I just returned from exploring the rugged coastlines of Chukotka and Kamchatka to photograph native villages, wildlife and the region’s landscapes in this far outpost of the former Soviet Union. Based on board an expedition ship, life is easy, but each day, trips ashore meant transferring into a zodiac and braving the turbulent oceans, relentless salt spray and waves crashing over the bow. This is followed by a ‘wet landing’ on a beach, dodging the surf and attempting to get onto dry land as soon as possible.
On shore, we then faced the uncertain weather conditions that the wilds of Siberia would send our way. There to take photographs, it meant keeping camera equipment safe in these challenging conditions, one mistake could mean it is swamped by salt water and ruined. I watched this very thing happen a year ago while making a landing at Gold Harbor in South Georgia. It is a truly spectacular wildlife location as the beach is home to hundreds of thousands of king penguins. Eager to get a shot, a fellow traveler has his new digital camera around his neck and ready to shoot as we approached the beach. Six foot swells pounded the landing site and as the zodiac hit the beach, it was pushed sideways by the powerful swell and a wave dumped right on top of us. In an instant, $6000 of camera equipment was lost and to make matters worse, the photographer no longer had his camera to use and we still had two weeks to go, visiting some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife locations on the planet. This must have been heart-breaking.
Over the years of doing this kind of expedition everywhere from the heat of the Kimberley coast in Australia, Antarctica and now the Russian coast of the Bering Sea, I have tried many different combinations of cases, dry bags and packs. The pile of packs in my office closet tells the story of never finding quite the right solution. Then on a recent trip to start shooting a story on the water crisis in the Owens of Valley of California, I decided to take a look in an outdoor equipment shop in the town of Bishop. A pack immediately caught my eye. Light weight, waterproof and made of a very durable material it looked ideal for my ship borne adventures. Produced by Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I researched the company and to my surprise found out that is based in my home state of Maine. Its great to see such a well made product that is made locally. Their innovative product line is ideal for everyone from hikers wanting to keep the weight of their packs to a minimum, to adventure sports fans that play around the water as the roll top closures make the bags waterproof.
During my trip to the Russian Far East, we visited villages like Tymlat and Lorino where I shot a portraits of the villagers, we also hiked in the mountains of Kamchatka experiencing everything from sun to torrential rain. My new Hyperlite 2400 accompanied me on all these adventures, providing a ideal way to get my camera gear ashore safely, as well as giving quick access through the roll top when I needed to quickly change lenses or a battery. Although the model I have is designed for ice climbing, the outside pockets and straps also provided an ideal place to keep a can of bear spray handy, essential as we passed dozens of brown bears on our shore trips.
I have more adventure planned that include sailing around the coast of New Zealand and Macquarie Island, back to the Kimberley and also exploring the coast of Chile. The Hyperlite pack will be with me all the way.
Special thanks for the photographs go to fellow adventurer Luca De Santis. A talented photographer & graphic designer, he also helps produce the Italian travel magazine Meraviglia Paper