Dawn Aug 27

Dawn on Appleton Ridge


Good morning from the Ridge here is Appleton, Maine. There was a beautiful sunrise this morning, so ran outside to shoot a photograph capturing the late summer season. Fall feels like it is just around the corner….

The sun was just a little too high in the sky for an open shot of the St George valley, plus I wanted to include the turning grass and wildflowers to better capture the feel of summer coming to an end. This was a great opportunity to use the dew covered grass as foreground. Not only does this help capture the mood, but on a practical note, cuts the brightness of the sun, while allowing me to see the textures of the vegetation.

To ensure a wide dynamic range (seeing details all the way from the shadows to highlights), I set the camera to continuous high, or burst rate, and shot five frames with one stop differences in exposure and then blended them with HDR Efex Pro.

I also chose to have a relatively large depth of field, bot not push this too far, as the out of focus elements would help add depth to the photograph.

Shot at 1/200th sec at f8   17mm lens on a Nikon D800


PS  I also grabbed a quick shot of my trusty camera assistant using the same technique


Trusty camera assistant- Rosie

Trusty camera assistant- Rosie


Traveling Drives

August 25, 2014 — Leave a comment


Transcend 500Gb drive


Traveling the world shooting video, we have seen cameras evolve from shooting on tape to card based memory such as SD, CF or even the latest like CFast cards. While its great to see the results of each day’s shooting, it also means that you can no longer simply hand a shot tape to the producer to take home to the edit room. Instead, it means late nights backing up to drives. That means fast write speeds are essential if you want to enjoy dinner, a good night’s sleep and to avoid hovering over your computer.

I set up a nightly routine of backing up both video and photographs to a drive. Starting with a folder for each day, I then create sub-folders for each camera. I also take the precaution of taking the drives in pairs and cloning the folders, so I have a back-up in case a drive is damaged or lost.

With growing file sizes from both video and still cameras, this means I can easily fill a 1Tb drive on a shoot, along with its twin for safety. On documentary shoots for television clients, it can easily exceed this….

I often travel to places where there is no replacing items in the field. This means the drives have to be reliable to minimize the chances of one failing. While I try to hand carry the drives, it also seems gate checking bags on small planes is getting to be the norm. I split the cloned pairs across my two bags, so sometimes get forced to trust one set to the airlines. Seeing the injuries that baggage handlers can inflict on my otherwise indestructible Pelican cases, I was immediately drawn to the products from Transcend when I saw that they are rated to withstand use by the armed forces. Although the jury is out to whether they are as dangerous as the airlines! But so far, so good….

As a result I just took a pair of Transcend drives on our expedition to the Russian Far East. Shooting images of the wildlife, landscape and people of the region was a great experience and detailed in two previous stories on Tymlat and Lorino villages.

Each unit worked flawlessly and with a USB3 connection, cut down the transfer time from my memory cards to the drives.

Transcend make a wide range of drives and I would recommend heading to their website for specifications. In general I would recommend the 500Gb or 1Tb units with the fastest connection that can be utilized by your computer. Bottom line…. I would thoroughly recommend these military spec drives to anyone and will be buying fresh units for each of my upcoming expeditions.

One addition to the mix would be a small USB hub if your computer has limited built-in connections when cloning from one drive to another. It seems Apple are saving money by limiting the connectors on their new designs…


The Milky Way captured using the Triggertrap mobile. (ISO 3200, 30ecs, f4 with a Nikon D800, 17mm lens)



I have been using a remote from Triggertrap for a while, but they just updated the product so the I headed out at the first opportunity last night to test it out. The cable connects your camera to a smart phone, or other device like an iPod, and runs the camera through a very well featured app’. You can do anything from run a timelapse, to trigger the camera by sound or take a series of images to stack. The reason I first started looking for a control like this as I wanted to take control of the bulb function on my DSLR and be able to accurately dial in long exposures for night photography. For this example, I was using an exposure of 30 seconds for this shot of the Mliky Way.

The great thing is that Triggertrap also make a cable for just about any camera on the market, it also splits in the middle and so if you change systems, you simply purchase a new plug. This makes upgrades very easy and inexpensive, it also means you are not forced to buy a whole new remote. I would really recommend you give their products a try. Best of all, they are bringing out a new remote in October called Ada, amongst other things, it will trigger when it detects motion or lightning flashes. Below is a video explaining its features. I am on the waiting list for its launch and I suggest you sign up as soon as possible.

Thanks for all the great feedback on images from Tymlat village. We then traveled further north and called at Lorino.

We enjoyed another warm welcome on the beach, where I again shot series of portraits from this remote corner of the world. As you may have seen in the last post, this is where I worked with Ralph Grizzle and his son Alex to shoot the short film featured a couple of days ago. I hope you enjoy the window into this wonderful part of the world.

We hope to be back here again next year with Silversea Expeditions and will keep you posted on dates. I would be great to take you along on the next adventure!


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During the last two weeks of exploring the remote coastline of Chukotka and Kamchatka with Silversea, I have been running photography workshops and giving my fellow explorers an insight into the documentaries we have shot over recent years. One of the best things about these trips are the other travelers you meet. Amongst the many new friends I connected with were Ralph Grizzle and his son Alex. Ralph runs a very popular blog, Avid Cruiser, followed by a huge readership from around the world. He and his son had the mission of shooting a series of shoot films while on board the Silversea Discoverer that would review the trip and share the many adventures we experienced. They very generously and offered to feature me in these videos, in particular, the visits to meet the native peoples that live along this remote coastline.

