Back on the shore but the story continues

We are on our way back to port in Sakhalin. Maybe three or so hours to go. The crew is packing all the gear up.

There is an assembly station for all the tech toys on the rear of Afina and it in itself is very cool to watch. The places that these cameras have been, and the things they have seen and shot, words can’t describe. Remember that more than 30 bags were loaded onto Afina 12 days ago.


We are approaching the port area.

Apparently we won’t disembark Afina at the port, but instead we will ride the zodiacs to the shore. To transport all the people and equipment and bags will likely take a few hours.

It does.

Back on land we wait for the buses to take us to a hotel. A mountain of bags and gear lays motionless at the edge of the pier where we were dropped off by the zodiacs.

This amazing adventure ends here, but the story surely will continue.

However… we go to Korean bbq. That was absolutely delicious. Every kind of meat and vegetable we could possibly have we do. Speeches. Good ones. Some drinks. Club maybe? Sure why not. There is a club at the bottom floor of our hotel. And trust me, it’s a place you want to be at with some friends.

Buenas noches amigos.

Check out our diary.

Gear, gear, gear

#fromkurilswithlove essentially is a film production trapped on a boat. That means that there are enormous amounts of gear on board and they are spilling everywhere. There is a gear room in cabin number one – but quickly the gear started spilling over into any free area on the boat (which is totally not appreciated by the crew).


The actual gear room

Below is the impressive list of items we had on our carnet. The losses were low so far. We lost to DJI Mavic drones and had probably nearly 20 near misses as the guys are pushing their tech to the absolute limit. That is a surprisingly good result, taking into account that we are hauling the gear in and out of zodiacs, shooting in boats, on cliffs, carrying the stuff over slippery rocks all the time. Well – we brought 251 items an still have 249. Not bad.

The worst loss by far was for sure Vladimir’s HD time lapse camera which was buried below ash after the volcanic explosion at Raikoke. A total tragedy.

Sebastian has other issues meanwhile: all his chargers, GoPros and a drone were in a piece of luggage that didn’t arrive in Kamchatka in time for the start of the expedition. Luckily there are enormous amounts of equipment on board, so he is now borrowing cameras on a constant basis. Solidarity helps.

