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In the second of our new series of interviews about various shoots, trips and expeditions that our team and involved in we are talking to Global Icon, Lars Schneider and our self-titled, Web Overlord, Jason Nugent about an upcoming photographic dog sledding trip to Norway with VerticalShot Expeditions.
Lars Schneider used a similar trip last year to test the 2015 Tilopa, in the wild, you can check out the results here, so is no stranger to the stresses of and how to get ready for such a trip.
While Jason lives in Eastern Canada and enjoys similar weather conditions to those he will experience in Norway he has never been on a dog sledding expedition. Prior to being our Web Overlord has experience of, amongst other things, being a Pro cyclist so physical commitment is not something that is strange to Jason.
Q: Guys, given the potential extreme conditions that you will probably face on this trip, how do you prepare for such a trip.
JN: I tend to over prepare for nearly everything, and this is no different. While a lot of the trip is going to be on dogsleds, there will be times when I will need to help my dog team, especially in deep snow. To that end, I've kept to my normal routine. I typically spend a few hours every day doing mixed/hard cardio work, with strength training from a variety of sources. Usually it's a hard effort on my road bike, then either free weights, core work, gym climbing, followed by a long walk to stretch and recover. Obviously I am also out shooting during the week and hike around in the woods with my pack.
LS: Dogsledding trips are always something special, as you are out in the wild for a week. If you forget to bring something, it will have an impact and there is no chance to replace it, as civilization can be a long way off. I have been on a few dogsledding trips and each time, when you are out there in a winter wonderland or white out you think of something to bring next time. I hope this time I have it about right in terms of the balance of having everything I need and nothing that might slow me or the dogs down.
For the photography part, you should come prepared in terms of lots of batteries, a sturdy tripod, a cable release or remote trigger, ideally with a timer setting, if you want to shoot time-lapses of northern lights or stars. You should pack your gear well, have it in a well padded bag because there are chances to crash or tipping the sleds, but ideally you have everything within reach, even while traveling on the sled. I usually strap my f-stop pack to the top of the sled, close to where you stand and it is just perfect with the access through the back panel ...
Q: This is primarily a photographic workshop but given the conditions you will have to take a lot of gear, talk us through your gear.
JN: Despite the pile in the photo, I am bringing relatively little gear. Everything fits into the 80 litre kitbag, or my f-stop 2015 Tilopa, with all my camera gear going into a medium pro ICU. The lighter my gear is, the lighter my sled is, and I want to be kind to my dog team. I know it will be very cold, so I need to be able to stay warm while shooting and standing on the back of the dog sled. I also want to be able to break down into lighter layers if I need to work hard to push or dig out the sled.
Obviously, this is a photographic workshop but given the conditions, location and transportation I need to be smart with my gear as it can be the heaviest and most fragile element of my kit.
LS: For the photography part, you should come prepared in terms of lots of batteries, a sturdy tripod, a cable release or remote trigger, ideally with a timer setting, if you want to shoot time-lapses of northern lights or stars. You should pack your gear well, have it well protected, which is one of the reasons I love the ICU’s, because there is always a chance to crash or tip over the sleds, but ideally you have everything within reach, even while traveling on the sled. I usually strap my f-stop pack to the top of the sled, close to where you stand and it is just perfect with the access through the back panel, a ready made work station for me.
JN: My main body will be a Nikon D800 body, with four batteries which I will aim to keep as close to me as I can to keep them warm, as this helps battery life massively. There will probably be no easy way to charge batteries (not a lot of sun for solar chargers, I am guessing). Thankfully the D800 has excellent battery life.
Lenses will be mostly fast primes, including the Nikkor 20/1.8, Sigma ART 50/1.4, Nikkor 105/2.8, and my trusty Nikkor 24-70/2.8. I didn't take a longer telephoto with me when I was climbing in Bosnia in the fall, and don't feel I missed having one. The 105 is super sharp for portrait work, gets in really close, and gives me a bit more reach than the 24-70. It also has excellent VR when working in lower light.
My Feisol tripod and trusty Acratech ultimate ballhead. This tripod has been with me all over the world, confiscated by customs in Vietnam, Egypt, and Lebanon, and I've always managed to get it back. I've probably paid the equivalent of four times what it's worth by now in customs excise fees.
