Thank you for 2016!

Following in the tradition of the past, I would like to take this time to thank the people and organizations which made 2016 an amazing photographic year!

People

In the beginning of the year, I worked a lot with the Santa Cruz Puma Project, which in fact was a continuation of working with them at the end of 2015. Having the privilege to photograph this stellar group of people was truly one I won’t ever forget. You have and continue to do amazing work for the pumas of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thank you so much!

I’d like to thank you Chris Wilmers for being open to me photographing the project activities. For making photography a priority of the project, and for sharing your time with me! This project will lead to extensive conservation actions being done for pumas in sub-urban environments. Thank you for continuing to push forward with the project!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Wilmers, using telemetry to determine if box trap has been triggered, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Wilmers, using telemetry to determine if box trap has been triggered, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Thank you Paul Houghtaling for dealing with the extra logistics of having me being on the team, for your patience, and for your conversations. For being one kick ass puma biologist! I will always cherish the hunts, the aerial tracking, and the den visits I got to share with you.

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Paul Houghtaling, tracking mountain lions from airplane using telemtry, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Livermore, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Paul Houghtaling, tracking mountain lions from airplane using telemtry, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Livermore, California

Justine Alyssa Smith, I owe you so many thank yous. You were the first one I had the pleasure of working with from the SCPP. Without you, I would have never worked on the project at all. Thank you for taking the time to show me kill sites, for being an amazing conservationist, and a kick-ass biologist! Thank you for being such an accommodating model. I can’t wait to see what your future holds!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Justine Alyssa Smith, preparing anesthesia needle to sedate sub-adult male for collaring, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Justine Alyssa Smith, preparing anesthesia needle to sedate sub-adult male for collaring, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Thank you Max Allen for being such a hard core biologist. You put the biology first, and the amount of work you have accomplished is simply unbelievable. Thank you for sharing your research with me, I won’t ever forget it!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Max Allen, holding six week old male cub, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Max Allen, holding six week old male cub, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Sean McCain, thank you so much for taking the initiative multiple times to invite me on project activities. For always being game to model a shot, and for your dedication to the project. No job was too dirty for you, and it is something I very much respect! Thank you also for the conversations with Justine, I very much appreciated the honesty.

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Sean McCain, setting up camera trap, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Sean McCain, setting up camera trap, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Thank you Chris Fust for allowing me to poke my camera in your face so willingly! One of my favorite moments will always be you singlehandedly pulling out 67M out of the box trap!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Fust, using telemetry to track mother and cubs, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Fust, using telemetry to track mother and cubs, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

I am so glad I was able to work with you, even for just a little bit Anna Nisi! I am so excited to see what exact project you choose and what your research career will turn into. Your kindness and generosity were more than apparent, even in just the two days we were able to be in the field together.

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Anna Nisi, using telemetry to track female, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Anna Nisi, using telemetry to track female, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Troy Collinsworth. What a man you are. Thank you for all the rides, for the great conversations, for being such an amazing houndsman, and for sharing your trade with me. Your dogs are incredibly animals, and no-doubt a large part of it is due to you!

Houndsman, Troy Collinsworth, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Uvas Canyon County Park, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Houndsman, Troy Collinsworth, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Uvas Canyon County Park, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

 

As did in 2015, last years spring took me back to the high Andes of Argentina, to continue the work on the Cat in Thin Air project, which highlights the Andean Mountain Cat. This project will continue for many more years, but I would like to thank the people who were directly helping me in the field this year, since it was no easy task.

Juan Reppucci, there aren’t enough good things I can say about you. Thank you for being such a dear friend. For always being willing to help, for amazing conversations, for just being a good person. I am truly lucky to know you and I am happy that we will get to continue working on this and other projects together! I am saddened that we are not living closer, but I very much cherish our online conversations!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Juan Reppucci, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Juan Reppucci, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Cintia Tellaeche, you are just as amazing! Your kindness and your hard-coreness are remarkable. Your food dishes, especially your in-the-field pizzas, are beyond yummy, and your love for cats is beyond apparent!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Cintia Tellaeche, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Cintia Tellaeche, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

You know those people who are just beyond nice, go out of their way to help others, and volunteer their time to help a cause they believe in? That’s Deanna and Michael Clifford! So honored to have met you both. It was a true privilege to get to spend the time in the mountains with you. Thank you for your positive attitudes, caring so much about wildlife, staying in touch, and being simply awesome people.

