Photographer Helle Olsen and me are currently working on an adventurous project called WILD. This project is all about showcasing the last really wild places on the seven continents where there has been as little human impact as possible. Needless to say, many of these places are really far flung, difficult to reach or even dangerous to go to, but having decided that this is really something we want to do we have decided to just go ahead. The following story is from the first WILD adventure in the very far north of Greenland.
We hit the ice edge at precisely 81.38° north after a few days zigzagging amongst heavy plates of pack ice. Our mission had been to try and break the northern latitude record of 82.20° north, which the same ship had set a few years earlier. The ice in front of us was more than 2 metres thick and unbroken. The Captain aboard the Danish Navy ship Knud Rasmussen looked at us all with an expression that said it all… There was nothing more we could do and the ship had to turn south to continue its mission of patrolling the western coast of Greenland. The work here is to help local hunters, controlling illegal fishing and supporting scientists. As photographers we were very lucky to have been invited aboard the ship with our project of documenting this very wild and untouched place. Up here there aren’t any people at all. A few hunters live in Siorapaluk which at 77.47° it is the northernmost settlement of the world.
We had already been aboard the ship for more than 14 days and Helle and I were more than content with what we had photographed. In this truly wild place we had documented 10 species of mammals and 24 species of birds. We had photographed a beautiful polar bear mum with two playful cubs, an investigative arctic fox, seen the rare sight of narwhals and had spent some fantastic days a shore in a small tent in an area where the last known inhabitant had been Robert Peary.
Photographing in various work environments like we did aboard the ship, on the tundra and in the mountains is hard work. While you are carrying the heavy gear you always need to focus on getting the good shot at the same time. This can sometimes be difficult when you have to handle safety at the same time and a good backpack is paramount.
I have been testing a wide assortment of bags for many years. Some of them good and some of them not, but I must admit that after trying out the Manfrotto TLB-600 I was very happy indeed.
The reason for me to choose the TLB-600 is because, although planning is the key to everything, I like my camera to be ready at all times. My work in Greenland gave me my first real possibility of testing my new back and I was actually excited about it. Finding the right bag can be a nightmare for any photographer and you never really know how it works until you have really put some miles into it.
Now, if 15 years as a nature photographer has taught me anything, it would be the advise of always travelling light when you are planning to hike the mountains. This in itself is always difficult for a photographer but I have learned that in more than 99% of all cases I only end up using the lens that I have put on my camera from the beginning. This, I think is a matter of focus. If I carry my long 200-400mm telezoom, then my mind is set on wildlife and my focus and energy is all turned towards this. I don’t seem to notice a lot of other image possibilities that would take my time away from looking for what I came for. The TLB-600 really proved is worth over the following days. It was great to carry, easy to handle, even with cold fingers, and was a good fit on my bag. What really surprised me the most were the genius compartments all around the back. Everything seemed to fit perfectly and snug into its own place and in the end after packing my camera, an extra battery, memory cards, a sweater, my satellite phone and even a sandwich there were still compartments free that I just left empty. The bag was silent and without noisy Velcro which can really disturb wildlife. All in all, I will give this bag my highest rating for the purpose that I use it for and It seems to me that this bag will be as perfect for the Arctic as it will be on safari.