Our Kilimanjaro climb with an e-bike has been published in the current BIKE BILD magazine under the appropriate title “Crater Mood”.
Another article has been published in German “Systemkamera Handbuch” about me and the advantages of Olympus equipment in my some kind extreme shooting environments.
The Kilimanjaro project drives me nuts. Batteries are still in Europe, flight has been canceled. Next plane will leave on Saturday but we only will fly four days later, it’s becoming a real thriller…
My article about our exclusive Antarctica expedition to the most remote place on Earth at Mount Sidley volcano just has been published by German Outdoor Magazin.
First e-Bike Training in local Taunus
This week I first time had the chance to test my Kilimanjaro bike in local Taunus mountains. Am no Pro but this bike is a monster 😉
And of course I still do use the training to test some picture angles and to optimize the Kibo storyboard – being very concentrated 🙂
Family holiday in Austria
In Juliy/August I’ve spent a three weeks holiday with my family in Austria, Steiermark region. Had a great time within a great mountain backdrop with: clear reflecting lakes, salt mine, fantastic caves, marvelous panoramas, fresh mountain air, bright sunshine, rare animals and a lot of bathing fun.
All pictures are taken with the Olympus TG-4, my fav „always-at-hand“ camera – btw am testing the TG-5 at the moment, first impression: fantastic!
Training in Austria
Finally got my eBike for the Kibo project (Scott E-Genius 700 Plus Tuned). During holiday with family in Austria I had the possibility to test it in the mountains and doing some first tests about battery life. Biked sometimes from Altaussee at the Panoramastraße up to Loser mountain, 11 km with an altitude difference of 850m.
Many thanks to Scott for supporting the project.
My first MTB experiences
Already my first experience riding a mountain bike in 2005 has been very dirty 🙂 And offered pure thrills at one of the worlds most dangerous roads in Bolivia while going down from La Paz at 4.700m down to the jungle and Yolosa at 1.100m. With at that time many upcoming trucks, scary!
Mount Sidley Expedition
Finally online in the official Olympus version. The trailer from our exclusive Antarctica expedition to Mount Sidney shot with the E-M1 Mark II:
First Test Footage
First test footage for my actual Kilimanjaro project. Testing various camera angles while riding my bike.
It’s not that easy to ride a bike with only one hand while filming with the other one and eyes being focused on best angle – ouch 🙂
Next step will be to film best angles with E-M1 Mark II and producing a Making Of.
Sorry for the somehow low quality. The protection cover over my Olympus Tough Tracker is very scratchy.
Made with iMovie Trailer Funktion. Love it for a short and nice footage display!
Mount Sidley Expedition
Very rare footage from Antarctica! Short trailer about our exclusive mountaineering expedition to Mount Sidley volcano:
Looking over the Fugu-Chef’s shoulder
Immortal! It’s been a dream for ages and I have managed to become immortal. I am immortal. At least this is what Saito-san, one of the most glamorous characters in the field of Japanese mountaineering, claims to me after we have just reached the highest point of the 3.776 m (12.400 feet) high summit of Mount Fuji. And he must know best for he has conquered the mountain more than 650 times already. When asked, Saito-san explains that, according to one of many theories, the name of the mountain is derived from the word for immortality (fushi).
But am I really supposed to believe this? I’m not sure and I ponder that respective proof wouldn’t hurt. Where is the best place to find such proof? At a Fugu-(puffer fish)-Restaurant, with a five course meal, of course. This fish contains lethal poison and that is why in most of Japans’ prefectures it can only be prepared by someone who has done two years of training and passed the final exams.
Yet there are exceptions, but only in a few prefectures, Fugu chef Hironobu Shimura (Restaurant Kakoh Kirin in Fuji (Shizuoka)), explains to me. This leads to around three fatalities a year. However he assures me that he had successfully passed his tests and proudly shows his test book.
