British Exploring Society – Arctic 2014
It seems a very long time ago that I was asked to accompany the British Exploring Expedition (http://www.britishexploring.org) to Arctic Finnmark as the photographer, but in July and August, the expedition took place. We all met at Gatwick Airport and (other than Will bringing his sister’s passport by mistake) we all transferred through Oslo for the connection to Alta before a series of buses and boats got us up to the very north of Norway and the glaciers.
The glacier we were concentrating on was the Oksfjordjokelern glacier – a large but rapidly retreating ice-cap; and we had a number of scientists with us doing some “science” on the ice and the areas surrounding it.
It was a terrific month, and a brilliant organisation to be part of. British Exploring is based within the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington and leads a number of expeditions to challenging areas. This year was Ladakh in the Himalayas; the Empty Quarter in Oman; the desert and Skeleton coast in Namibia; and the mountains and ice of Arctic Finnmark.
There were three things that really surprised me about this trip. First, the temperature. We were up in the mid to high 20s for a few days at base-camp below the snow-line, and I had a minus 10 sleeping bag – so that was warm; second, the amount of mosquitoes and horse-flies below the snow-line was staggering and very annoying; third, lemmings can get really angry!
My role in all of this was to help the explorers achieve better images than they would normally. There was a huge variety of cameras – from Go-pros and point-and-shoots right through to big DSLRs. I held initial teaching groups at base-camp to make sure the basics were covered, and then disappeared with different groups to try to be “on-hand” whenever possible. Because of the nature and dispersion of the groups, getting to all of them was tricky, and I will look at that aspect for the next iteration…
What I was expecting, but still surprised by, was the weight I had to carry. Because I was taking my Nikon D3s with 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 lenses, plus tripod, my weight carry, including tents, waterproofs, rations etc was verging on 25kg each day. If you consider that much of what were doing involved extremely steep ascents and descents, often roped up and with crampons and ice-axes, well – that was a lot of weight to carry. Next time, I would change the gear I took. That said, having the right lens at the right place was crucial, and so I was content with my load…this time!
Through the time, we held a few competitions and did some great close-up work with the flora and fauna – my favourite piece being a photo by Charlie of a tiny mushroom from ground level – with a very basic point-and-shoot camera. The old maxim remains “the best bit of photographic kit in the world….is what you are carrying with you right now!”