Packing for Iceland in Winter and the Deserts of Namibia

Late this evening (my plane leaves at the not so civilised time of 3:30am) I am starting the long trek to Iceland for my annual winter workshop with my good friend Daniel Bergmann and I have found myself struggling over the last couple of days with a real packing quandary. I will be spending a total of nearly a month in Iceland this winter before I fly directly to Namibia (via Frankfurt) to meet with Andy Biggs for our back-to-back Namibia desert workshops. At the completion of my winter workshop in Iceland and before I head to Namibia I will be heading further north with a film crew and spending a week in the extreme remote north of Iceland on a new project on the Arctic Fox. This means I need to pack my Arctic winter gear as well as clothing suitable for the world’s oldest deserts in Namibia – it has been quite the brain buster trying to rationalise my packing (I know.. its a good problem to have).  In the end I have decided to simply leave my winter gear in Iceland and collect it when I am back there in July later this year. It makes little sense to haul unnecessary winter gear half way around the world through the deserts of Namibia when all it would be doing is adding weight and bulk. With that intention in mind I still had to figure out how to get myself, over twenty kilograms of camera gear plus my winter gear and summer desert clothing for Namibia over to Iceland. I admit it feels a tad strange to be packing a wide brimmed sunhat and sunshirts with my arctic boots and winter clothing. The issue is somewhat compounded by the fact that Iceland and Namibia require very different approaches in terms of camera gear which adds both weight and complexity. Perhaps doubly so as I am carrying long and heavy telephoto lenses for my project on the Arctic Fox at the completion of my winter workshop. In the end I have packed almost my entire lens line-up and my checked luggage is right on the 30 kilogram limit imposed by the airlines.

Despite my intentions not to upgrade my Macbook Pro I finally crumbled and purchased the new model not long after my return from Antarctica in December last year. There are significant weight savings in the new model (as well as the much improved retina display) and these advantages finally swayed me to part with the cash and purchase the new model (GAS ‘Gear Acquisition Syndrome’ strikes again). It is funny how when you travel as much as I do you can quickly rationalise a new piece of expensive equipment just to save some weight. That said, I have very quickly become quite accustomed and fond of the Retina display. If NEC ever offer their current large wide gamut SpectraView monitors in a retina display I will be sorely tempted to upgrade – especially if they reach the magic 300 DPI number.

The Canon 1DX will remain my primary camera of choice for these trips. I will also carry a couple of spare batteries so that I can cycle them in and out of warm pockets. Experience has shown me that I can pretty much go an entire day without a battery change but I like to have spares on hand just in case. I did long ponder the idea of taking a camera with more mega pixels with me (particularly for Namibia) but I have ultimately decided that the quality of the pixels in the 1DX are more than good enough for my requirements. I have been making really wonderful 20 x 30 and 40 x 60 inch prints from Canon 1DX files and my agent recently sold a 24 x 100 inch print (also from a 1DX file) from Antarctica at his gallery in Aspen in the USA. Suffice to say the quality of the pixels makes a huge difference to the final output and the 1DX has truly fantastic pixels.

Gura Gear Bataflae 32L: (carry on luggage – Believe it or not this does all fit in the one camera bag!)

  • Canon EOS 1DX Pro Body Camera
  • Canon 17mm F4L TSE Lens
  • Canon 24mm F3.5L TSE MKII 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 MKII Lens
  • Canon 600mm F4L IS MKII Lens
  • 1 x Spare Battery for the 1DX
  • Canon 1.4 TC MKIII Tele-Extender
  • Leica Ultra-Vid HD Binoculars
  • 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 and LEE Polariser – includes new LEE adapter for the Canon 17mm TSE Lens

I am carrying the two TSE lenses specifically for photography at Kolmanskop ghost town in Namibia. This abandoned town is the ideal location for Tilt and Shift lenses and I hope to put them to good use in this area. Although I am primarily carrying the 600m and 200-400mm lenses for the Arctic Foxes in Iceland I do hope to put these lenses to use for wildlife in Namibia at the end of our second workshop when we head into Erindi Wildlife Reserve on a short extension.

Gura Gear Chobe Bag: (carry on luggage)

  • 15″ Macbook Pro with Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CS6 with the Nik Plugin suite
  • MacBook Power Adapter
  • Canon 200-400mm F4L IS Lens with inbuilt 1.4 TC (Watch the Unboxing Video) This lens ‘just’ fits inside the Chobe!
  • 1 x LACIE Thunderbolt External 1TB Hard Drive for in the field 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)
  • Sandisk USB CF and SD Card 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)

  • Sorrel Caribou Winter Boots
  • 66º North Wet and Cold Weather Outer Shells
  • Arc’teryx Kappa and Atom LT Jackets
  • Devold Expedition Base Layers
  • Mid Layers – Trekking Pants and Tops
  • Light Weight Long Sleeve Shirts for Namibia
  • Gloves and Hat
  • Miscellaneous clothes
  • Micro Spikes
  • Sunhat
  • Personal items and toiletries – including Sunscreen

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)
  • Jobo Jnr. Deluxe Gimbal Head with Really Right Stuff Dovetail Base Plate

The astute amongst you may have noticed that there is no back-up camera in the equipment listed above. Thankfully, I have access to a back-up 1DSMK3 in Iceland should I require it. There is a tendency across the internet these days for photographers to tout the virtue of travelling super light when flying internationally (often with micro four thirds systems or even mirror less camera systems). Whilst I admire these photographers for their ability to travel with slim light weight kits I confess that I personally prefer to haul my best quality lenses and cameras irrespective of their weight. After working with a pro video team in the Arctic last August even the above extensive list of gear would be considered light weight in the world of professional video. I thank the gods I am a still photographer. See you in Iceland.

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