Field Notes

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This Rod Planck Workshop is one that you expect to see breath taking scenery and we did. We also had some breath taking rides on very muddy roads; real 4 wheeling. Rod offers a limited number of workshops to places he knows like the back of his hand. Mostly I think of Rod as an excellent instructor and a poet with a camera. I highly recommend his workshops.

Many of the photo sights involved packing into remote canyons to keep the weight to a minimum while maintain maximum versatility I carried a light weight ball head and a Companion C-202.

My Grandmother used to say “You would forget your head if it God didn’t securely fasten it”. Years later it may be worse than it was then. Well, even though I expected to see wildflowers I forgot the 200 mm. macro lens. Fortunate I did carry a 24-85 mm. lens with close focusing capability. Between the rocky ground that occasionally limited tripod placement and the lack of a rotating collar I could not have had the compositional freedom without the Companion.

At another sight with a shorter walk I carried the 200-400 mm. lens. I am so happy that I did because not more than a block from the car I met Chuck the partridge. Chuck liked to pose but kept his distance and moved around a quite a bit. The action mode of the Companion proved its merit as Chuck hopped from place to place. I must have spent an hour or more with Chuck and still don’t what was down the canyon.

Fascinated by Puffins and Alaska in general we made our first destination photo trip with Rod Planck leading a Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris. Rod is a very skilled photographer and great trip leader. His dry sense of humor is a delight. The weather cooperated, we were able to land, had mostly diffuse light, did not get misted out, and returned on schedule.

The photographic opportunities were all that one could hope for. I got some good photographs of Puffins, Auklet, and other artic birds. I also got a wildflower photograph that I have yet to equal.

The trip also taught me what camera support systems I did not like. First on the list are non ARCA style plate systems and heads that droop.

John Zeiss

This Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris provided an ideal opportunity to field test an early Mongoose M-363 on an extended trip. This was a Polar Bear trip and Polar Bears we saw, eighteen in all, thanks to the watchful eye of Rinie Van Meurs. Conditions were ideal; plenty of cooperative photographic subjects, calm seas, diffuse light, and a congenial group of good photographers.

This was a fantastic photo experience that I highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject. The Polar Bear photos on this site are from that trip. My equipment included a Nikon F-5 with a 500 mm. f/4.0 tele lens, and of course the Mongoose. Concern for depth-of-field and ISO 50 or 100 speed film required exposures as long as a 30th of a second. Very few frames were discarded for either sharpness or exposure. (Mr. Van Os gave his “Polar Bear Exposé” to help anyone who had questions about correctly exposing these not really white creatures.) Good telephoto lens technique is required with lenses of this reach. Providing support to the front of the lens with ones left hand and slowly squeezing the shutter release are good practices to follow.

The trip provided valuable insights that helped refine the Mongoose. A big thanks to those on board who willingly offered their suggestions.

We also made a short stop in Iceland offered by Iceland Airlines at no increase in fare. I recommend this stop, although short, to anyone making a qualified flight. Because of the short stay we did not go to the prime Puffin location, instead we headed north. We found opportunities to photograph wildflowers. To save weight the only tripod head we carried was the Mongoose. One may not think of a gimbal head for macro photography but they proved satisfactory with collared lenses.