Mt. Kilimanjaro

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by guy_sade, Oct 17, 2005.

  1. Hey guys. I tried the same posting using the nature forum but
    without much success. Anyway, I'll be leaving cold NYC this
    Christmas heading out to Tanzania and Mt. Kilimanjaro for three
    weeks. I'll be carrying a Nikon N80 and shoot mostly slide film
    (Sensia, Velvia) and possibly some b&w. Will appreciate any tips you
    may have a in terms of equipment, technique etc.
  2. At high elevations, 4000 feet and higher, I use a strong warming filter to remove excessive UV or "blue" from the images. I prefer B+W filters and use a KR 3 filter, equivalent to an 81C. Make sure your camera's meter is accurate in bright light,and low light conditions. Take it to a local repair shop and they can check it out and recalibrate it if necessary. Once that is done, run some exposure test rolls to pick the proper ISO for your each of your slide films and cameras. For example, you might prefer setting 125 when using Velvia 100 or Sensia 100 or setting 40 when using Velvia 50. With slide film, a third of an f stop makes a big difference. Take a back up camera and lenses with you. If you can take a tripod and use it. For important shots bracket your exposures. Consider taking some rolls of Provia 400 slide film with you. When hiking, make sure your camera equipment is protected but available to you. If you like polarizers, use them to remove glare on foilage and water. Have a great trip. Joe Smith
  3. Kili is an incredible experience. The most important thing for your equipment up there is being prepared to protect it from the elements. Your camera should work fine in the cold, but if you're just getting rained on, you'll need to keep it dry, and the weather up there can change fast. Truthfully, the most important thing to do is to make sure that YOU are functioning well in the cold. If you are prepared to handle your camera without exposing your hands fully to the elements and if you are able to reload film and manage settings well, you should come back with some dramatic shots. Depending on your condition and the kind of trip you're on, you may a) want a tripod for use at camp, and b) not want to carry it yourself. If you have a smallish tripod that the porters can carry, great; if you are very fit and don't have trouble with altitude, you can carry it yourself. [You'll not be carrying most of your own stuff, but you will be carrying a lot of water to help deal with the altitude.] Depending on your route and your adjustment to altitude, it's a good idea to keep it simple when you are high up. If you are changing film speeds frequently or relying on settings you don't usually think about, it's even easier to screw them up for the next picture(s) whilst your altitude-limited thinking brings them back up. This isn't like going up Everest, but it is still very high. A note about polarizers at altitude: the sky is pretty blue up there anyway if it's clera. With a polarizer, it is very easy to blacken the sky completely and uneven polarization (e.g., across wide angle lenses) is accentuated. The polarizer can be an intensely dramatic effect at altitude, but take a few without it, too. Batteries die faster in cold. Not as big a problem for film shooters as digital shooters, but take a few extra to be sure. I'm sure other people will jump in with thoughts. Have a great trip!
  4. p.s. I hate it when I miss typos. "Clera" should be "clear".

    Also, since you're coming from sea level, consider taking Diamox the whole way up. I won't pretend to dispense medical advice, but it was very important for some of our crew, and one sea leveler who didn't take it also didn't make the summit (cratered at the Crater, as it were).
  5. Thanks a lot guys for the advice. Btw Marshall, how did you carry your camera equipment, did you use a backpack?
  6. How secondary to hiking/climbing is the shooting? Much depends on whether you want a pretty light set-up or a modest amount of gear for more options / better results. Which lens(es) do you have / interested in buying? Gotta' have a 24mm f2.8 on-board; much shooting to be done w/ this focal length. Mind the flare, though.

    Priorities? Know your film / exposures. Bracket the "must-have" shots. Veeery light tripod (quick release system would be bonus despite weight), EZ access and safe (weather, bumps) carry system that does not require pack removal to shoot (very important!). Pick and choose from: non-color-shifting ND's (Cokin P-style and NOT round, screw-on filters; 2-stop-soft and then 3-stop-hard if bringing 2nd ND, and know technique before leaving), thin gloves w/ grip on tips for fiddling, 2nd body (compact non-SLR (?) for: B/W, back-up), extra batteries (1 always kept warm & handy, esp when up high in cooler temps, use manual focus unless needed), warming-filter, cable release, rise-n-shine for morning light after scoping vantage points the night before, greater ASA latitude than current.

    Acclimate properly, plenty o' water, and avoid altitude sickness / headaches. Get fit and enjoy!
  7. How much experience do you have of climbing above 15,000ft?

    It's cold and exhausting up there. Keep it simple. Use equipment you're very familiar with and not much of it. The thin air magnifies and weight you carry and messes with your concentration. I've used an Olympus OM-1 and a couple of small lenses on Kilimanjaro and that was enough to cope with. It's a great experience, have fun.
  8. I carried a regular (non-photo) backpack with balance bars, extra layers, three nalgenes full of water or tang (from powder), film, an N90s, 24, 28-75, and 70-300 lenses plus a small pouch of filters (polarizer and 81A for each lens). The camera body was almost always just hanging around my neck - on summit day it was mostly hanging inside my shell and sometimes inside the fleece layer under it (there were still two layers between that and me - never let handling the camera or a metal tripod suck the heat out of you).

