Photography

IMG 1895Being an amateur photographer finally getting to go on a "real expedition" I put a good amount of thought into the equipment I wanted to take with. My aim was to be able to take the best quality pictures with the highest level of spontaneity.

Camera

Despite it's size, weight and high price, I was determined to take my Canon EOS 40D DSLR. It's fast and responsive, I know my way around the menus and love the excellent picture quality.

Lens

IMG 1904After having read about the sometimes very dusty conditions on Kilimanjaro I decided against taking multiple lenses. Giving some thought on the type of photos I'd like to be taking (i.e. wide angle as well as portrait shots), I was fortunate that my daughter would lend me her EF-S 17-85 IS USM lens. This was a better choice than my EF 24-105 L USM IS for a few reasons. The EF-S 17-85 is much better in the wide angle department, especially considering the 40D's crop factor of 1.6. It also has a weight advantage. I removed my battery grip to save volume and weight and was left with a "mere" 1.5kg (3.3 lbs.) of camera ;-)

Memory Cards

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Shooting 10 MPixels pictures in RAW-format I figured on about 70 shots per Gigabyte. Figuring on approximately 1000 shots I decided to bring along 14 GBytes worth of CF cards. As it was I ended up taking around 700 shots and reduced them later at home to around 300 "keepers". (A lot of the shots were exposure bracketed; see below...)

Battery Packs

I had read a lot about people having problems with digital camera batteries, especially under very cold conditions such as on the summit day. I brought along 4 BP-511As just in case. As was to be expected they were great and I only had to replace the 1st battery pack after the third day into the trek. The 2nd battery pack held out extremely well, even on the cold summit day. I never even emptied it on the trip.

Tripod

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A tripod might've been nice on a couple of occasions. I did bring a very light weight, inexpensive tripod with to Africa. After seeing how full my gear bag had gotten the night before heading out, I decided to leave it back at the hotel.

In retrospect it would've helped me get an absolutely fantastic shot of a moonlit Kibo behind the Barranco wall during one of the many nightly "get out of the sack and pee" walks. At 3 a.m. my only thought though was to get back into my sleeping bag. I really wish I had forced myself harder to get back out of the tent with the camera! I could've set it on a rock or something for a long exposure... oh well...

Carrying technique

hanging cameraThe Kilimanjaro trek constantly presents you with unbelievably beautiful and bizarre landscapes. If you are serious about getting good shots it is essential to have the camera ready at a moment's notice. It makes no sense packing it away in the backpack. Have it close at hand!

After having recently taken my DSLR on a day hike in the Alps I ended up discovering that keeping a heavy DLSR close at hand is not trivial. With the strap around my neck in a normal fashion I had the camera constantly bouncing off of my stomach. It required at least one dedicated hand to prevent this as well as to protect it during climbing. The "keep a hold of the camera" hand was of course needed for climbing...

With a little help from "Google" I discovered a simple and effective tip on the internet:
With the camera's lens pointed at your stomach, put the neck strap around your neck.
Stick one of your arms through the strap and have the camera rest on the side of your hip in a comfortable position. You will find that because of the better center of gravity it doesn't bounce around.
To take a picture you just pull your arm out of the strap and use the camera as normal. The only difference being that you have to cross the strap when bringing the viewfinder to your eye.

Note: I kept my camera turned on at all times (I had the Auto-Power-Off mode set to 1 minute).

With the above techniques I was able to, upon seeing something worth shooting (which was all the time):
stop, flip the camera up, take the shot, and return the camera to it's hip position in less than 15 seconds.

Miscellaneous

IMG 1899I brought a polarizing filter along but forgot to use it !#@#%!
A very useful idea was programming one of the EOS 40D user settings for exposure bracketing in "rapid fire" mode. There were a lot of situations involving a lot of contrast between a very bright sky and the surrounding landscape. I don't own a split neutral density filter, and even if I did there generally wasn't a lot of time to fiddle around.