But let’s start from the beginning. While planning my second trip to Japan in 2016, I asked my Japanese friend Jun if he could organise a Fugu-meal for us. Then, to me as a photographer, watching and taking pictures over the chef’s shoulder, when he is preparing the fish, would be the icing on the cake.
As it turned out, however, this wish wasn’t an easy one. My friend had to phone the complete area of Hakone until he finally found Shimura-san who was willing to cooperate.
When I reach Japan I learn first that April to May wasn’t Fugu- season and second that the fish can´t be prepared directly after filleting. So I book our meal and hope that within a time frame of just a few days a fresh puffer fish would be offered on the market so that I can photo-document its filleting.
So culinary pleasure first and then work. Shimura-san leads us to a separate room of his restaurant and shows us in a book the type of Fugu we will have for dinner tonight. I had no clue that there were so many different types and that only few of them were actually round ones as I had imagined them so far. While we are comfortably sitting on the floor, one dish after the other is served to us. We have Sashimi for starters; it’s light and not chewy at all, followed by fried Fugu and then Fugu fillet. The taste of these is pleasurable with an unobtrusive taste of fish. The main dish, so to speak, is the rest of the Fugu fillet put together with a soup of pasta, tofu, mushrooms and some vegetables – I even get the recipe later on. The Japanese friend has to take over distributing the soup – I am not able to handle the impossible tools provided for this cause, oversized chopsticks.
After dessert we not only get the bill – the equivalent of 350 Euros for four persons – but also the good news that the following day a fresh delivery of Fugu can be expected. Perfect timing!
Exactly at 9:00 am the following day I am in front of the restaurant again. Beaming with joy Shimura-san welcomes me and proudly presents the fish that is still alive. There are even two different kind of Fugu. Now, the following part is not for the faint-hearted. But with the eye of the photographer I can watch the procedure professionally in a neutral way and with great interest: the fidgety fish is put down on a large wooden board and then everything happens amazingly fast. Chop-chop, a few fast movements with a sharp knife and the first puffer fish is laid out completely skinned and dissected in front of us. In one bowl there are the poisonous inner parts; in another bowl are the edible fillets. With the help of a dictionary I learn more about the special training for preparing puffer fish, as mentioned above and the venomous parts. After some more, less spectacular moments, also the next three puffer fish are lying completely dissected in front of us. These are around six meals altogether. Very interesting. However I have to agree that I had imagined the whole thing to be much more exciting. Like carefully separating and with utmost concentration cutting around parts full of deadly poison. But none of this had happened and after the work is done, actually too fast, we are standing in front of the restaurant again.
One last picture with everyone and off I go towards Tokyo. I feel happy and pleased because of the very exciting and rare insight into Japanese Cuisine and also, of course, because I have actually found proof of my immortality.
Otherwise the puffer fish tastes only like fish – the special flavour comes from the risk involved.
Antarctica: Photography in Extreme Conditions
Antarctica is the windiest, coldest and driest of all continents. Temperatures of minus 20° C (__° F) or even lower are not uncommon. Given these circumstances, the crucial question arises as to whether it is possible to take pictures at all.
Of course it is! I am travelling with a combination of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II plus the 12-100 4.0 Pro lenses which reliably do their job throughout the whole expedition. To be honest I have no alternative! During the stressful days before departure I actually managed to pack only one spare body. Second or even third lenses? Negative.
However, first things first.
From my point of view the most important rule is to feel comfortable! You will never be able to summon up enough energy to take pictures if you are not dressed properly and shivering with cold or if you have overexerted yourself and therefore are only preoccupied with yourself.
In the Antarctica the following rule applies regarding proper clothing: The loss of your gloves means the loss of your hands. Frostbite and tissue damage of the fingers will occur after only a short period without gloves. So it is important to have spares and to fasten them at your wrist to prevent losing them.
