Packing for Iceland and the Arctic Summer 2013

In a weeks time I will be making the long trek back to Iceland for my 2013 summer Highlands Workshop (with a love of the Polar regions I really lucked out being born in Australia when it comes to travel time). Iceland in summer is a magical destination for photography and I always look forward to returning. I particularly love the summer months as it allows access into the normally inaccessible highland regions and the midnight sun provides hours of golden light for photography. Although the hours for photography are long the rewards are always worth while and I look forward to watching the sun rise and set over the primordial Icelandic landscape. I am particularly looking forward to this trip as some of the participants I have previously travelled with in Antarctica and they are a fabulous group of people and have become friends. I am looking forward to reuniting with them in Reykjavik and starting our trip. There are only a couple of places remaining on my Summer Iceland workshops next year if you missed out this year.

After our Iceland workshop I will be spending a few days in Reykjavik to rest after the long hours of midnight sun photography. Weather permitting I will take the opportunity to do some aerial photography over the glacial rivers and the highland region of Landmannalaugar. Aerial photography in Iceland is something I have wanted to undertake for many years now and I am very much looking forward to this opportunity. There are spectacular patterns and colours over the glacial rivers and highlands and the aerial perspective should provide some unique imagery.

After we finish in Iceland my friend Daniel Bergmann and I will head to Longyearbyen (via Oslo) in Svalbard for an expedition with nine other photographers to photograph Polar Bears aboard MS Origo. I am packing the new Canon 200-400mm F4L IS with its inbuilt 1.4 Teleconverter on the 1DX as the ideal weapon for Polar Bear photography and am looking forward to putting this new optic through its paces in the Arctic. After our Polar Bear trip we will dock back in Longyearbyen and board the ice hardened expedition ship Polar Pioneer to co-lead the exciting Jewels of the Arctic expedition from Svalbard to Greenland and Iceland. We are looking forward to some spectacular landscape and wildlife opportunities on this trip. Spitsbergen’s rugged northwest coast comprises mountains, tundra and fjords and Greenland’s remote east coast shows off the immensity of the icecap, fantastic icebergs and massive granite spires rising over 1000 metres above the fjords. The arctic landscape is one of untold splendour and beauty and this expedition has been designed to maximise the photography opportunities. This expedition offers a complete Arctic experience for photography: tundra walks amidst reindeer and exquisite dwarf vegetation, zodiac cruises near icebergs and calving glacier fronts, hikes to breathtaking mountain vistas and warm welcomes into indigenous communities. We will likely see and photograph reindeer, Arctic fox, musk ox, countless sea and land birds, walrus, seals, whales and polar bears amongst the breathtaking arctic landscapes. We will have nearly 24 hours of daylight with hours and hours of golden light. At our most northerly position we will be only 600 miles from the North Pole. This expedition is sold out; however I will be co-leading another expedition in 2014 to the Arctic (The Jewels of the Arctic) and bookings are now open. Please contact me if you would like more information or visit the workshop page on my website to download a detailed itinerary.

I will farewell my friend Daniel when we dock in Iceland and hook up with my co-leader Peter Eastway and friend Antony Watson for the return Jewels of the Arctic Expedition (I must remind them both to pack some vegemite). Joining us on this trip will be Abraham Joffe from Untitled Film works. Abraham and his company will be filming and producing a short film of our adventures and experiences and it is our hope to provide a glimpse into what life is like aboard ship during a photography expedition. These photography expeditions and workshops are huge amount of fun as well as a fabulous learning opportunity and we hope to capture the experience of joining such a trip in a short video that will be freely available toward the end of this year. I won’t list the full spectrum of equipment Abraham and his film company are bringing on this expedition as the list is extensive – suffice to say he will be shooting with a RED Epic as well as several Canon 1DC Cameras. Untitled Film works were selected from a large number of applicants for this project due to their exceptionally high quality work, passion for their craft and desire to continually raise the standards of production. I want to thank them for taking on the project and look forward to working with them. To get an idea of the calibre of their productions please visit their website at and stay tuned on our return for a glimpse into our expedition.If you have been following my blog you will know that I am taking the Gura Gear Monarch Bataflae camera bag on this two month trip to Iceland and the Arctic. Andy Biggs kick started The Monarch’s adventures about a month ago on safari in the wilds of Africa and I am pleased to pick up the torch and carry on it’s travels. This time it is headed to Iceland, the Svalbard Archipelago and Greenland as above. I am going to be away for two months and as well as teaching workshop in the field will also be photographing alongside the participants. We will be shooting everything from Icelandic and Arctic landscapes including mountains, glaciers, icebergs, waterfalls and geothermal regions to wildlife including grazing reindeer, Walrus, Sea Birds and with a little luck some Polar Bears so the Monarch is leaving Australia chock full of equipment.

