Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Remote Location Digital Photography

As promised, I wanted to share a few of the tools and techniques I used on a recent backcountry photo expedition to the high Sierra. We used mule packers to take our gear to a base camp located about 8 miles from the trailhead. Our base camp was located at about 11,400 feet in elevation in the backcountry of Kings Canyon National Park. The challenge with a multi-day photo shoot in this type of location is the need for reliable image backup and battery recharging. The solution we employed was a combination of foldable solar panels, a large battery / inverter and battery operated storage devices that back up to a portable hard drive. This system worked very well for the needs of 2 photographers (my husband and me both relied on the system).
The foldable solar panels are made by Brunton:

Brunton 26 Watt Foldable Solar Array 

These work really well, they will recharge a items directly but we ended up using the panels to recharge a Duracell DPP-600HD Powerpack 600 Jump Starter & Emergency Power Source with Radio.


The great thing about this powerpack is that it is also an inverter so you can just plug devices into a regular AC socket. The solar panels can recharge the battery while it is recharging camera batteries and backup devices. 5 hours of sun will completely charge the Duracell battery pack. For backup devices I used the

Sanho HyperDrive ColorSpace UDMA Photo Backup Storage/Viewer w/3.2inch LCD

This device has a huge 500 gb capacity and also allows connection of an external portable hard drive for an extra backup. It worked perfectly and did not gobble up battery power. Olof used the Epson P-7000 160GB Multimedia Storage Drive, Photo Viewer and Audio-Video Player w/ 4-Inch LCD.

This item worked well but it was a battery hog and did not allow as much flexibility in managing files as the Colorspace product. The external backup drive attachment process was also a bit finicky on this device. That in combination with the much higher price of this device would lead me to recommend the Colorspace product as the better backup device. 

Using the portable hard drives as backup for the multimedia devices requires AC power, so the Duracell battery pack was essential for that operation. This type of backup system would be too heavy to take on a plane since
the battery weighs about 30 lbs,  but the solar panels worked so well
and are so lightweight they would be a great power option for any sunny
location, and could work well with a smaller inverter or battery pack.

I also used my iphone 3GS as a GPS using the great program called GPS Kit. This program provides cacheable maps and works well without a internet connection once the maps are cached. I think a GPS makes hiking alone much safer, it is impossible to get lost! The iphone would recharge in an hour or so using the Duracell battery pack.

The most important tool for any landscape photographer to take on a trip like this is physical fitness. I try to stay fit by biking, running, or skiing most days. I had a great opportunity to get a shot of the Palisade Glacier for my upcoming book, but it required me to climb up to the 13, 890 foot summit of Mt. Aggasiz by myself on the day we were scheduled to hike out. I ended up climbing up to the summit to get the shot, lugging my Hasselblad H3D and 35mm lens up there in a backpack over Class 2+ terrain. I also carried my iphone GPS, food & water,  a survival /  first aid kit, and a walkie talkie to communicate with base camp. I made the summit after about 3 hours from base camp and then spent another 5 hours hiking out to the trailhead, a total of 7000 feeet of elevation gain and loss in a day. It was well worth it, the shot below is a stitched panorama of 5 files from the H3D.

GlacierpanoTCsh

Palisade Glacier from the summit of Mt. Aggasiz



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