Furthermore: never work without gloves. Next to hypothermia damages, the skin can also freeze up against the ice-cold metal body of the camera. Detaching it definitely is not a fun experience. So when looking through the viewfinder take care that your nose or cheeks never touch the metal.
Many a time, even with my gloves on, I reach my personal cold limit, regarding the motto “just one more picture”. I am lucky not to suffer from frostbite and every single picture I take is worth the pain.
A lost lens cap is not dramatic, however not helpful either. My camera tends to lose the cap even at the slightest push, for example from the backpack when trekking. With my pocket knife I therefore drill a hole into the cap and with a tear-proof cord I fasten it to the camera.
I think it is also important to be well organised. If possible, I try to stow all of my things in their usual space. Under extreme conditions, when quick actions are required, each movement must fit. Rummaging through several pockets, for example to find the battery, can make you lose a – or even THE – perfect shot.
Talking about the battery: it won’t last long in the extreme cold. From 100% of charge, the remaining battery charge is only around 20% after four or five hours. Then I swap that battery for one of the two warm batteries I carry in my chest pocket. After warming up it will show a capacity of 40-50% and is ready to be used again.
Unfortunately the E- M1 Mark II cannot be charged via USB. For older Olympus camera models, special charging cradles are available – the M1 Mark II however is too new a model for those. Thus I carry enough batteries, approximately two for every planned expedition day. After all, pack size and weight of these are not much worse than the alternative of one or two bigger power banks plus a solar panel.
Apart from the Equipment, other factors and settings must be considered and perhaps altered. As an example there is the white balance which sometimes is not perfectly set and a blue colour shift may appear.
Although the quality of Olympus JPG-pictures is really good and usually more than sufficient, I generally shoot pictures in RAW format. This allows me a wider range in editing, which I do only after the tour at home, all cosy and warm, with a cup of coffee at my computer.
Due to the mainly white environment and all the reflections, exposure metering quickly reaches its limits. In Antarctica most of the times I correct by +0.5 to +1.5 f-stops. Here the snow is supposed to still show faint contours without letting the main motive get too bright. Turning on the histogram and the over-exposure warning can help.
In theory attention has also to be paid to night scenes of snow and ice – however not relevant to me with 24 hours of constant brightness in the Antarctica 🙂
Taking pictures under extreme Antarctic conditions is far less complicated than expected. Previous to the tour I had been quite apprehensive – this, fortunately, turned out to be unnecessary. At the end of the day, when considering some simple rules, taking pictures in the Antarctica it is just normal photographic work, like on any other tour.
Toilets in Antarctica
We are at the base camp, with the volcano Mount Sidley in front of us. It measures 4.300 m (14.100 feet) and hardly anyone has ever climbed it before. All around us is a seemingly endless ice-plataeu. Nature at its best! Or at least almost, for this perfect impression is disturbed by a small, square white box, covered with black neoprene: a toilet, albeit not a usual one, however a real toilet in the middle of the biggest no man’s land on earth!
The view while sitting is unique and an unforgettable experience. A view into eternity – but not for eternity since this pleasure shouldn`t last too long with temperatures considerably sub-zero!
But why is there a toilet at a place which so far hardly 30 people have ever visited before? The answer can be found in the standard rules of our expedition leader, the American ALE, which states that no human remains may be left behind in the Antarctica. Any testimonies of civilisation will be collected and flown out. This is to protect the immaculate beauty of this unique spot on earth. Decomposition does not work at temperatures sub-zero.
We are accompanied with this policy during the whole expedition: in the DC3 propeller plane in form of a big canister; in Union Glacier, more comfortably, in form of four walls and a lockable door, albeit not heated. Even when we are out and about at the mountain we carry a so-called wag bag and also a pee bottle – important for the latter is the clearly defined yellow colour, in contrast to the blue-coloured drinking bottle 😉
From my point of view this is an absolutely meaningful and vital policy – not least because it provided me with the best toilet experience ever.
