticaPlanes_Web

Read more.. Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Testimonial from Chris Roberts – Iceland Ultimate Summer Workshop 2014

 “Hi Josh, Just wanted to say thanks again for a terrific couple of weeks in Iceland this July, it really was a fabulous experience, with another handful of people falling in love with Iceland, I’m sure. The efforts that you make to maximise the weather and light, and location are exceptional.  I’m really happy with many of my images, and am already looking forward to coming back!” Christine RobertsSuper Moon Rising at Landmannalaugar IcelandYou can read the 2014 Iceland Ultimate Summer Workshop trip report online HERE. All of the workshops I am leading to Iceland next year (2015) are already sold out; but if you are interested in travelling and photographing in Iceland Daniel Bergmann and I will soon be announcing our schedule for 2016 which will include a Winter expedition in March and two Autumn expeditions in late August and September. The winter expedition will focus on the South East coast and frozen North of Iceland. The Autumn trips will focus on the Highlands and on the North and Northwest fjords respectively. We are not yet ready to start taking bookings for these workshops but if you would like to be amongst the first to be notified when bookings are open you can email me to register your interest. No obligation at this point. If you are considering travelling to Iceland on a workshop for the first time be sure to read my Top Ten Tips for choosing your next workshop.

 

Read more.. Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Jewels of the Arctic 2014 Expedition Report

In late August 2014 I led a ship based polar photography expedition from Isafjord in the north of Iceland to the remote east coast of Greenland and west coast of Svalbard – The Jewels of the Arctic. During this expedition we sailed across the Denmark Strait from Iceland and explored and photographed the wild and remote fjords of Greenland and stunning glacial landscapes of Svalbard. We saw and photographed giant icebergs, precipitous mountains that plunge hundreds of metres into the sea, majestic wildlife and much more. We encountered Arctic pack ice and spent many hours photographing from ship, shore and zodiac under the midnight Arctic sun. Greenland IcebergThis trip report is going to be a little different to those I have written up in the past. Rather than recount just the highlights and main experiences I am instead going to post the day-by-day reports that are handed out to participants at the end of each day. At the conclusion of every day of the expedition the staff and crew compile a report of our activities for the day as well as our upcoming plans for the following day. The intention of these daily reports is not only to keep everyone on the expedition up to date but also to provide a record at the end of trip for participants to take home. These reports give a wonderful insight into ship board life and the many experiences over the course of the expedition. They cover a lot more than just the photography (in fact they are not really meant to be photography based, and are focused on life aboard ship and in the Arctic) and include information about the ships position, weather, wildlife encounters, our daily itinerary and even a few Russian language tips in good faith to our crew. The Trip Daily Reports can be downloaded as a complete PDF file HERE.

FracturedAs with all polar expeditions we encountered a variety of weather that included a remarkably calm and flat Denmark Strait and Greenland sea crossing. Both of these stretches of water are quite notorious and can be as rough as the Drake Passage (that thin stretch of water between South America and Antarctica). Thankfully we were fortunate to experience calm seas for the duration of our expedition, which really maximised our photography – both on ship and on zodiac. I lost count of the number of zodiac excursions during the fourteen days we were in the Arctic but they included many, many hours cruising amongst gigantic icebergs and dramatic mountain scenery.

Greenland DawnI am still sorting through and editing the many thousands of photographs I made during this expedition. These few  images I have had the time to process since returning are just a small sample of the sort of incredible scenery we encountered during our two weeks in Greenland and Svalbard. The Organ Pipes in GreenlandGreenland in particular is a landscape photographers paradise and remains for me one of the most geologically amazing locations I have ever visited. No where else have I ever seen such amazing and precipitous mountain formations or such incredible glacial scaring across the face of the landscape. The fjords are lined with magnificent orange and yellow mountains  that are a wonderful counterpoint to the gigantic icebergs that drift slowly through the fjords. As the glaciers continue to thin and recede the newly uncovered landscape offers amazingly varied opportunities for photography. The glaciology of the Arctic is truly something to behold and even though the glaciers are sadly in full retreat at an incredibly alarming rate the opportunities for photography remain boundless. The high Arctic is an incredibly special place to visit and photograph and it was as always an absolute privilege and pleasure to share it with all aboard our ship.

Ice and GlacierI am looking forward to returning next year to Svalbard to lead two dedicated expeditions to photograph Polar Bears north of Svalbard at the edge of the permanent pack ice. These two expeditions will be using much smaller twelve person ships which will enable us to get down to eye level with wild Polar Bears. Both of these expeditions are already sold out, but if you would like to be amongst the first to be notified when the 2016 trips are open for bookings please just drop me an email.

Read more.. Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Untitled Film Works to Film Kingdom of the Ice Bear Expedition

Last year I commissioned Untitled Film Works to travel with me to the Arctic to create a short movie of what it was like to be on a photographic expedition in Greenland and Svalbard with a group of dedicated and passionate photographers (In case you missed it you can watch it HERE). The resulting movie was released early this year and spread quickly across the internet. It was a huge amount of fun and we received a large amount of email corresponedence complimenting us on the video. Ultimately, it achieved what I hoped it would – it gave an insight into what it was like to travel on a dedicated polar photography expedition in the Arctic.

