2023 - Antarctica Planning - Camera Edition
With a bit over two weeks to go before leaving, it’s come time to finalize my photography equipment and make sure all is ready to go.
I’m looking at it in three main categories:
- Camera(s) and Lenses
- Processing and backup
I’ve had a Ona Brixton for a little over a decade now and it’s been around the world with me on almost every trip I’ve done. It’s near perfect for my use cases and love how it looks, but for this trip I don’t think it’s the best option. I want something that has better weather resistance, specifically water resistant, and large enough that I can use it to supplement my luggage since I’m going carry on only. As much as I love messenger bags, backpacks are more functional and sometimes that has to come first.
The requirement list that I came up with was:
- 20L or under and meets personal item size requirements on most airlines
- Water bottle pocket
- Padded laptop/iPad compartment
- Camera storage with easy access
- Weather and water resistant
I’ve been looking at them for years, but the WANDRD PRVKE 21 met all those requirements with the additional benefit of being a good looking bag too. Doing a test fit today it’ll comfortably fit the camera gear, electronics, charging equipment, and more, while remaining comfortable to carry. With the water resistant zippers I’m pretty confident in its ability to get everything safely from the ship to land while on a Zodiac, although I’ll hope I don’t fall in and test that.
Cameras and Lenses
This was a hard one to settle on, and in an ideal world I’d have bought or rented all new gear to have a “perfect” kit. Honestly though, that’s the GAS talking, not anything else. Blame it on my love of new gear! Instead I’m primarily piecing together what I’m taking from existing equipment that I’m comfortable with.
One of the biggest conundrums whenever I’m going on a trip is trying to balance size, weight, image quality, and the intangible “gear I love and want to use”. I’ve experimented with single prime compacts like the Leica Q2 and Q2 Monochrome, using just my phone, taking one of my Fujis with several lenses, taking a Fuji with a single prime, and on my most recent trip, taking a GFX.
In general I’ve found that I’m happiest, regardless of the equipment taken, when I make a decision and stick to it. That’s usually a camera with a single prime lenses, a 35mm equivalent most of the time. It’s a focal length I love and can frame up without thinking. You can get more into a scene and capture intimate details while anchoring the focus in the location.
I don’t often take trips with a photography focus though and I’m with missing shots I could have gotten or spending whatever time I can looking for an alternate angle or view. This is going to be different though, not only is photography a huge focus in this trip for me, I’m enrolled in a photography program though the ship, and we’ll have a lot of opportunity for photography from the ship itself. I’m abandoning my usual preference for minimalism and taking more, but not excessively so. I’ll have three main systems:
Phone - I recently upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro Max and while it’ll never have the same quality as my other cameras, it’ll be a fantastic backup and great for video. I think the main use I’ll get from this one is video, but since it’ll always be in my pocket it’ll work for anything that comes up quick. I’ll always rather have a photo, even lower quality, than not.
Fuji X-Pro 3 - This is perhaps my favorite camera overall. It’s the one that I reach for anything outside of a studio, and sometimes even then. It feels fantastic in my hand, I’ve used it so much that everything is just second nature, and the lenses I have for it are a pleasure to use. I’m only taking two lenses along with me this time though.
- Fuji XF 23mm f/2, my favorite focal length, fast enough to be used inside, and weather resistant
- Fuji XF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Slower lens, but with weather resistance, OIS, and a FANTASTIC focal range for the telephoto images. Tested this one over the summer and the results were pretty great for as relatively inexpensive as this lens is.
GFX 50s II - I debated on this one for quite a while. It’s larger and bulkier than equipment that I use outside of a studio, but you can not argue with the quality you get from it. From dynamic range to the detail that’s captured, I love this camera; rarely though can I justify taking it out of the studio. I’m only taking one lens for this one though:
- GF 35-70mm f4.5-5.6 This is another slower lens, but between the IBIS and fantastic higher ISO performance of the GFX I’m not two concerned over that. The only other real option I was considering was the GF 32-64mm f/4, which would give me a up to 1 stop better aperture, but at the significant cost of an extra pound of weight and an extra $1400. Not worth it.
Ideally I’d just be taking one camera system so the lenses and everything are interchangeable, but this will do very nicely.
This is a pretty short list of things I’m taking in addition to the camera/lenses themselves
- Three extra batteries for each camera
- Dual chargers that allow for charging two of each battery at a time
- Lens Wipes
- Gallon zip lock bags to put gear in
- Desiccant packs to put in the zip lock and camera bags
- Two 64GB SD cards in each camera plus eight backups
- SD card holder
Processing and backup
The only conundrum in this section was if I was going to take a laptop or iPad along with me. My serious work still gets done on a computer, but I’m leaning more and more towards an iPad for everything outside of portfolio or print work. With Lightroom and photoshop having great integration and functionality on the iPad, it’s a pretty workable solution overall, although my love of Capture One with sessions will likely never die. With that said, my simple setup now for processing and backing up the photos will be:
- iPad Pro 12.9 M2 1TB with Apple Pencil and Lightroom (1TB)
- Anker USB 3 Hub with SD card reader
- Samsung T5 1TB drive to backup raw files to before loading into Lightroom
The current plan is on both cameras I’m going to shoot raw only with backup, each raw is written to both SD cards as I shoot. Each day I’ll copy all the files to the T5 drive, then load into Lightroom so a copy will exist on both my iPad and external drive. I’ll also save one of the SD cards from each camera until I can verify that Lightroom has done a cloud backup once we’re back to where WiFi is available.
Think I’ve got everything covered for what to take with me, there will always be something unexpected that comes up, but there’s redundancy and even if everything falls into the ocean, I’ll still have the memories.
Looking forward to doing a post trip analysis to see what I could have done better!