Friday, July 8, 2011

Mt. Everest Photography Equipment

Greeting the sunrise just above the First Step (8500m) on the North Ridge of Mt. Everest.  It had been a cold, windy night.  Panasonic LX3.
Expedition photography has to be one of the toughest things to successfully capture on film.  Fatigue, extreme weather and lighting conditions add up to make the task challenging.  Most people have some idea that weight is important, and they try to keep it lightweight.  I have to add that weight is very important, and you shouldn't overestimate your ability to carry something, like a big DSLR, to the summit of Everest unless you have the experience to know you have the strength to do it.  The other important, but often overlooked factor, is the means by which you carry your camera.  I carry my DSLR in a 'Chest Pouch' that is easily and readily accessible.  Camera backpacks are great for hauling your gear from lone location to the next, but if you have your camera in a backpack, you won't have many shots in between locations because it will take too much time and effort to get it out to take a shot.
Bali, our expedition sirdar, walking beneath a serac on the East Rombuk Glacier on the way up to Advance Base Camp.  Nikon D7000, 16-85, 1/640, F/13, ISO 200.
For Everest, I brought my 'newish' Nikon D7000 with a 10.5mm fisheye, 16-85mm, 70-300mm lenses, a small tripod.  I carried this from basecamp up to Camp 1at the North Col (7000m).  Above Camp1, I used my Panasonic Lumix LX-3.  Here's a big tip:  I gave my sherpa (Jamling Bhote) an LX-3 as well, so he could get photos of me.
Everest Basecamp (5150m), China.  My tent is the one closest to camera, the white tent is the dining tent, the green tent is the toilet tent (Oops, too much detail?).  Everest has a shroud of cloud over the top in the back.  Nikon D7000, 16-85mm, 30 secs, F/7.1, ISO 800.
Here's what I learned and what I would do different:

Jamling turned out to not only be an excellent photographer, but a fine videographer as well. The experience has got me interested in shooting more video.  I'd bring a Panasonic GH2 instead of the D7000.  It's probably the best combo video/stills camera on the market today.  As a bonus, it's also smaller and lighter than the D7000, and the Micro Four Thirds lenses that it uses are smaller and lighter too. 

Lenses are a highly personal choice.  If I were bringing the D7000 the next time, I would bring my 12-24mm ultrawide and a 50mm F/1.4 instead of the fisheye and 16-85mm that I brought this trip.  But, as I said, I'd go with the GH2 next time, and I'd go with the 7-14mm and a big-aperture short- telephoto lens.
Jamling finishing breakfast at Camp 2 (7600m) on the North Ridge of Mt. Everest.  Panasonic LX3.
I could possibly carry the GH2 as high as Camp 3 (8300m), but above that, I'd still need something lighter.  Instead of the LX3 that I brought for my summit push, I'd use a GoPro instead.  I did not anticipate temperatures being so cold that I would not be able to unzip my down suit to pull out my camera, remove my goggles so that I could see the LCD, turn into the wind to snap a shot.  With the GoPro, I could set the interval timer to take a picture every 'x' number of seconds, and put the camera on my head, and hope that some of the shots would be useable.  If the weather turned out to be good, I could use the GoPro like a 5MP still camera anyway.
Here I am sitting on the very tippy-top of the world!  Image is a still captured from a video sequence with the Panasonic LX3.  The whole sequence is in the video below.
Probably the only thing I would do the same is to give my sherpa a camera.  I was lucky that my sherpa, Jamling, was so talented.  Here's a short video of the climb.  Most of the video and stills of me on Everest were taken by Jamling:

2 comments:

SHANGRILA ADVENTURE said...

Been following your adventure. Wonderful pics n adventure u have got. And congrats on your successful summit on Everest via Tibet!

Cheers,
Alvin

Ken said...

Thanks :o)