This was a proud and pretty stoked moment as I stood at the summit of Vinson Massif at 4,892m tightly gripping my Nikon flag in the high winds and -50 degree windchill conditions.
I just got back from a truly once-in-a-lifetime, three week experience photographing and climbing Vinson Massif – the highest peak in Antarctica and one of the World’s Seven Summits. This was part of the True Patriot Love Foundation expedition with 9 injured soldiers and 17 Canadian business leaders, led by world-class guides from Mountain Professionals and Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.
With the cold conditions, high elevation and the fact that we did not have any electricity while winter camping our way to the top, it was a very challenging shoot. I had to carry all my gear in a 105 litre Osprey Zenith Pack and pull a sled with a large duffel, food, etc. My Nikon D810, Nikon D4s and Nikon 1 J5 and the new AF-S Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8E ED VR lens, 50mm and 16mm fisheye came with me all the way to the summit!! My 70-200mm came up to high camp but I left it for weight and simplicity on summit day. I used 2 Lowepro Toploader Pro bags (Toploader Pro 70 AW II and Toploader Pro 75 AW II) to keep my cameras dry and protected and inserted hand warmers to ensure the cameras stayed warm. We were surrounded by crevices at all times so when we moved, we did so in teams all roped together. So I had the challenge of shooting while tethered to a rope and shooting while moving. That’s where the Lowepro bags were a game changer and allowed me to have them at my side and access them at a blink of an eye, without having to stop the entire group and take off my pack to access my camera. I attached my Lowepro’s using the shoulder harness and attaching them to my backpack belt loop to carry most of the weight at my hips. My Manfrotto Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod and Ball Head also outperformed my expectations and made bringing a tripod on such a weight-sensitive expedition a possibility. I also brought the very lightweight Manfrotto Offroad Series Tripod and Sticks to shoot stable video on the fly! I charged batteries with my Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Kit and brought a new super lightweight Apple Macbook and 2 – SSD drives for backup which allowed me to shoot a terabyte and a half on this trip!! Finally I kept warm with the incredible expedition Canada Goose jackets that felt like you were wearing a comfortable sleeping bag no matter how cold it got.
True Patriot Love Foundation (TPL) is a national charity that honours the sacrifices of members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans and their families in both times of peace and conflict. TPL funds unique programs and innovative research in the areas of family health and support, physical health and rehabilitation, mental health and wellbeing, and research and innovation. TPL is also committed to bridging the gap between military and civilian communities, hosting multinational symposiums and organizing ambitious global expeditions. Since 2009, True Patriot Love has committed more than $15.1 million to support military charities and research across Canada.
Summiting one of the World’s Seven Summits and experiencing Antarctica was incredible, but even more amazing was witnessing and capturing the extraordinary people on this trip, the healing that took place for the soldiers and the bonding that happened between soldier and civilian as we all worked together to get to the top! I have come away from this forever changed and inspired, with a deep appreciation and respect for our Canadian soldiers and what they continue to do for us. I also come away with many new friends from this adventure, the business leaders, soldiers, guides and support were absolutely amazing individuals and it was an honour growing through this experience with all of them!
Included are a few teaser images. More to come soon at the Scotiabank Contact Festival and other Nikon and True Patriot Love Foundation venues.
Very Special thanks to Nikon, True Patriot Love Foundation, Lowepro, Manfrotto, Scotiabank, Canada Goose, LaSportiva, Osprey, Exped, Goal Zero and more for your incredible support to make this expedition a possibility.