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationists Michael and Deanna Clifford, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationists Michael and Deanna Clifford, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina — great shirts by the way!

Not in any way less amazing is Amy Alexander. Though we only had a couple of days in the field together Amy, your great outlook on life was beyond apparent, and your dedication to wildlife palpable. Thank you for lending me the money for the cab, for getting the gang back together in California, and for being the great paced hiker that you are!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist Amy Alexander, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist Amy Alexander, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Thank you Eliana Segura for your dedication to the Andean cats, for volunteering your time, for always having a smile on your face, and for putting up with my beyond-lack of spanish.

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Eliana Segura, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Eliana Segura, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Jorge Luiz, thank you so much for helping me with the camera traps, for carrying too much gear, for the bracelet you made me, and for your friendship, it is not something I take lightly!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Jorge Luiz, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Jorge Luiz, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Coming back to California, after the Andes, I was asked to photograph the research activities of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. The threatened snowy plover researchers Karine Tokatlian and Ben Pearl were nice enough to let me join as they banded three adorable plover chicks. Thank you Karine for being so welcoming, for your dedication to the plovers, for volunteering your time for the photography, and for being such a willing model. Ben, the same applies to you! Thank you two for the conversations, and the two great days on the salt ponds! (SFBBO is having a fund-raising drive for their snowy plover work, please consider donation so Karine and Ben can continue their conservation work!)

Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) biologists, Karine Tokatlian and Ben Pearl, warming and banding chicks, Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, Union City, Bay Area, California

Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) biologists, Karine Tokatlian and Ben Pearl, warming and banding chicks, Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, Union City, Bay Area, California

In the fall, I headed back to Kyrgyzstan to work along side Panthera’s powerhouse snow leopard team. It was a seven week long trip, and is one filled with conversations and experiences I will never ever forget. Living in close quarters for that amount of time either brings you together or breaks you apart. It was a true privilege to further strengthen relationships and make incredible new friendships.

First up is Shannon Kachel, who is the principal investigator of the snow leopard project in Kyrgyzstan. The adjectives to describe Shannon could be a page long, but some of the ones that stand out are determined, persistent, dedicated, intelligent, caring, understanding, hopeful, buff, fearless, academic, and a good friend. Thank you Shannon for allowing me to join the project one more time, for your patience, for your understanding, for really treasured conversations, for caring about snow leopards so deeply, and for doing things the right way. Miss you buddy! Also, you are too cool for a picture, so you get a video 🙂

Thank you Tanya Rosen for always being beyond supportive. For fighting for me to come back to Kyrgyzstan, for arranging so many of the logistics, and for your positive, well-rounded outlook on life!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Tanya Rosen, checking email in camp, Pikertyk, Tian Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Tanya Rosen, checking email in camp, Pikertyk, Tian Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Zair Kubanychbekov, thank you for your tireless efforts in saving snow leopards, for being a logistics guru, for the airport rides, for getting us unstuck, for your super positive outlook and for sharing your culture with me.

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Zair Kubanychbekov, trying to get car unstuck, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Zair Kubanychbekov, trying to get car unstuck, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Ric for the hilarious conversations, for showing me some self defense moves without breaking my whole body, for fighting through the pain of a broken finger, for sharing the beyond delicious snacks, and for your friendship!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Ric Berlinski, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Ric Berlinski, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

A big thank you to you as well John Ochsenreiter, for the interesting conversations, for your help setting up the camera traps, for bringing the salt and pepper shaker, for giving me your sleeping bag (it was much needed) and for killing it with M1.

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, John Ochsenreiter, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, John Ochsenreiter, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Rahim Kulenbek (doing the fun task of checking the temperature of m2 in the below picture) for your help with the camera traps, the honest conversations, for bringing in all that dried Yak poop for the fire, and for some delicious Tuna pasta!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, reading PIT tag during collaring of male snow leopard, with veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, reading PIT tag during collaring of male snow leopard, with veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

