Adventure Nomad

Adventure Nomad

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Q and A with Stefen Chow

Stefen is a Nikon sponsored, award-winning, commercial photographer based in Beijing, China. He is also an accomplished mountaineer, and summited Mt. Everest in 2005. Stefen began shooting over eight years ago when he was nominated to be the team’s photographer for his Mt. Everest expedition. He turned pro four years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Q. For your commercial work, what are you mainly shooting with?
A. For bodies, a Nikon D3x and a D3s. For lenses, mainly primes and f/2.8 zooms.

Arc welding on a supertanker in the Keppel shipyard, home to the world's largest vessel conversion facility. ©Stefen Chow
Q. How different is your equipment when shooting mountaineering?
A. In the mountains, weight is an issue. I strip it down to what is basic and essential. Having said that, I always carry backups: like a backup body and a backup media storage device.

When I recently climbed Denali, I carried a Nikon D3x and D3s, one body to back up the other; and a 24-70mm f/2.8, a 180mm f/2.8, and a 45mm tilt-shift lens. I also carried a full sized tripod and 10 batteries. All in all, about 40 lbs of camera gear. I’m told I had the heaviest photography gear on the mountain that season!

A climber after a 18 hour round trip climb to the summit of Denali in Alaska, USA. ©Stefen Chow
Q. Have you any thoughts about going lighter?
A. At the moment, I’m not able to find a compromise between size and weight vs. quality and reliability. The D3x has been supremely reliable, and I’ve had no problems with it, not even with the batteries in the cold of Denali. I’ve abused my D3x from day one, and it has never failed me (knock on wood), never been fixed or repaired.

The pro lenses I choose to use on the mountain also don’t fog up within the elements, something that might happen with lighter consumer grade lenses.

Climbers moving at 7600m, above camp 3 on mount Everest. © Stefen Chow
Q. What’s your post-process like?
A. I use Lightroom to get the colors right, then Photoshop for further processing as it gives me more control. One thing I don’t do, however, is sharpening my images. I process each and every image manually and it may take me up to a month to go through the 12,000 images that I shoot on a typical climbing trip.

 A group of Hasidic Jewish boys taking a breather between prayers in a synangogue in Brooklyn, New York. ©Stefen Chow
Q. What’s new on the horizon for you?
A: I will be busy doing shoots across Singapore and China, while I have 3 exhibitions planned over the next 6 months, including a solo exhibition on my mountaineering work in a museum in Singapore on the first quarter of 2011. I am also in discussions of writing a book on my photography, and still trying to keep my personal life and other things on a constant juggle. It will be more challenging than ever, but something I enjoy on a daily basis.

Stefen, thanks very much for the interview and your time.

For more information on Stefen and his work, check out his website:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Silver Sol: Cure All or Snake Oil?

As a traveler to remote locations around the world, often in areas where medical care may not be readily available, I've learned to pack a pretty complete First Aid kit.  As a traveler, I also like to keep my packs small, light and simple, and so I'm always interested whenever I learn of a product that will fulfill multiple roles.  Silver Sol is one such product.

Silver Sol is simply silver particles dispersed in purified water.  It is a broad spectrum antimicrobial that promises to destroy bacteria, viruses, fungus and certain diseases.  This single product can be used topically to fix jock itch, disinfect and treat wounds; dropped in water to purify it*; or it can be taken orally to treat illness, with NO side effects.  Here's a list of what you can use it for.

* Note: Silver Sol will not kill protozoa or amoeba, hence it's use in purifying water is limited and is not recommended for backpackers.

Here's a pretty good 2 minute spiel on what this stuff IS and DOES:

Sounds too good to be true?  I remain skeptical, but an increasing body of evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, suggests that this product not only works, but works well. Silver Sol is patented by American Biotech Labs, and I ordered a couple bottles of Silver Bioticsto try out ;o)

Update Mar 2011:
Ok, so I've been using this stuff for over six months and I'm convinced it works.  It's on my packing list when I climb Mt. Everest next month!

It works best for me internally, and I put mine in a small spray bottle and spray 3-4 squirts (about a teaspoon dose) directly into my mouth, twice a day when traveling or at risk.  I've seen people I travel with fall sick, or get some kind of food poisoning, while I remain ok.

I've found it works less well externally, so on cuts, scrapes, burns, fungus like athletes foot, etc, it may be better to use the gel form of Silver Sol, which would stay on longer.  However, to keep it light and simple, I haven't bought the gel, and simply spray my Silver Sol liquid externally.

The best price I've found for this stuff is on Amazon at $20.06 for a 16 oz bottle.  The catch is you have to buy 2 bottles to get this price:  American Biotech Labs Silver Biotics 16 oz ( Multi-Pack)