    Through the Heather Zone, it misted coldly on us all day and the camera mostly stayed in the backpack nestled dryly in a thick garbage bag. The film was always kept in gallon-size ziplock bags with secure zippers. Other than that day, we were very lucky with the weather, so I didn't need to do that much to protect the gear. The little Gitzo got carried by the porters and I used it at camp. I did try a couple pictures steadied on my trekking poles, which don't buy all that much.

    Yeah, it's hard to get me to talk about the trip...
  9. And another p.s. I did have heavier lenses, which I was very happy to take with me on safari and very happy not to carry up the mountain. If you have a safe place to leave gear (most reputable tour companies do), leave the heavy glass at the bottom. Sometimes the porters don't work to keep your bag all that dry (garbage bag EVERYTHING in it!).
  10. I did a similar trip in 2001.

    I agree with the advice to get a second body if you can.

    On Kili, I carried a large Lowe backpack with an N8008, an F100, a 35-70, a 20 and an 80-200 a mini tripod, a full-size tripod, some close-up lenses and (polarizer and grad ND) filters along with other odds and ends. For the summit day, I left the pack in camp and carried the two bodies, one with the 20 and the other with the 35-70, slung across my chest. It is cold, so you should be prepared to shoot wearing gloves. If your camera will take them, lithium batteries have better cold weather performance.

    On Safari, I was fortunate to have the whole bench seat at the rear of the Range Rover to myself. I was able to lash my tripod to the seats so that I had a stable camera support sticking through the roof hatch. QR plates allowed me to pull the camera inside while on the road and switch bodies easily. My advice is to bring the longest lens that you can afford to buy, rent or borrow. I had a 1000mm Reflex, a 300mm f:4 w/1.4 and 2X TCs. along with the lenses above. There are a few shots in the landscape and wildlife galleries on my web site.

    Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like more info.

  11. I have never hiked over 13,000 ft, but here is what I do at high elevations to protect my gear. I use a L. L. Bean backpack (or similar properly designed hiking backpack) of the right size for me and of the right design and configuartion for the hike I am on. I add Domke inserts to hold cameras and lenses. I usually try and keep the camera out of the pack on my chest during shooting ops using an old Kuban Hitch that holds it tight to the chest. I believe Optech makes something similar, a harness for a camera. To protect the camera and lens from my sweat and/or the elements, I use zip lock bags over the camera and lens (top of bag at camera bottom) with small holes for the camera straps. It is not completely weather and dust proof, but does a pretty good job. I never use a polarizer for sky enhancements in the mountains for the reasons mentioned above. In the mountains I go with light lenses--I carry a Nikon AF 24mm f 2.8 and a Nikon AF 28-70 f 3.5-4.5. Sometimes I might carry a 20mm f 2.8 and/or a 70-210 f 4.0-5.6. All have a KR 3.0 filters on them. My warming polarizer is a Singh Ray that fits a Cokin P holder. When I take GNDs I take a 2 stop soft and a 3 stop hard, all from Singh Ray. I use Lowepro camera bags for the gear when not on the hike. I always have garbage bags with me in my camera bags and hiking bags. For gloves, I use inexpensive silk liner gloves under the regular glove.

    Carrying water and instant energy food are more important than extra photo gear. I nibble on the proper food every hour to make sure my blood sugar stays right. Even though my blood tests say I am in the normal range, I have found that I have to eat to prevent any possible "black out" type problem. They hit you w/o any warning, and you do not want this to happen to you. Get in shape and have a blast. One of my friends did K last year. He said some of the hikers had more problems during the descent than on the ascent. Joe Smith
  12. I may never get to Kilimanjaro. Maybe Denali. Just maybe. But I am a great armchair
    mountaineer photographer thanks to Galen Rowell's "Mountain Light", which I happened
    upon in a used bookstore. I highly recommend this book to any photographer, and
    expecially potential outdoor/adventure photgraphers. His technique, philosophy, his
    outlook were incredible, admirable, humble, humbling. I would take this book with me on
    such a trip.
  13. Thanks guys for taking your time and for the great advice. I've been above 15000ft before in South America several years ago, but didn't carry much more than a point and shoot. I've only gotten into more 'serious' photography lately. However, I did have to carry my own equipment with no porters, so that should balance things. As far as equipment, I'll be carrying my N80, a 28-105 and a 70-300ED and a light Manfrotto tripod. So far i have a KR1.5 filter. I'm still considering getting a polarizer and a proper camera backpack. Would love to get a second body and a wider lens but I'm not sure that my budget will allow it. On the other hand, I guess that's what credit cards are for...Bob, I may very well take on your offer and email you once I'm finished doing some work here. I suspect they don't send me those pay checks for participating in this forum :)
    Thanks again everybody!
  14. Hey Guy - for what it's worth, a camera backpack may not be necessary for a body and two lenses, plus it may not work as well as you want for carrying your other gear up the mountain. You'll still be carrying layers, munchies, and lots of water. Best to have all of that comfortable on you.
  15. Thanks Marshall. I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet. Obviously I'll have my full size backpack which will be carried by the porter. I was thinking of getting one of those Lowepro CompuTrekker packs which offer some extra space. Otherwise I'll just get a regular daypack and carefully stuff my camera equipment in it.

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