As readers will know, one of the highlights for me was visiting the native villages. (Tymlat was featured in a recent post from the ship). In both villages I had the pleasure of taking Alex with me as I shot, along the way teaching him some of the tricks of the trade. Here is the short video they produced. In the coming days I will post a gallery of the images from the villages of Lorino and also Teller.

We just had the great pleasure to visit Tymlat Village, a remote Siberian fishing village which is cut off from the rest of the world for much of the year. The people could not have been more welcoming. Here are portraits of some of the people that greeted us


(Posting to the blog is challenging from this remote part of the world, so I will follow up with more information when I get back to the US)


Just click on an image and scroll through the slideshow

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

We sailed on Silversea’s ship Silver Discover from Nome, Alaska, on the July 31st and headed out to the west across the international date line, jumping a day ahead as we did so. August 1st 2014 was instantly lost forever as the clocks changed (on the way back we will get two August 14th’s to compensate). In reality, it felt like we stepped back in time by decades as we sailed the into the Siberian outpost of Provideniya, in the State of Chukotka. It is a proudly autonomous region, but this town is also a relic of the Cold War and the power of the former Soviet Union.

5 Lenin wide

Reminiscent of Barentsburg far to the west in Svalbard, the strategic value of a remote settlement can sometimes be enough to justify its presence, even if geography and climate challenges its existence to the absolute limit. As we look at a world map, with its typical projection, the Atlantic ocean at its center and the world stretched out flat and distorted in order to appear on a flat page rather than a sphere, it is easy to forget that Russia and the US come so close together at the Bering Straits. In fact, at its narrowest point the twin Diomede islands sit just a couple of miles apart, straggling the date line and also the border. Big Diomede, on the Russian side, had all its native people forcibly removed as the Cold War escalated and now is only home to Russian meteorologists and border guards. In contrast, Little Diomede, on the US side,  is still home to a few native people, struggling to make a life amidst a geographical region engulfed by both a changing climate and economy, plus many social issues.

The people of Little Diomede and others Bering Strait villages like those on St Lawrence, or places like Wales, look out across the border to Russia, and although Washington DC controls their fate,  the East Coast of the US is a world away. The people in these native villages have family ties that span the US / Russian border, ties that are much stronger than links to us East Coasters.

Provdeniya used to be home to more than 8000 people. Situated near the narrowest squeeze of the Straits between the USSR and the US, it buzzed with activity during the Cold War. Growing out of a shared history between native people and hardy Cossack traders, it became important strategically and was home to a very active air force base and well equipped army stronghold. Today it is home to only 2000 people and although the native people of the region hang on to their culture, here as well as in the surrounding villages, the Russian influence is somewhat withdrawn, sleeping in the shadows waiting to reemerge when the time is right.

1 Cranes wide

We were greeted by a ominous fog, swirling through the town and amongst the giant Eastern German cranes that lined the dock. The cranes loomed like the giant machines from movies such as Star Wars or War of the Worlds. The scene told the story of the town once supported by the Soviet military machine, now sadly sitting waiting for revenue to return. We in the West remember the break up of the Soviet Union as being the fall of oppressive communism and peoples taking back self governance, something to celebrate. While that may be true, the other consequence is that the inhabitants of places like Provideniya no longer were supported, suffered financially and the break up of the USSR is seen as a disaster to locals in locations like this. This outpost has fallen into to ruin, but not completely into ruin.

As the Arctic’s rapidly evolving climate drives change across the region, you could say they are winners and losers. But questions remain as to whether these winning scenarios will be good for the health and well-being of the region. The North East Passage is opening up, allowing ships to shave off days their voyages between Europe to Asia, benefiting the transit of goods between these bustling markets. Laying in the wings, towns like Provideniya may benefit if ships call into her port, it is well protected and a welcome haven in this angry ocean. But the truth is that bulk carriers plying the waters between Asia, the West Coast of the US and onto Europe have no need to stop for fuel or other supplies, breaking their journey would just add time and cost to their voyages. On the other hand if a ship were to be in distress, a problem that happens time and time again, outposts like Provideniya would be key to rescuing the stricken vessel or crew, plus being the center of any environmental clean-up.

As we make this journey, the tragic situation Ukraine continues. With little access to news, I am weeks out of date on actual events but we feel the ripples caused by those events in this place, which is over 5000 miles away from the war. Delicate and skilled negotiations have also been required for foreign vessels visiting Chukotka, but in the days prior to our arrival, other entries had been refused because of directives that seem to come all the way from Moscow. Even the local officials wanted the ships to dock as they knew visitors would help inject valuable funds into the local economy, but had their hands tied by politicians a continent away.

As the West rightly tries find solutions to help end the conflict in the Ukraine, placing sanctions on Russia seems an obvious and non military solution. But there may be unforeseen consequences. I sense that creating financial hardship may in fact cause many Russian people be drawn to Putin, further bolstering his image as a hero and champion of their nation. By creating distance between Russia and the Western nations, there may be a danger that Cold War could escalate  all over again. Towns like Provideniys would likely benefit, as military expansion across Siberia is already taking place.

As climate change alters this region, there will undoubtedly be change in trade and economies across the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions. This also creates potential for conflict, as nations maneuver to control places like the Bering Straits, as well as the whole Arctic Basin. I am not an expert in international diplomacy, but if the future of the places like the Bering Straits are to be secure, building bridges between nations, to foster dialogue, seem like it must be part of the ongoing solution. If this fails, geography, climate and economic interests may fuel a new Cold War and stifle any change for good.