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  • Ian Dawson

Polar Photography Made Simple #2

All deserts aren't dry... Essential Polar photo gear.

Although the polar regions are technically considered deserts, despite extremely low precipitation rates, water is both plentiful and can be rather temperamental. Sea conditions around your ship can vary wildly from mirror smooth to storm swell that can at times feel like you are in a washing machine.

Unless you are stepping out directly onto sea ice, your primary means of reaching shore is by Zodiac (an inflatable boat with a rigid hull - see video below shot in the South Orkney Islands)

We all know water can be particularly hazardous to cameras, and other sensitive electronic equipment. Salt water doubly so, and this despite manufacturer's best claims that products are 'weather tight' or 'waterproof'.

Several expeditions photographing in the polar regions quickly teaches you what kit is necessary, works and is sufficiently durable. An essential piece of kit is a robust, watertight Drybag, vital for any photographer or traveler exploring the polar regions. It provides protection against water damage caused by waves, spray, rain and sudden storms. Even if your camera is advertised as water-resistant or waterproof, it is always better to err on the side of caution and keep it in a dry bag while on a zodiac - I've had (mercifully) indirect experience of several thousand pounds worth of new equipment rendered useless by heavy seas.

What to look for? The dry bag should be of high quality, durable, and be absolutely watertight. It should be large enough to accommodate your camera, lenses, batteries, other accessories or even your camera rucksack. It is also advisable to use silica gel packets to absorb any moisture that may find its way inside the dry bag. Look for durable fabrics and plenty of carrying points, including shoulder or rucksack straps.

I've yet to test a range of drybags, but those I've seen working well in the field have included:

Should you have any personal recommendations, please share them with us here.

Don't forget! When traveling in a zodiac, it is also essential for you to wear appropriate clothing, including waterproof jackets, trousers, hats and gloves. Your camera is of no use if you are too cold to press the shutter.

Pro Tip - When travelling in the Zodiac in heavy seas, pull up your hood, turn your head and body to face the outboard motor at the rear and let your waterproofs take the brunt of the sea spray.

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