We went with two Sony A7S cameras. This choice fell due to the small size of the cameras, low weight and bright, full-frame 4K sensor that allowed us to take amazing shots outdoors. In addition, the A7S MK II has the slow-motion mode that was necessary to perform some of the scheduled shots.
The biggest drawback of these cameras is the small capacity of the batteries, which is why we bought power banks to power the A7S. As a result, the battery life in the cold increased significantly. We did not have to change the batteries in the cameras at all while taking the shots in the caves, which can be troublesome wearing gloves.
Lenses are also an important issue. Each of them is about 500g of extra luggage and it takes limited space in a backpack. Walking for 5 hours one way, in high snow at an altitude of 2600 m. each additional kilogram is a heavy load.
On the first day, we were going to the ice cave at Val Roseg. We took a great number of lenses, where most of them we hardly ever used.
The entire set of SamYang (Rokinon) Cine lenses: 14mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm was carrying with us. The 135mm lens was not delivered on time, but we would not have a place for it in our baggage anyway.
Also, we took two great glasses from Sony, which turned out to be irreplaceable and absolutely universal. Sony FE 16-35 f / 2.8 GM, and Sony FE 24-70 f / 2.8 GM are incredible. In difficult conditions when it is wet and cold it is difficult to change the prime lenses. You can soil both the optics and the matrix. The lens can fall during conversion and break down into the ice. Thanks to those great zooms, the work was very comfortable. The focal lengths of these two lenses partially overlap so we could use them interchangeably – one on the gimbal and the other one on a tripod.
If we’re talking about gimbal, DJI Ronin S has done a great job during such a trip. It is light, the battery lasts for a long time in the cold and the device is absolutely mobile. Even though we had DJI Ronin M with us, we never got him out of the case.
During the second trip to the Zinal cave at Val D’Anniviers we were better prepared. We have reduced the number of lenses to the necessary number. We took only two zooms from Sony, 14mm Samyang and portraiture 50mm. This set worked perfectly. The road was shorter because only 3.5 hours one way and we had smaller luggage so we could move faster in crampons which were slowing us down.
What worked perfectly both in the deep snows of Switzerland and in Siberian Taiga was a backpack. We had LowePro Trekker 450AW and this is the best expedition backpack we have ever had. Despite its large dimensions, it is designed to carry a heavy load on the back. It’s packaging capacity and quality are unmatched. In my opinion, the backpack is as important as the equipment it’s carrying. Even though buying a good backpack is a big expense, it is worth the price when the conditions are a challenge.
During the trip, we had another backpack. It was more compact and even though it was light it was not as versatile as LowePro.
We also lacked one additional backpack because we went in three people with two backpacks. After this excursion, I am pretty sure that every person should have its own backpack. The photo bag moves away from the back during the approach. It twists and falls and after many hours of walking is deeply annoying. Just after returning we ordered another backpack from LowePro – Whistler II 450AW. It will be useful during our next expedition. Buying a piece of professional equipment, special cable or photo backpack during the trip is rather impossible, and you must be lucky to find what you are looking for when it is needed the most. For example, when we were in Siberia, a very important ND filter got crashed. We were looking for a replacement in the city of Kyzyl and it turned out to be impossible even in professional but local photo gear shops. Fortunately, we had an adapter. It was a lesson for us, however, to always take a supply of cables, filters, and batteries that can not be obtained in case of the failure.
A trip to the ice caves was a real challenge.
Not only when it comes to frost and physical fitness required in the Alps in winter, but a specific task that had to be done.
On the day of departure, it turned out to travel comfortably by car we have to leave some equipment at home.
Packing yourself on a travel expedition is a real challenge. You can only take with you things that are really necessary for work. You need to plan each day of the expedition: the distance traveled, weather conditions and think about your equipment having it on your mind.
You also need to take into account repackaging of your equipment on a specific day of shooting, because what works for one day is no longer necessary on the next day but takes your limited space and is heavy.
Due to the fact that we were filming interviews and the details of the ice, we had to think about the lighting equipment. We left our brand new Astra 1×1 lamp at home due to the luggage capacity. A large distance to walk would not allow for mobility. We wanted to use it in Monte Generoso during the interviews with Jadwiga Husarska, but we knew that there might be a long walk up. We had two LED lamps from SWIT on a flexible mat. SWIT lamps worked pretty well. They are rolled like a sushi mat and can be attached to the backpack’s holding system. They are light, mobile and did not take up practically any space during the journey. The only drawback we had was the limited range of color temperature: 3000-5600K. In the ice cave, we had the white balance set at around 6800K so the LEDs turned out to be too warm. We could cool it with CTB Foil but we didn’t think about it during packing.
For the photo equipment, we had well-deserved Canon EOS 5D MK II. We usually do not combine photography with filming at the same time. There are neither good photos nor a good movie. It is better for each creative to focus on his work. Canon 5D MK III works perfectly for photography. Large matrix, full-frame sensor, and great RAWs. The photos have a much higher resolution than those of the A7S MK II camcorder and are suitable for reproduction. We also needed high-resolution photos for SanSwiss to be printed for ISH Fair in Frankfurt.
We took two complementary glasses: Sigma 24-70mm and Sigma 70-200.
Sigma 70-200 is a large, powerful glass. After the first day of the trip, we left it because it was too big and too heavy and we only used it once or twice.
The tripod is a very important thing during long expeditions. It must be light, solid and without a lower spreader so that it can be spread on an uneven surface. I do not know a better tripod than Sachtler Ace 75/2 Carbon. We bought it while we were going to Siberia and it never let us down. Despite the cosmic price, it can not be beaten. The LowePro backpack has a special tripod mount so you do not have to carry a tripod case with you. We also took a Manfrotto tripod with us but it was for the last time. Now we aim at the next Sachtler (Flowtech 75 MS) as a complement to our filming gear and Peak Design Travel Tripod for photography. Hiding in inaccessible places requires absolutely the best and reliable equipment that will be versatile, light and easy to transport.