David, we got to spend a lot of time together and I enjoyed all of it. Thank you for putting up with my weirdness, for always being game, for not making fun of me when I was lagging behind, for your help with the camera traps, for not killing me on one of your chosen routes, and for the great conversations!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, David Cooper, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, David Cooper, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Dan Dahlgren for proving that age is not a limiting factor, for helping set up camera traps, for sharing the stove, for bringing the popcorn which we enjoyed long past your departure, for staying in touch, and for caring so much about snow leopards!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Dan Dahlgren, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Dan Dahlgren, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Aaron Wising, thank you for the ranging conversations, for supporting Shannon and the whole project, for being willing to take a break every time I needed one, and for carrying the camera trap up to the highest place we ever put one in Kyrgyzstan!!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Aaron Wirsing, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Aaron Wirsing, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

And finally, but in no way least important, thank you to all the rangers (including Mukhtar, Ulan, Urmat, Joky, Askat, Mishka, Tepa, Tesha, Kamchibek, and Omurbek) for your help with the horses, for cooking, for helping us safely cross the river, and for ensuring the protection of snow leopards in Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve!!

Rangers Temirlan Baktygul, Urmat Solokov, Anne-lise Cabanat, Michel Gierst, Temirbek Jandrbaev listening to Ulan Abulgaziev playing the ukulele, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan relaxing in camp during evening, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Rangers Temirlan Baktygul, Urmat Solokov, Anne-lise Cabanat, Michel Gierst, Temirbek Jandrbaev listening to Ulan Abulgaziev playing the ukulele, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

I hope I did not leave anyone out, please know that if I did, it’s my fault and I very much thank you as well (but do let me know and I’ll add you!). Thank you to all for making 2016 so amazing, filled with incredible experiences, memories, and friendships.

Organizations

I have been working with Panthera for over four years now and what a privilege it has been. Panthera is the leading feline conservation group in the world. Their work is incredibly far reaching and impactful. Thank you for your tireless push to save wild cats. You are making a huge difference. To the general public, please donate to them, if you are in any way interested in cat conservation. 100% of your donation will go directly into the field!

The Santa Cruz Puma Project is a juggernaut in the puma research world. The multi-faceted work they are doing in regards to the mountain lions of the Santa Cruz Mountains is incredible. Thank you for allowing me to be the project’s photographer for quite a few months, for your dedication to the research, and for engaging the public!

Santa Cruz Puma Project

 

The Andean Cat Alliance is a multinational and interdisciplinary network founded in 1999 by professionals from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru to develop coordinated actions for the conservation of the Andean cat and its habitat. They aspire to the conservation and long term maintenance of Andean cat populations and its habitat, in harmony with human populations. Having had the honor of getting to work with you, and now being a member of the alliance is something I deeply cherish. Thank you for your continued work on promoting the conservation of one of the world’s least known wild cats!

AndeanCatAlliance

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach. Founded in 1981, the Bird Observatory has produced over 30 years of scientific information on local bird populations, working with both government agencies and partner organizations. Thank you for allowing me into your world, for your dedication to the birds of the bay area, and for fighting for what you believe in!

San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory

Cute Marmot Pictures!

Need a pick me up? No problem, here are some cute marmot pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Gray Marmot (Marmota baibacina) kit, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Hi there!

Gray Marmot (Marmota baibacina) kit, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

What’s going on out there?

Gray Marmot (Marmota baibacina) kit, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Are we siblings? Your nose smells funny.

Gray Marmot (Marmota baibacina) kit, Pikertyk, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

These fleas are itchy.

All of these pictures are of Gray Marmot (Marmota baibacina) babies, also called kits. They were taken in Pikertyk, in the Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan. I’d also like to thank Khalil Karimov, without whom I would have not gotten these pictures. Thanks Khalil!

Photographing in the High Andes

I recently returned from the high Andes of Bolivia and Argentina as part of the Cat in Thin Air project, and let me tell you, it was amazing! First of all, one has to get used to the high altitude of course (I saw one fellow passenger experience extreme altitude sickness pretty quickly in Bolivia as she had difficulties breathing and a major headache). Once you get used to the idea that you will be out of breath just by tying your shoes, you can start to focus on all the awesome nature that surrounds you.

So what does the landscape look like at 13,000 feet or even 14,000, (or even at 15,000 feet)? Probably not what you expect when you think of those elevations in the US.