RED Monstro
RED Gemini
RED Dragon
FDR-AX53 HandiCam
RX100 V
RED Pro 5” Monitor
RED Pro 7” Monitor
RED Jetpack SDI
RED BaseIO V mount
RED BaseIO V mount
DSMC1 Side handle
DSMC1 MG PL mount
RED AC Adaptor
LEMO B Adaptor
LEMO B Adaptor
LEMO B Adaptor
LEMO A Adaptor
RED NATO Top handle
VIewfactor DSMC1 Riserplate
Element Technia Dovetail baseplate
Element Technia 16” dovetail
Canon BG-E4 Battery Grip
Small HD 703 OLED
Offhollywood OMOD XLR2+
Sony VG-C3EM Battery Grip
RED 512 Mini-Mag
RED 512 Mini-Mag
RED 512 Mini-Mag
RED 480 Mini-Mag
RED 1TB Mini-Mag
RED 512 Mini-Mag
Sigma 150-600mm
DJI X7 16mm
DJI X7 24mm
DJI X7 35mm
DJI X7 50mm
Voigtlander 50mm f1.1 m-mount
Voigtlander 21mm f1.8 m-mount
Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 e-mount
Voigtlander 35 f1.7 m-mount
Sony 16-35 f2.8 e-mount
Sony 24-105mm f4 e-mount
Sony 24-70 f4 e-mount
Sony 85mm f1.4 e-mount
Sony 16-35 f4 e-mount
Zeiss 21mm f2.8 loxia e-mount
Nikon 14mm f2.8 N-mount
Canon 70-200 f4 ef-mount
Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 m-mount
Voigtlander 50mm f3.5
Olympus 45mm f1.8 MFT
Canon 15mm f2.8 Fisheye
Voigtlander 40mm f2.8
Canon Extender 2x EF
Zeiss Batis 25mm f2 e-mount
Leica M 35mm f1.5 m-mount
DJI 15mm MFT
DJI 15mm MFT
LUMIX 45-150mm f4-5.6
Sigma 20mm f1.4
Sigma 24mm f1.4
Sigma 14mm f1.8
Ziess 50mm Makkro f2 ZF.2
Sony 70-200 f2.8 e-mount
Sony 400mm f2.8
Sony 1.4 Tele Converter
Sony 2 Tele Converter
Sony 16-35mm f2.8 e-mount
Sigma 16-35mm f1.8 ef-mount
Sigma 50-100mm f 1.8 ef-mount
Sony 24-70mm f2.8 e-mount
Sony 90mm Macro f2.8
Sony 14-24mm f4
Voigtlander 110mm f2.5 e-mount
Sony 24mm f1.4
Sony 100-400mm f 4.5-5.6
Sony 35mm f1.4 e-mount
Fotodiax EF-E
Metabones EF-E
Arri LMB 4×5
Firecrest 4X5 ND 0.9
Firecrest 4X5 ND 1.2
Schneider 4×5 ND 0.9
Schneider 4×5 Platinum IRND 1.2
Haida 4×5 IRND 1.5
Haida 4×5 IRND 2.1
Schneider 4X5 ND 0.9 SE Vertical
Haida 4×5 IRND 0.9 SE Horizontal
Haida 4×5 IRND 1.5 SE Horizontal
Haida 4×5 Circular Polarizer
Schneider 138mm polarizer
Schneider 4.5″ ND
Firecrest 105mm IRND 1.2
Haida 82mm circular polarizer
Hoya 82mm proND100000(5.0)
Hoya 82mm proND100000(5.0)
Tiffen 82mm clear
Tiffen 82mm clear
B+W 82mm UV-Haze 1x MRC
Haida 82mm Variable ND
Tiffen 82mm Variable ND
Tiffen 82mm Variable ND
Tiffen 82mm Circular Polarizer
Syrp 82mm Variable ND
Syrp 82mm Variable ND
Syrp 82mm Super Dark Variable ND
Tiffen 82mm Hot Mirror IRND 3.0
Tiffen 82mm Hot Mirror IRND 3.0
Genus Tech 82mm Solar Eclipse ND Fader
Tiffen 82mm Attenuator/Blender ND 1.2
Tiffen 77mm Attenuator/Blender ND 1.2
Tiffen 77mm Circular Polarizer
Tiffen 77mm clear
Tiffen 77mm clear
Canon 77mm Circular Polarizer
X4 77mm Circular Polarizer
Heidi 77mm Circular Polarizer
B+W 77mm Circular Polarizer
Tiffen 72mm Polarizer
Tiffen 67mm clear
Tiffen 67mm clear
Tiffen 67mm ND 0.6
Syrp 67mm Variable ND
Syrp 67mm Variable ND
Syrp 67mm Variable ND
Syrp 67mm Variable ND
Tiffen 52mm ND 0.6
Tiffen 52mm ND 0.9
Tiffen 52mm UV
Hoya 49mm UV
Hoya 49mm Circular Polarizer
HMC 49mm NDX400
Polar Pro 46mm ND8.PL
Polar Pro 46mm ND16.PL SN:N/A
Polar Pro 46mm ND16 SN:N/A
Polar Pro 46mm ND32 SN:N/A
Polar Pro 46mm Circular Polarizer
Firecrest 46mm IRND 1.5
Tiffen 4×5.65 NATtural ND 1.8
Tiffen 4×5.65 NATtural ND 1.2
Tiffen 4×5.65 NATtural ND .9
Tiffen 4×5.65 NATtural ND .6
Tiffen 4×5.65 NATtural ND .3
Tiffen 4×5.65 NATtural ND 1.5
For Matt HiTECH 4×5.65 ND 1.5
Tiffen 82mm vari ND
Tiffen 4×5.65 NATtural ND 2.1
Gitzo Series 0 Tripod
Gitzo Series 0 Tripod
Gitzo Series 1 Tripod
Gitzo Series 1 Tripod
Manfroto Large Tripod
Manfroto Large Tripod
EZ Rig Vario 5
MoVI Pro
MoVI M15
MoVI M10
MoVI Controller
Tilta Max Nucleus-M Kit
Hand unit
Motor Focus
Motor Iris
Sound Devices 633
Sounddevices Mixpre-3
Zaxcom reciever
Zaxcom transmitter TRXLT3.5
Zaxcom transmitter TRXLT3.5
Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter Kit w/mic
Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter Kit w/mic
Sennheiser AVX Wireless Set
Sanken COS11
Sanken COS11
Rode NTG 3
Sennheiser MKH 8060 shotgun
Sennheiser MKH 8020
Inspire 2
Inspire 2
Mavic 2
Cedence Controller
Cedence Controller
Crystal Sky
Crystal Sky Ultra Bright
Inspire Controller
Inspire Controller
Inspire Controller
CoreSWX 4 Bank V mount Charger
CoreSWX 4 Bank V mount Charger
CoreSWX 2 Bank V mount Charger
Sony NPA MQZ1 Multi Battery
DJI TB50 (1A)
DJI TB50 (1B)
DJI TB50 (2A)
DJI TB50 (2B)
DJI TB50 (3A)
DJI TB50 (3B)
DJI TB50 (4A)
DJI TB50 (4B)
DJI TB50 (5A)
DJI TB50 (5B)
DJI TB50 (6A)
DJI TB50 (6B)
DJI TB50 (7A)
DJI TB50 (7B)
DJI TB50 (8A)
DJI TB50 (8B)
DJI TB50 (9A)
DJI Intelligent Battery (1)
DJI Intelligent Battery (2)
DJI Intelligent Battery (3)
DJI Intelligent Battery (4)
DJI Intelligent Battery (5)
DJI Intelligent Battery (6)
Blueshape 90wh
CoreSWX NANO 98wh
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Hypercore 98
Sony Ring light
Sony HVL-F60M Flash
Wescott Flex Light
Apple Macbook Pro
Apple Macbook Pro