Arriving with the Iljuschin IL76
A real beast and for me the queen of all airplanes: the Iljuschin IL-76. Loud, powerful, fast, tremendous.
Actually a cargo plane, so we are cramped into our seats which were carelessly built-in and offer space for about 60 passengers. Apart from two little portholes there are no windows. The crane device dangling above our heads is a cause for concern. Sheet metal everywhere. Perceived comfort: 10 percent at a maximum. Behind our seats there is the freight, only separated by a curtain: our luggage, food, fuel and simply everything that is necessary to survive in the Antarctica. Only the huge flat screen in front of the cockpit does not fit the picture at all. The captain uses it to provide us with information since we can read, however not hear. The engines are roaring so loudly that we are even provided with earplugs to bring the noise down to a bearable level.
And then the daunting take-off. The powerful machine speeds forward, presses us into our seats and then effortlessly makes its ascent. We are able to follow all this live on the screen via transmission from the cockpit.
When we are airborne the loadmaster distributes artificial fruit juice and thick-layered sandwiches. Richard Gere and Pretty Woman Julia Roberts appear at the screen – without sound of course, but with subtitles. However most of us polar travellers are sleeping or resting in keen anticipation of what is waiting for us at the coldest, windiest and driest continent on earth.
About an hour before landing, the temperature in the plane is reduced from cool to extra cold. Adaption to Antarctic temperatures. So: hat, jacket and gloves on and get yourself adjusted.
After 4 ½ hours flight, the Iljuschin performs an astonishingly soft landing and comes to a halt after what seems only a few meters – and all this on a landing strip consisting of blank ice, the so-called Union Glacier Blue-Ice-Runway.
I put on my sunglasses, descend the steep ladder with my polar boots and carefully step onto the slippery ice. The adventure Antarctica is about to begin – although, with this amazing airplane it has already begun.
Connecting flight with Basler DC3…
…will be described here soon.
I am back from a fantastic so called „Winterbiwak“ (bivouac) with Olympus and German Ringfoto.
We stayed 3 days in a hut at Feuerkogel in Austria. Met very nice people! We’ve had a lot of fun and did a lot of photographic talk of course 🙂
Plus a lot of equipment testing and education. A presentation about Outdoor photography from me. And, most important and despite of the not really good weather, a lot of Outdoor shooting.
In my first videocast I am going to explain how to grab a picture out of a (4k) video with Adobe Lightroom.
Camerapixo’s „WE INSPIRE 15“ has been published including four of my pics from Iceland. You even can get a hard cover copy with my picture from Ljótipollur crater as a cover, nice!
Short trailer about the first “hands-on” of the new Olympus M1 Mark II:
I’ve published an article about Japan in German terra magazine.
A short trailer (shot in 4K mode) from my trip to Iceland with new Olympus E-M1 Mark II now is online:
Another article from me about my experiences with new Olympus E-M1 Mark II has been published in latest edition of German PHOTOPRESSE magazine.
Field report Olympus E-M1 Mark II
It has been a great honour when Olympus asked me this summer – as one of the only few first photographers worldwide – to test and shoot with their new flagship, the E-M1 Mark II.
Due to my passion for remote areas and active volcanoes I place high demands on my equipment. It must be compact, lightweight and always at hand also while mountaineering. Absolutely essential because of hot and acid gases, wetness, coldness and fine ashes is a robust construction.
That’s why I wanted to push the new M1 Mark II to its limits and did choose the Mont Blanc area and Iceland as photographic destinations.
Please note while reading that I am no „tech guy“ which means my main interest is to shoot fantastic pictures. The message of a photo is more important to me than 100 % technical perfection.
And I was shooting with a pre-series model with beta firmware and some restrictions.
First I took the camera to the Mont Blanc area to do some mountaineering. The body only slightly has changed whit the effect of an improved grip compared to the “old” M1. Fits perfect in my hands as I never have been using any other camera. And I could wear it under my jacket without any problem while climbing steep rocks, great!