Altiplano at about 13,300 feet, Ciudad de Piedra, western Bolivia

Altiplano at about 13,300 feet, Ciudad de Piedra, Andes, western Bolivia

Altiplano at about 13,300 feet, Ciudad de Piedra, western Bolivia

Altiplano at about 13,300 feet, Ciudad de Piedra, Andes, western Bolivia

Altiplano at about 13,300 feet, Ciudad de Piedra, western Bolivia

Altiplano at about 13,300 feet, Ciudad de Piedra, Andes, western Bolivia

Beautiful for sure, but there are some places, like the Valley of the Moons in northwestern Argentina, that stand out above the crowd.

Sandstone rock formations, Valley of the Moons, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina

Sandstone rock formations, Valley of the Moons, Andes, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina

Once you start to calm down about how amazing all the landscapes around you are, you start to notice the critters that fill those places.

Vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) mother nursing cria, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) mother nursing her cria, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) flock flying over miraged lagoon,  Andes, northwestern Argentina

Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) flock flying over miraged lagoon, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Southern Viscacha (Lagidium viscacia), Ciudad de Piedra, Andes, western Bolivia

Southern Viscacha (Lagidium viscacia), Ciudad de Piedra, Andes, western Bolivia

Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata), Andes, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina

Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata), Andes, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina

Even seeing the domesticated Llamas can be awe-inspiring.

Llama (Lama glama) herd grazing at sunset, Andes, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina

Llama (Lama glama) herd grazing at sunset, Andes, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina

I was there of course for the cats, but to hear about those you will have to be a little bit more patient. One thing is for sure, I am already looking forward to returning to the high Andes!

Cat in Thin Air project launched!

CatinAirLogo

 

The Andean Mountain Cat has been in my heart for a very long time. It is a high altitude specialist and less than 2.500 remain. This is not another sad depressing environmental story however. The Andean Cat has a real chance at survival, but its up to us who care to make sure that happens. The Andean Cat Alliance has been working exclusively on this amazing species since 1999, and they have made real progress. Since however there are less than 10 high resolution pictures of this cat in existence, I want to do my part in helping the Andean Cat by getting more high resolution pictures which can then be used to introduce a ton more people to the cat.

And so, the Cat in Thin Air Project was born. The goals of the project are to first get more pictures of this very elusive cat, but then, and much more importantly help with established education programs as well as create additional avenues to show the cat to the world. Have an interest in wild cats, go check out the project page, want to help? Email me!

The Ten Photo Expedition Essentials

All 225 lb (102kg) of gear packed up, ready for international departure!

All 225 lb (102kg) of gear packet up, ready for international departure!

Photographing wildlife in your local state park is one thing, traveling across the world to try and capture images of elusive species in remote areas is another. You have to start thinking beyond picture taking to managing staying out in the field for ­extended periods of time. Convenience stores aren’t around every corner and if you are missing something you may just be plain out of luck. Though the list of things to bring is extensive I wanted to explain my top ten essentials that I take every time I head into the field.

1. Camera Gear

About half the photography equipment I bring on assignment (not counting camera traps)

About half the photography equipment I bring on assignment (not counting camera traps, for those multiply everything by four)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: without camera equipment you wouldn’t be doing much photography. Having multiples of items, especially cameras, is essential. This way, if something breaks, you don’t have to give up shooting altogether. I have had two cameras break on me while I was on location, though inconvenient, it didn’t halt my photography as I could just keep going with the back-ups.

2. Paperwork

Passport, immunization records, photography permits, and tickets.

Passport, immunization records, photography permits, and tickets.

In most foreign countries you can’t just show up, pull out your camera, and start shooting — especially not for extended periods of time. Many countries require you to get visas before you even depart your home country. Others require you to provide your immunization history to make sure you aren’t bringing in any disease or may be contracting on during your stay. Finally, if you are working in any public areas, you most likely need a permit to conduct your photography project from the governmental department responsible for the environment (sure makes shooting at home sound way more appealing, doesn’t it?!).

3. First Aid Kit

The first aid kit I bring (make sure yours is waterproof as well)

The first aid kit I bring (make sure yours is waterproof as well)

Alright, so you have made it to your remote location finally. You are pumped up and ready to conquer all photography challenges when a major bout of diarrhea leaves you weak and lying in bed for days. You get a bacterial infection and have no way of treating it. A simple injury can all of a sudden become life threatening. All of these scenarios are quite possible, and could have happened to me, if I did not have a first aid kid to nip the problem in the bud right when the issue started to present itself. It’s not much to carry, but it can literally save your life. Check out the CDCs website to see what health issues you should be prepared for at your destination.