Did the Kuril seal pups survive?

Whether the unexpected encounter with Dr. Vladimir Burkanov is a case of synchronicity we can debate, but for our #fromkurilswithlove expedition team it is without a doubt a meaningful coincidence.

Burkanov is co-founder of and Chief Scientist at North Pacific Wildlife Consulting (NPWC) and needed a lift to his HD camera traps around the Kurils and to Raikoke, the volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands where he observes a seal population.

After the enormous eruption of Raikoke volcano on 22 June 2019, he fears that the seal pups suffered a great deal. Our vessel is the only one going in the right direction, therefore – besides raising awareness about this remarkable place that deserves protection – our expedition team has added another mission: bringing Vladimir to Raikoke to find out what has happened to his seal pups.

Raikoke shortly after the eruption. The island used to be lush and green.

Vladimir’s areas of expertise include ecology and conservation of marine mammals in the Far-East Seas of Russia and the North Pacific. Hence his interest and scientific investigations in the marine mammals that inhabit the waters and coastal areas of the Kuril islands. For his research he earlier placed several HD camera traps to observe the seal population on Raikoke.

Say cheese

Today’s camera traps sense warm moving objects, like animals, through a connected infrared sensor. They can be left on the spot to observe an area for weeks or even months, to record all activity of animals. With the data scientists are able to identify whole communities of species, how they are structured and interact. Plus, they are ‘wildlife’ friendly, so not bothering the animals in any way.

Although no human beings were hurt in Raikoke’s eruption – the island is uninhabited – the wildlife, like the seal pup population, was most likely not so lucky. An island that was once lush and green, is now a big rock covered with ash. At first sight no seal rookeries were to be seen, but Vladimir and the team will take a closer look today.

Volcano roaring back to life

Raikoke 22 days after the eruption.

One might think what an unfortunate habitat to raise your seal pups, why-oh-why chose that location. However, unlike other volcanoes in the region, Raikoke seldom erupts. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1924 – after 146 years of no activity. Last June, 95 years later, it roared back to life sending a plum of ash up to 17 km high. The latter was observed and captured by several satellites as well as astronauts on the international Space Station, resulting in some dramatic photos and videos.

Curious about Raikoke’s seal population and what Vladimir will find at island? Follow the expedition #fromkurilswithlove and find out!


Drones in the Wild

What’s becoming quite obvious is how, constantly close to the edge, we are of losing the technology we depend on to not only document #FromKurilsWithLove, but also to share the story as it unfolds with the world. The dependency is as tangible as its nerve wrecking. Being on a boat and near water almost constantly, while pushing the limits of the technology that is being used – even the smallest mistake can mean loss of production gear, which is replaceable, but what’s worse: losing an important part of the story.

Yesterday the team was in a constant state of awe for the beauty that presented itself before them – Onekotan showed off, and we were there to capture it, and it put the drones to the test… first casualty came early in the morning under relatively non-dramatic circumstances.