Now, I am very excited to announce and share that Untitled Film Works have been commissioned for a second movie and will accompany myself, Daniel Bergmann and ten keen and passionate photographers on our Kingdom of the Ice Bear Expedition north of Svalbard in August next year. During this expedition we plan to photograph and film wild Polar Bears living and hunting in their natural environment on the permanent pack ice under the spectacular midnight sun. We also hope to film many other Arctic species including Walrus, Arctic Fox, Whales and more. We will produce a second short movie and then release it toward the end of next year. The movie will be made freely available as before.Polar Bear

The movie will be shot on a combination of a 6K RED Epic Dragon Cinema Camera as well as several Canon EOS 1DC Cinema cameras. It is my hope that this movie will help raise awareness for not only global warming, but also more specificially, the plight of the Polar Bear as the sea ice continues to thin under its feet. KingdomoftheIceBear2015

Our Kingdom of the Ice Bear Expedition is now almost sold out (only one place remaining). If you are interested in joining us or have any questions about the expedition please just drop me an email.

Read more.. Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Apple Thunderbolt Upgrade with Legacy Firewire Computers

I ran into quite a nasty little ‘gotcha’ experience with the upgrade path from Firewire to Thunderbolt last night that I think is worth sharing for anyone who might be considering purchasing a new Thunderbolt device and owns and uses legacy Mac computers with Firewire800 ports.

In my studio I am currently running an 8-core 2010 ‘Big Iron’ Mac Pro Server as my main photography editing and printing machine. It has 64 Gigabytes of RAM and is loaded up with a super quick OWC SSD Card as well as four internal hard drives in a RAID10 Array. Its a very quick machine and not really in need of an upgrade any time soon. I had also been running an external Drobo Pro with 8 x 1TB drives in it connected via Firewire800. The sole purpose of the Drobo was a daily back-up of the internal Mac Pro RAID10 Array. Its the old belt suspenders and a piece of string and this set-up has worked well now for years.

In preparation for a new Thunderbolt Mac Pro next year (which has no firewire800 ports) I purchased one of the new Promise Pegasus2 R4 Thunderbolt2 Disk Attached Storage (DAS) Chassis and loaded it up with 4 Western Digital Red Hard Drives in a RAID10.  I also purchased a Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 adapter from Apple to enable me to connect the new Promise DAS directly to the Mac Pro’s Firewire800 port. And that is where I hit a major roadblock.

As it turns out the Apple Thunderbolt to Firewire800 adapter is a one way adapter only. That is, you can connect it to the Thunderbolt port of a new Thunderbolt equipped Apple Mac and use it to connect to a legacy Firewire800 device (like a hard drive). However, you cannot connect a Thunderbolt device (such as the Promise Pegasus2 R4) to a Firewire800 Apple Mac with this adapter. It will not work. The reason it will not work is the adapter is designed to create a Thunderbolt port for a non-Thunderbolt equipped Firewire device. It cannot create a Firewire port for a Thunderbolt device and thats a very important distinction.

According to the description on Apple’s website:ThunderboltNow it does say ‘Connect your Thunderbolt equipped Mac to a Firewire device’. I just assumed (incorrectly) that you could therefore connect a Thunderbolt device to a Firewire equipped Mac; which is not the case. It is a fairly easy assumption to make as the text does not say it cannot be done and adapters usually work both ways.

This left me in some what of a quandary as I really did not want to shell out more than six thousand dollars for the new Mac Pro just yet. I simply wanted to bed in the new Thunderbolt storage array so that when I did upgrade to the new Mac Pro at some stage next year I was ready to go with Thunderbolt storage that was tested and bedded down. What to do?

The good news is that there is a solution; although it is not very elegant and does require you to own some sort of Thunderbolt equipped Mac in addition to your Firewire equipped Mac. Thankfully I have a new MacBook Pro that has several Thunderbolt ports that I use when travelling. Step one is to connect the Thunderbolt storage device (in my case the Promise Pegasus2 R4) to the Thunderbolt equipped Mac with a standard Thunderbolt cable. Step two is to connect the Thunderbolt equipped Mac to the Firewire equipped Mac and start the Firewire equipped Mac in ‘Target Disk Mode’. In order to do this you will need a Firewire 800 cable and a Firewire to Thunderbolt Adapter available from the Apple store. Once started in Target Disk Mode the Firewire800 equipped Mac Pro will then show up as a mounted disk on the Thunderbolt equipped Mac Pro and you can then copy the files from the Firewire equipped Mac Pro to the Thunderbolt Pegasus2 DAS. It is not the cleanest solution, but it works and it is quite fast (Firewire800 speed is the limitation).

Read more.. Friday, October 10th, 2014

Fjallabak Nature Reserve – Iceland

One of the highland areas we travelled through on the two recent Ultimate Iceland Workshops I completed in August this year was the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. This incredible nature reserve is home to some of the most stunning scenery, mountains and rivers found in Iceland. Many of the best locations and viewpoints are not even sign posted and are only found through exploration of the area. The particular vantage point was just off the side of the road. We pulled off at this location and decided to wait for sunset – several hours early we set up a quick temporary camp with the evening meal, a few drinks, deck chairs and settled back to watch the magic unfold. I took numerous different compositions and frames at this location, but it is this one with the evening light on the distant mountain that I most enjoy.Fjallabak

Read more.. Thursday, October 9th, 2014