Iceland Volcano – Katla Situation Update

T-Minus three weeks until I leave for Iceland and all is quiet on the volcano front. Eyjafjallajokull is quietly steaming away in the background on the webcam (when visibility is good – lately it has been terrible) and Katla is eerily silent. Even the earthquakes have slowed of late with only minimal activity in the last week – I hope this is not the calm before the storm. This is the quietest Katla has been since I started monitoring it back in May.  The Modern Survival Blog has an interesting story today on earthquakes – in 2010 they are apparently up 133 percent across the globe – Mother Nature stretching her legs? I am continuing to monitor the status of both Eyjafjallajokull and Katla on a daily basis and will do so up until I leave later this month. The Icelandic Met Office has some great reports for anyone interested in daily updates.

Iceland – ‘Final’ Equipment Check List

Its only a few weeks now till I leave for Iceland for three weeks dedicated landscape and nature photography; which means its definitely time to finalise my photographic and non photographic equipment for the trip. The non photographic equipment is pretty much confined to a few sets of suitable trekking clothes, Gortex jacket / pants, boots, personal items etc. The photographic equipment on the other hand requires considerably more thought. I have pondered the equipment to take for months now and my revised check list is as follows:

  • Canon 1DSMK3 Camera Body (going to serve as my primary DSLR Camera workhorse for the trip)
  • Two Spare Batteries and Battery Charger (should be heaps – I get over 1000 frames out of a single charge)
  • Canon S90 Point and Shoot (Going to serve as a back-up in the unlikely event the 1DSMK3 falls over)
  • Flip HD Camcorder or my Canon HD Camcorder (I cant decide as yet which to take)
  • Canon 17mm TSE Lens (my widest lens for the trip – with TSE a Bonus!)
  • Canon 24mm F1.4L MKII Lens (My Favourite Landscape Lens)
  • Canon 50mm F1.2L
  • Canon 70-200mm F2.8L IS
  • Canon 300mm F2.8L IS
  • Canon 1.4x Tele-Extender
  • Canon Macro Tube
  • Canon 580EX Flash with a ST-E2 Remote Trigger
  • Cable Release and Bubble Level
  • An assortment of LEE Hard and Soft Graduated Neutral Density Filters / Filter Holder
  • The LEE Big Stopper 10 Stop ND Filter
  • A couple of Circular Polarisers
  • A Slew of Compact Flash and Mini SD cards – totalling around 100 Gigabytes
  • My Mac Book Pro / accessories and Back Up LACIE rugged hard drive
  • Arctic Butterfly (for Sensor Cleaning), lens cleaning tissue, lens cleaning fluid, grey card etc.
  • Gitzo Tripod and Really Right Stuff Ball Head
  • My much loved shooting vest
  • Lowe Pro Nature Trekker II Camera Bag and Lowe Pro Compact Backpack (which will hold pretty much all of the above except the tripod and shooting vest). I need to split all of this gear into two bags in order to meet the carry on airline weight restrictions per piece of luggage.

The above equipment list pretty much covers me for all the major focal lengths – except 35mm (which I have decided I can live without for this trip). I know in many ways all of this equipment flies against the current trend of many photographers to travel as light as possible; typically packing only a zoom lens or two to ease the travel discomfort. But, I am approaching it from a different angle and am prepared to wear the travel discomfort and to some extent the excess baggage for flexibility and maximum quality when in the field. Since I wont be doing any serious hiking and will have a 4WD for the trip moving all this around shouldn’t to bothersome.

Other Items I need to Take

  • Down Sleeping Bag
  • Petzl LED Headlamp
  • Shooting gloves

Whats not coming? (but might sneak in at the last minute).

  • Canon 85mm F1.2L (I can cover this focal range with the 70-200mm F2.8L IS)
  • Canon 5D Camera Body (I want to take this… my heart says yes… my head and wallet say NO!)
  • Canon 14mm F2.8L MKII – Off the radar and out of budget for this trip

Snow Leopard – Its a Mac Thing

It isn’t really a ‘Mac Thing’ (or maybe it is!) – But the Snow Leopard is definitely my ‘favourite’ of the big cats (I also have a soft spot for the Persian Leopard); which accounts for my continual return visits to photograph them whenever possible at the Melbourne Zoo. This photograph was taken during the same shooting session as ‘Snow Leopard in Profile‘, but captures a very different moment and feeling. My only regret with both of these photographs is that this is a captive animal and not wild. But since Snow Leopards are native to a foreign country, endangered and extremely rare I hope you will forgive the captive nature of these photographs and instead enjoy them for their merit in their own right. I used the Canon 300mm F2.8L IS lens for this shot at ISO400 on the 1DSMK3. I have had a few emails from readers asking me how I photograph these animals without any ‘bars or cages’ in the shot – ‘Did I have special access?’ The answer is no – I photographed all of the animals either in the wild or from normal public Zoo access. The trick when faced with caged animals is to use a lens with a wide aperture like the Canon 300mm F2.8L IS and to put the lens as close as possible to the bars; whilst putting the animal as far away from the bars as possible. This effectively throws the bars or cage so far out of focus that they become invisible. Its a very useful technique to photograph captive animals.

Sandisks New Archival ‘Worm’ SD Card

The issue of how to safely and securely archive thousands, tens of thousands or possibly even hundreds of thousands of photographs is a constant problem for photographers. Well, a new solution is on the horizon from Sandisk – the ‘WORM’ Write Once, Read Many SD card. Initially available only in a 1 Gigabyte size; but larger sizes are sure to come.

IDG News Service – SanDisk on Wednesday announced a Secure Digital card that can store data for 100 years, but can be written on only once.

The WORM (write once, read many) card is “tamper proof” and data cannot be altered or deleted, SanDisk said in a statement. The card is designed for long-time preservation of crucial data like legal documents, medical files and forensic evidence, SanDisk said. The media comes with capacity of only 1GB. SanDisk determined the media’s 100-year data-retention lifespan based on internal tests conducted at normal room temperatures.

To draw comparisons, the card is like DVD-write only media, but much smaller and with a much longer life span. SD cards typically slot into portable devices like digital cameras and mobile phones to store or move images, video or other data. The WORM works like conventional SD media, but only with compatible devices, SanDisk said.

The company said it is shipping the media in volume to the Japanese police force to archive images as an alternative to film, SanDisk said. The company is working with a number of consumer electronics companies including camera vendors to support the media. The media is available worldwide through resellers. SanDisk did not comment on pricing.

Footprints on Mars – Processing in Lightroom 2.7 Video

In response to a few emails I have had asking me how I went about  processing this photograph – ‘Footprints on MarsI have put together a short video on the steps I took in Lightroom 2.7. I have subsequently upgraded to Lightroom 3.0; but the processing remains the same (the sharpening for this photograph is slightly different in 3.0). The video is quite large (over 100 megabytes and runs just under fifteen minutes) in order to keep decent quality to clearly see the steps and difference pre and post processing. You will need to right click on this LINK ‘save as’ to download the video file. Enjoy.