Burn the fat off your soul in the pursuit of quality

Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’€™s bound to have some characteristic of quality. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

 

Amar in the Himalayas

Fully loaded in the Himalayas – my pack was around 30kgs of food, shelter, clothing, fuel, climbing equipment and photography gear

 

When I go trekking I am obsessed with the weight of my gear because I have to carry every single gram of what I pack. I go through the pains of selecting gear that is the lightest, made of titanium, butterfly’s wings or nano tubes. I make a mound of all my gear on the bed or couch and then stand and stare at it. Visualising what I will be doing on the trip, matching the use with what I see before me. I remove a few items, then stand back and stare at it some more. I try and stuff all of it into my rucksack. I lift my heavy pack with a grunt and try and estimate what it weighs. Then unpack it all and stare at the mound some more. I repeat this process multiple times till I feel that I have packed just the right amount of gear……and then I stuff a few more things in just in case.

 

Packing for Kamchatka

Packing for Kamchatka – I choose not take the pink booties along

 

I even removed the packaging from the bars of chocolate that can be seen in the bottom left of the photograph. I ultimately decided that I wouldn’t need the pink booties and reluctantly left them out too. Once all my trekking gear was packed perfectly I now have to factor in all my photography gear on top of all my other stuff!

 

Camera gear for Kamchatka

Camera gear for Kamchatka – including the tripod it weighted about 10kgs

 

After much thought this is what I decided to pack for the Kamchatka photography tour i organised in June 2013. It was a dedicated photography trip so I wouldn’t be carrying all my gear along with me. On this trip we were planning to establish a base camp from where we would make day trips out to the volcanos. I would pack very differently for a trekking expedition where I have to carry everything. I will go through that a little later. This is what I decided to take along with me to Kamchatka:

  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon D90 as back up
  • Nikon 14mm
  • Nikon 24-70mm
  • Nikon 80-200mm
  • MB-D10 battery grip
  • 3 EN-EL4 batteries
  • 5 EN-EL3e batteries
  • Batterie chargers
  • 3 16GB memory ards
  • 5 8GB memory cards
  • Really Right Stuff L-bracket
  • Really Right Stuff ball head
  • Manfrotto tripod
  • Circular Polarising Filter
  • 6 stop and 10 stop filters
  • Cable release
  • Card reader
  • Lens and camera cleaning kit
  • Phew………..

I found that I used all of my gear on this trip except for my 80-200mm lens but then again I rarely use this lens. It was one of those just-in-case additions.

 

Madagascar

In the jungles of Madagascar the river is the track

 

On my expedition across Madagascar which involved trekking 400km through the jungle, carrying all my gear, I took a different approach. The camera itself was a very difficult decision as the weight of my gear on this trip was critical. I almost only took my Nikon D90 as it was so much lighter but after much agonising decided to take my much heavier but infinitely more capable D700. This is my gear list for the Madagascar expedition:

  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon 24-70mm
  • Nikon 14mm
  • Nikon 105mm
  • MB-D10 battery grip
  • 3 EN-EL4 batteries
  • 5 EN-EL3e batteries
  • Batterie chargers
  • 3 16GB memory ards
  • 5 8GB memory cards
  • Really Right Stuff L-bracket
  • Really Right Stuff ball head
  • Manfrotto tripod
  • Circular Polarising Filter
  • Cable release
  • Card reader
  • Lens and camera cleaning kit

I had to really wrestle with decision to take the tripod along. All added up the tripod, ballhead and L-bracket do weigh quite a lot. I learnt that we were going to have some porters who going to carry our tents for us. I then decided to take the tripod along. I thought I would be able to get some fantastic shots of the stars along the route. As it turned out we got a couple of clear nights in three weeks of trekking. One of them was perfect as we were high on Mt Maromokotro, the highest peak in Madagascar and I was able to get this shot.

 

Starry night on Mt Maromokotro, Madagascar

Starry night on Mt Maromokotro, Madagascar

 

Was it worth carrying the tripod for 400km through untracked jungle to get this shot? Now that I look at this photo I say yes. Would I do it again? I am not so sure. What I will continue to do is, ensure that I carry the most capable camera, and lens, as this is gives you the most satisfying results.

 

Trekking in Madagascar

Carrying the most capable tools, and knowing how to use them, gives you the potential to get the most satisfying results

 

This shot was taken at the end of another gruelling day of trekking on my expedition to Madagascar. I used a gripped Nikon D700 and 24-70mm which weighs 2.6kgs, thats 500g more than my tent! But I think my D700 was perfect for this trip. It’s built like a tank, is weather sealed, has fantastic low light capabilities and is full frame. As a photographer I made a decision of quality over weight. It meant I had to do more training to be able to carry the extra weight over hundreds of kilometres of very difficult terrain. But I got the pictures I wanted and I look back at them with pleasure, knowing that I was able to apply all my skill using the best tools available. It demanded a lot of effort but I did not have to compromise on quality.

So my advice to you is go for quality, even if it means you have to put in a lot more effort. In the long run it is almost always worth it. And in the words of Hemingway you will also ‘burn the fat off your soul’ in the process.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Photography, travel, trekking.