Gura Gear Monarch Bataflae 32L: (carry on luggage)

  • Canon EOS 1DX Pro Body Camera
  • Canon EOS 1DS MK3 Pro Body Camera
  • Sigma 15mm Fish Eye Lens (I have some specific shots in mind for this specialist lens)
  • Canon 17mm F4L TSE Lens
  • Canon 24mm F3.5L TSE Lens
  • Canon 24-70mm F2.8L MKII Lens (The MKII version of this lens is an amazing piece of glass)
  • Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS Lens
  • Canon 200-400mm F4L IS Lens with inbuilt 1.4 TC (Yes! It has arrived! Watch the Unboxing Video)
  • 4 x Spare Batteries for the Canon Cameras
  • 1 x Macro Extension Tube
  • 1 x 2X TC Teleconverter
  • Cable Release and Bubble Level
  • Assorted CF and SD Cards totalling around 100 Gigabytes
  • Rocket Blower and Dust Cleaning paraphernalia
  • Complete LEE Foundation and Filter Kit with Soft and Hard ND Graduated filters – includes a custom made adapter for the Canon 17mm TSE Lens
  • Rode Portable Microphone and Dead Cat (for recording small bits of audio in the field)

Gura Gear Chobe Bag: (carry on luggage)

  • 15″ Macbook Pro with Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CS6 with the Nik Plugin suite
  • MacBook Power Adapter
  • 2 x 1TB iOmega dual firewire 800 Hard Drives (for dual in the field image back up)
  • Various Power Adapters / Chargers and Associated Cables
  • Canon 1DX / 1DS MK3 Battery  Charger
  • iPad Mini (e-books and movies for the long flights)
  • Firewire 800 CF Reader
  • Passport / iPhone / Wallet
  • A lot of these items I store inside Gura Gear Etcetera cases inside the Chobe. (These cases are fabulous for organising accessories)

North Face Thunder Rolling Duffle: (checked luggage)

  • Arctic Sport Muck Boots (For use in the zodiacs in the Arctic)
  • 66º North Wet and Cold Weather Outer Shells
  • Base Layers
  • Mid Layers – Trekking Pants and Tops
  • Gloves and Hat
  • Miscellaneous clothes
  • Personal items and toiletries – including Sunscreen (The Ozone layer is extremely thin in the Poles and it is very easy to get sun burned in minutes)

Tripod: (checked luggage)

  • Really Right TVC24L Tripod
  • Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head
  • Really Right Stuff Tripod Spikes (For mossy ground and rock claws for ice and rock)
  • Wimberley Side Kick (For use with the 200-400 Lens)

What Camera Gear is being left at home?

As someone who prefers to carry it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it, 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. This is not to say I am indecisive; rather, my imagination often runs away with the possibilities of when and where I might use a given lens or piece of equipment.  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 300mm F2.8L IS and 85mm F1.2L MKII) I do have these focal lengths covered in the 70-200 F2.8L IS and Canon’s new 200-400 F4L IS Lens. I am particularly looking forward to putting this later lens through its paces in the Arctic. In case you missed it, I reviewed an early prototype of this lens late last year and found its performance to be staggeringly good (the video of the review was featured over at the Luminous Landscape). Just for giggles I also did a short Unboxing Video.

The Bitter Sweet

It is always somewhat bitter sweet for me to be heading overseas on a photography workshop. 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 breadth of talent I see on workshops and expeditions is always a source of inspiration for my own photography. I am particularly looking forward to hooking up with my good friend Martyn Lucas with whom I have travelled in both Iceland and Antarctica. This time Martyn is joining me for the Jewels of the Arctic expedition and it will be great to have him onboard. The bitter for me is that I am leaving my wife and two young kids for an extended period of time. The drudgery of the daily school drop offs and pick ups always seems a distant memory when I step onto the plane and it is the smiling faces I remember. Thank goodness for technology and Skype.

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