Assorted neutral density filters, polarizers, and cable releases.
LS: Listening to Jason it is almost as if he read my mind as to what he will need apart from the fact that I will, of course, be shooting Canon.
I am bringing with me a Canon 1DX and Canon 5D Mark III bodies with me, I know that they use different batteries but they each offer me something that I think I want on this specific trip.
In terms of lenses, unlike Jason, I want a little more flexibility so I am bringing a 24 mm f/1,4, 24-70 f/2,8 and my 70-200 f/2,8, which is one of my workhorse lenses, plus a 1.4x Extender, just in case that perfect shot is a little too far from my location.
Lots of batteries and a remote timer and an essential piece of kit. One thing that does often get overlooked is the massive temperature changes that the gear goes through so I always include waterproof bags for bringing the cameras from cold outside to the, hopefully, warm inside of a hut or tent, to minimize any condensation.
JN: I am also bringing my GoPro Hero 3+, the plan is to attach it to the sled and I am currently devising ways to manage this.
Other gear I will be taking include essentials such as Chocolate. Chocolate is an essential high calorie morale booster in the cold, great for sharing around camp fires.
Petzl headlamp with a second battery pack, along with a battery pack from Outdoor Tech, the pack can completely recharge the headlamp three times. A bit of insurance to make sure I have headlamp juice for the whole trip.
The sleeping bag is a TaigaWorks dry loft bag rated to -40C, it is epic, super light, very stuffable, and waterproof. I'm also devising ways to sleep completely under the stars in the bitter cold.
The jacket combination of a light base layer, Icebreaker merino base jacket, a Rab Neutrino Endurance down jacket, and a Rab Nexus shell is pretty much bomb proof and very warm. I can also mix and match depending on what I'm doing.
Some Rab Photon snow pants with a Gore Tex over shell and some gaiters on my Sorel boots rounds out the lower half. The big mittens are TNF Himalayan gloves, rated for 8000 meter ascents.
I believe it was Tim Kemple (and probably many photographers before him) who said "A warm photographer is a better photographer." It is excellent advice.
Finally, two other essentials are Ear plugs and an iPod;
Ear Plugs, necessary for quiet nights when sleeping with other people and lots of dogs around.
iPod, necessary for loud moments when the only thing you really want is inspiration from Scandinavian black metal. (Ed: Jason is know for being pretty extreme in his musical tastes, so a helpful tip for Lars is do not let Jason be DJ at any stage…)
LS: Regarding clothing, thin gloves are essential for the photo part, when it is cold (and it can get down to minus 30°C or less at times, medium gloves for the dog work, wood-chopping, etc. and really think down mittens when you stand on the sled and don’t work too hard on the easy days. Long Johns, face mask, warm hat, big down jacket and a warm sleeping bag are essentials for any trip like this.
Q: So we have a newbie and an old hand on this specific trip, while each trip is different what are your expectations for the trip?
JN: I expect to have an absolutely mind blowing time. Dogsledding in the Arctic? Do I really need to say more? But doing with Lars Schneider and the awesome dudes from VerticalShot Expeditions? Northern lights? Did I say sled dogs already? I had Alaskan Malamutes as a kid when I was growing up and we used to get them to pull us all over the neighbourhood on toboggans. This is going to be ridiculous.
I expect to come home with a half dozen 64Gb CF cards pretty much full. Memories, Aurora photos, shots of dogs, and of the friends I'm going to make. It'll be epic.
LS: I am really looking forward to hosting the second photo workshop of this kind. Last year we had a blast with a great group and I am hoping for the same again. I am sure it will be. Also, I am very much looking forward to working with the dogs again, they are amazing. It is incredible how strong they are, how eager they are to run and pull and how their instincts are guiding them. Without these great dogs you would have a really hard time out there.
I know it will be different to last year and that is what excites me because it will bring new opportunities to take great pictures and hopefully help the rest of the group have a fantastic experience, I hope Jason really does think it is epic.
Note: If you are inspired and want to join such an expedition then please check out where VerticalShot expeditions are off to next on their website www.VerticalShotexpEditions.com
You can check more work from Lars at http://www.outdoor-visions.com
You can check out Jason’s work at http://www.demitas.se or look for Demitassemedia on Instagram.