The second one added some drama:

…standing at the rim next to the Krenitsena volcano, we lost contact with one of the drones, with a memory card full of epic footage. This part of the caldera is covered in almost impenetrable waist-high bush, losing contact with a drone that is 1500m away from your position, as the darkness sets in, is literally like finding a needle in a haystack. Renan, Chris, Ryan and Ted spent hours looking for it, before finally realizing that it had dropped beyond the rim, several hundred meters below their location.

Attempting to reach it was not only risky in itself, adding the isolation of these islands would mean official rescue would not be an option, if something were to go wrong. These are the options that need to be weighed into every decision, even if every instinct tells you to retrieve – and in this case it meant we lost a valuable piece of storytelling equipment.

Drones in the Wind

There are some elite drone filmographers on our ship. Renan Ozturk, Chris Burkard, Taylor Rees, Ryan Hill, Jeff Kerby – they let drones fly around us, above us without a break. While flying them is hard enough, landing is an even bigger challenge.

The Kuril Islands are windy. Really windy. All of a sudden, a strong gust might take control of the drone.

So, here you see Renan and Taylor, shaken by the rolling of the boat, trying to get one of their drones safely home. You can see Taylor’s relief at the end of the video.

The team lost drones on Onekotan the other day – but we will tell that in another story.

Digital Nomads

Home is where the Wifi is!

Everybody needs a home. Most people would agree with that. Homelessness is amongst the worst turns a life could take for many. And yet – the definition of home changes. In a time of increasing mobility demands, many of us see their home a temporary place, until the next home.

Same for our work life. Not only are we changing jobs often, but we also do not necessarily need a workplace anymore. Shared workspaces are skyrocketing, in a city like London, you can barely walk three blocks without seeing one. All many of us seem to need are a table, Wifi and a mobile phone.

This new mobility is liberating for some, stressful for others. And then there are those, for whom this opens up the opportunity for a completely new lifestyle. If my workplace is mobile, can my home also be mobile?

New media channels also create new forms of income opportunities. Who would have thought ten years ago that influencer would be a proper job today? That may get you much more money than a traditional job? How would it have been possible for extreme climbers, kayakers, base jumpers to earn their living from their passion, before Red Bull and GoPro and so many others discovered this field as a marketing playground and kicked off a never-ending wave of exciting extreme sports content?

In our “Nomads” section, we are portraying people whose lives changed through the mobility opportunities they got. People who are living a lifestyle unknown 15 years ago. We discuss what this digital nomadism, in all its forms, creates: opportunities? New dependencies? Challenges for social life? Total freedom?

Guardians of our Connected Lifestyle

Everything that is connected to the internet can be hacked. Social media have become a battleground for political influencing and populism. Fake news are everywhere. Digital freedom is under scrutiny. Artificial Intelligence is out of control. Big tech companies own the world.

That all sounds dire.

And while it all is partially true, it also isn’t. As with everything in life: when humans interact, there will be frictions. Not everybody has good intentions. So we have to be vigilant, and we need guardians, protectors, heroes or just ordinary people with a good sense for what is right or wrong.

The smallest things can have a massive impact. A young man registers a domain and shuts down a global cyber attack. A sports star kneels and provokes a national discussion about values. A power outage in the middle of nowhere disconnects millions of people from the internet – and an electrician saves the day. A retired policeman stops someone from taking money from an ATM and thus delivers the crucial clue to halt a global ring of digital bank robbers.

We all can be heroes and can be forgotten the next day. This section tells stories of average people saving our digital world. By creating policies, by maintaining infrastructure, by stopping criminals and by protecting children. These are stories of you and me — the real heroes of today – the guardians of the digital world.

Ryan Hill

Born in the Central Valley of California, raised partially on the coast of South Africa and finding a long term home on the Central Coast of California Ryan’s upbringing was anything but “normal”. Shortly after graduating college from CalPoly San Luis Obispo Ryan found himself employed full time with adventure photographer Chris Burkard as his photo editor, 1st assistant, and then studio manager. Over the last 3 years Ryan has worked beside Burkard on shoots for Coors Light, AirBnB, The North Face, Prana, FitBit, Travel Lodge, The Surfers Journal, & Cliff Bar.

Ryan “Wez” Hill on Instagram: “I picked up a camera 7 years ago to shoot my friends and my life so I could help myself fill in the gaps where my memory failed. _ I’ve…”