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.It 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.
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?
A 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.
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.I 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.For 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.
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.This 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.
“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 RobertsYou 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.
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. This 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.
As 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.
I 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. Greenland 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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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:Now 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).
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.
For the last three weeks I have been agonising over the decision of wether to fly back to Iceland to photograph the volcano that is currently erupting north of the Vatnajökull ice-cap, before I head south to South Georgia Island and Antarctica. The volcanic fissure eruption in Holuhraun (north of Vatnajökull) has been going on now for more than a month. Unfortunately this eruption started only a few days after I had to leave Iceland to lead my Greenland expedition (trip report coming soon). I had camped out with my friend and fellow photographer Antony in the hopes we would be in the ideal location when the eruption began; but as luck would have it we missed it by just a few days – ce la vie.
Currently the area around the eruption site is closed to all ground traffic due to significant venting of poisonous gas and it is therefore impossible to get anywhere near the fissure site and the lava being ejected. Just to give some insight into the scale of this eruption – to date the amount of magma ejected exceeds 50 square kilometres and it is showing no signs of slowing down. All of the surrounding roads are closed due to both the risk of poisonous gas as well as possible flooding from the nearby Bárðarbunga volcano should it also erupt. Things are further complicated by the early arrival of winter snowfall in the north and very high winds and Autumn storms. Any photography would be restricted to aerials only (and that is assuming a viable weather window) and whilst it would be better than nothing it is not my preference to photograph an eruption from the air. I would much prefer to be on terra-firma and to be able to use slow shutter speeds for more creative imagery.
Ultimately, it would be a huge gamble at this point that would cost many thousands of dollars including planes and helicopters. The probability for failure is extremely high for any sort of image making other than documentary (and even that is currently in doubt). All of this is further complicated by expedition commitments I have in South Georgia and Antarctica in less than three weeks time. Which is why I have had to make the very hard decision this evening not to fly to Iceland tomorrow for this volcanic event. This decision was doubly difficult for me as I also missed the Eyjafjallajökull eruption by days and have been waiting for the next eruption with the intention of jumping on the next plane to Iceland to photograph it. For now I am going to have to enjoy the live web cam on the fissure eruption which can be viewed HERE.The final complication is the Bárðarbunga volcano itself. This volcano resides under the Vatnajökull glacier and is the real danger and the big unknown at this point in time. At approximately ten times the size of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano it has incredibly destructive potential should it erupt. I want to emphasise this point – Bárðarbunga is a monumental Force of Nature the likes of which we have not witnessed in recent times. The sheer volume of ash that will be ejected into the atmosphere should it explosively erupt is very likely to cause significant airline disruption for many months and significant fall-out across the Northern Hempisphere. The sheer destructive potential of this volcano should not be in any way be underestimated. At this point in time the glacier is subsiding over Bárðarbunga which points to the possibility of an eruption in the near future. As to exactly when this may occur is an unknown at this point. Earthquakes are ongoing in the area which is being heavily monitored.
The best way to stay up-to-date with the current news is to follow the Icelandic meteorological site www.vedur.is. Scientists are reporting that Iceland has entered a state of increased volcanic activity. There is therefore a high likelihood that the eruption will still be ongoing when I head to Iceland for my annual winter workshop in February next year. Should that be the case we will certainly be taking advantage of any weather window and access to photograph it. Until then the volcano is best enjoyed from the safety of the office and the webcam.