4. Water Purification

Water filtration system including a pump and steripen

Water filtration system including a pump and steripen

That brings me right to my next item, well items really. We take clean water for granted, but guess what, in most parts of the world that is simply not the case. So will you just bring gallons and gallons of water with you? Carrying the extra weight is just not feasible. So you have to be able to purify the water you naturally encounter in the environment. A water pump (for sediment extraction) along with a steripen (which kills the bacteria and viruses) are essential to alleviating any kind of water problems.

5. Rain Protection

Osprey raincover - perfect for most rain situation. If its a storm, I place items in waterproof bags.

Osprey raincover – perfect for most rain situations. If its a storm, I place items in waterproof bags.

Talking about water, in the tropical environments I have worked in the most, finding water is no problem, simply because it rains in these ecosystems almost daily. Great for drinking water, not so great for keeping your photo and traveling equipment dry. I always carry raincovers and waterproof bags with me, so if a downpour comes in, I know all is safe.

6. Silica Gels

Silica Gels - I have even needed these in the desert

Silica Gels – I have even needed these in the desert

Related to the waterproof bags are silica gels. In tropical environments, even when it isn’t raining, the humidity is absolutely absurd (my baseball hat was growing three different species of fungi the last time I was in Borneo), which can lead to health issues and fungus growing inside of your photo gear. To ensure that the air within your bags is less humid, silica packets are absolutely essential.

7. Pocket Knife

Most important item I own (partially due to sentimental reasons) -- my grandpa's pocket knife

Most important item I own (partially due to sentimental reasons) — my grandpa’s pocket knife

Another duh item really. It allows you to eat food more easily, cut most anything, and repair a lot of your kit. I use my pocketknife daily when I am in the field and it is the item I would least want to lose.

8. Hand Sanitizer and Toilet Paper

TP and Hand Sanitizer - explanation is hopefully unnecessary

TP and Hand Sanitizer – explanation is hopefully unnecessary

Going to the bathroom in the wilderness is somewhat of an acquired taste. Whether you hate it or don’t mind it, you won’t get around it when you are in the field for extended periods of time. To do things properly though, both toilet paper and hand sanitizer are required. If you don’t have toilet paper, you can always use a leaf, but grabbing the wrong kind of vegetation will guarantee that you won’t forget the tp in the future.

9. External Hard drives

External hard drive - I have two of these that are clones of each other

External hard drive – I have two of these that are clones of each other

All is well, you are safe, your equipment is safe, and you are having amazing experiences taking amazing pictures. Life couldn’t be better. You are filled with happiness as you see your pictures loading onto your computer and there is no sense of nervousness as you do so because you thought ahead and brought plenty of external storage. When I am in the field, each photograph I take is stored on three different devices, so even if one fails, I still have two back-up copies. I would recommend doing the same for you.

10. Compass and GPS

GPS - life saver (literally)

GPS – life saver (literally)

Assuming that you’d like to return from your adventurous journey, I would recommend bringing both a compass and a GPS to lead you back to civilization. Having worked in the desert and the dense jungle now, I can attest that these two items are probably the biggest life savers. When you are totally away from civilization it is incredibly easy to get turned around. I have stepped 10 feet off the trail in the jungle, closed my eyes, spun around, and had no idea where the trail was when I open my eyes again. You may think all you need is a GPS, but that would also be incorrect. My good friend Andy Hearn and I have walked in circles in the rainforest in Borneo trying to go straight, even while looking at the GPS the whole time. Using the GPS with the compass allowed us to get a proper bearing and get back to our camp.

Food: I didn’t list food as a top ten essential because it isn’t something I bring from home; I buy the necessary supplies locally before heading into the field.

Power: If you are out in the field for more than a week at a time, I’d highly recommend setting yourself up so you can charge your camera batteries with solar power. Otherwise you are carrying a ton of batteries around. (Batteries would have made the list if I didn’t take them out before traveling due to weight restrictions — trust me paying for an extra 175lb in excess baggage fees is not fun, so any weight you can lose is worth it).

As mentioned this list can go on and on, but I think this is a good start. Am I missing something on this list that you think is essential? Let us know in the comments!

Do you want to know less about the gear and more about how I take my pictures? Join me on one of my workshops!