What I really do like is the vari-angle screen. I know there are many Pros and Cons about but for me as a landscape photographer which prefers wide angle pictures it is a great feature. So I am easily able to shoot from the ground, like!
Even more important to me is a dustproofed, splash proofed and freeze proofed camera. I did shoot pictures very close to a 100 C degree hot Geyser, no prob. Close-up photos of waterfalls while raining, no prob. Fine ashes, no prob. My M1 Mark II did its job, and did and did and did 🙂
So I decided to really push it to the limits. I placed the M1 Mark II aside a huge muddy puddle, started video caption (Link to it will follow soon), went to my 4WD and drove with about 40 km/h through that puddle. Muddy water were splashing all over the camera, it has been dripping wet – and worked as nothing has happened, amazing – and luckily as Olympus wouldn’t have been very amused about me destroying one of a very few 😉
Mobility checked, reliability checked, so let’s talk about Image Quality. Regarding Quality the battery life has been improved. For one thing the battery discharge indicator now displays in percentage and not only with three or four bars. And I now have been able to shoot for about 1 ½ days with one battery instead of one day. For another thing there is a faster charging, I could charge it during a large social media and coffee break.
Speed. The E-M1 Mark II is all about Speed. O.k., not that important to me as my landscapes are not moving too fast. And unfortunately no volcanic eruption occurred during my stay at Iceland. But what is important and I could give a test is the improved AF (Olympus says: “The advanced Dual FAST AF will automatically choose between on-chip phase detection AF, contrast detection AF, or will utilize both phase and contrast detection simultaneously. This system will boast 121 cross-type on-chip phase detection focus points in order to dramatically improve accuracy.”).It indeed is very fast, good at tracking (tested it with swimming ducks) and nearly no failure. Raindrops on the windscreen, flowers in the foreground, horse in the background, erupting Geysers, the sharpness fits.
What I like best is the again improved Image Stabilization (Olympus says: “…with the latest in-body 5-Axis Image Stabilization that compensates for all types of camera shake. An optimized correction algorithm will boast outstanding compensation performance with approximately 5.5 (6.5. when combined with Olympus lenses) shutter speed steps of compensation.” As I remember right it’s about 4 shutter speeds with the M1).
Having been curious as the promises I left the tripod in the car and did some shots at hand. Skogafoss waterfall with 106mm at 1/6s, balancing on wet rocks while taking a picture of Svartifoss waterfall at 1/10s? Nothing blurred!
The M1 Mark II comes with a new 20.4 megapixel Live MOS sensor with a promise of a higher dynamic range. I wasn’t able to take pictures for comparison with the old M1 but I have the personal impression of indeed an improvement. Pictures of snowy mountains at backlit, of the unbelievable colours of Landmannalaugar, of the contrast of black lava and white snow all are clear and full of details.
Of course I am a photographer. But as I am telling my stories also as multivision shows and am producing trailers for my stories I also need to shoot videos. And in my opinion video will become more and more important – just check Facebook, I have the feeling you’ll find there more videos than pictures since a few months.
And 4K video is some kind of standard so I really appreciate the M1 Mark II shooting video in Cinema 4K. This also gave me the possibility to grab stills with a size of about 9 MB.
Overall the Olympus E-M1 Mark II is a somehow perfect camera for my needs. Only drop of bitterness is the missing possibility to charge via USB (and therefore Powerbank). Nevertheless I definitely am going to take the M1 Mark II for my next project: the Volcanic Seven Summits which also will bring me into Antartica.
You’ll finde more pictures from my trip to Iceland here.
In actual fotoforum magazine you’ll find my review about new Olympus E-M1 Mark II. In German of course 🙂
My picture from a dirty thunderstorm at Sakurajima volcano in Japan got another honorable mention at international IPA awards.
I am happy to have found the perfect partner: Olympus company with its high quality and tough cameras. Am looking forward to a fruitful collaboration.