The Kuril Expedition: Why and how?

In April 2018, Felicity Aston, an accomplished explorer and adventurer, assembled a group of 11 European and Arabic women to march to the North Pole together. Besides the adventure, it was a march for peace and cross-cultural understanding and collaboration.

The project attracted the interest of software entrepreneur Eugene Kaspersky, who decided to finance the expedition as the main sponsor, having supported Felicity on a South Pole expedition in the past. Extreme photographer Renan Ozturk joined to capture some of the moments before the group left in stunning photography and through powerful storytelling. An adventurer, expedition climber and explorer himself, the idea of the project fascinated him.


Euro-Arab Northpole Exped 2018 on Instagram: “Smiles kept us going! #motivation #smile #thisgirlcan #northpole”

A conversation in Svalbard prior to the expedition take-off suddenly focused on the Kuril Islands. With some islands virtually untouched by modern human civilisation and others featuring impressive rock formations with potential for first ascents – each contributing to a unique and beautiful landscape – the first seed for a future expedition had been set.

Instagram post shared by @renan_ozturk

Renan Ozturk on Instagram: “Words by @taylorfreesolo // The origin story of #fromKurilswithLove and our rag tag crew of vagabonds began when @renan_ozturk was…”

“We want to show the beauty, but also the fragility of this remote strip of land”, says Renan. “But to cut through the noise and create an impact in public awareness, we can’t just go on a boat and take beautiful pictures and hope a few media would cover it. So we put together a group of filmmakers, photographers and environmentalists, to make a meaningful representation of this place with wide reach. And we will produce a documentary about it all, including first ascent climbing and true boots on the ground exploration, as that is the kind of content that really creates awareness these days.”

Instagram post shared by @tomorrow_unlocked

Tomorrow Unlocked on Instagram: “The significance of this rock formation and Ushishir Island as a whole, in the context of the #fromkurilswithlove expedition is major. In…”

15 months of intense planning and logistical ninja moves later, the expedition is about to start. With a high calibre team of film makers, photographers, science communicators and athletes we will document the beauty of the Kurils, shine a light on some of the environmental challenges in the region, and explore in the purest form of the word; though observation. On the 7 July the adventure begins: documenting one of the most remote islands chains in the world: the Kuril Islands in the sea of Okhotsk.

It is one of the least explored regions on Earth and yet one that is endangered by over-fishing, ocean pollution and other environmental threats.

They will leave from the Kamchatka coast on the 7th July and are planning to be out there for 12 days. Weather will play a big role in determining what they will achieve. With an oceanographer, environmentalists, photographers and film makers on board, everyone has their own objective. And yet, all the expedition members have one thing in common: they want to help bring attention to a nearly forgotten, outstanding part of the earth which needs support to stay as unique as it is today.

The Crew

Renan Ozturk

Renan Ozturk on Instagram: “Phone photo from the way down. We saw the beauty and the beast on Everest this season. And as our team ran sweep as the only ones on the…”

Renan Ozturk on Instagram: “Phone photo from the way down. We saw the beauty and the beast on Everest this season. And as our team ran sweep as the only ones on the…”

ChrisBurkard on Instagram: “When it comes to the camera, Dynamic Range is the truly the most important feature I look for. At 14 stops of dynamic range you have the…”

Eugene Kaspersky ⚕️ on Instagram: “3-DAY TREKKING AROUND ANTISANA VOLCANO. SEE BELOW. . Я люблю погулять по просторам нашей планеты. Хоть пару-тройку деньков, но походить по…”

Taylor Rees on Instagram: “How unbelievably hard is it to talk about the environment and about being human when we constantly feel wrong? When we are worried about…”

Ted Hesser on Instagram: “Off to Chile today to shoot the next Solar Eclipse in a few days! Hoping the sky’s stay clear and we find a bit of good fortune as we did a…”

Jeff Kerby on Instagram: “Escaping the Permafrost // Even the Arctic gets warm in the summer, so over a century ago whalers blasted huge storage lockers into…”

Rishi Sugla on Instagram: “Salt flats, sunglasses, smiles #argentina #salt #sun #outdoors #itwascold #andhottoo #weate #empanadas #environment #nature #love #travel…”

Ryan “Wez” Hill on Instagram: “It’s wild to think where life has taken me this last year. Beyond grateful to be able to experience so much and get to call it work.…”

@povel on Instagram: “Le jour finalement, ne plus de baguette au neige 🙁 #chamonix”

Ted Hesser

Ted is a freelance adventure photographer, focusing on rock climbing and alpinism. His work has been published by National Geographic Online, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice Magazine, The Alpinist Magazine, Escalando climbing magazine and various others.


Ted Hesser on Instagram: “Claude, our home on wheels, has been on an Odyssey of late. And so have I. • What began as a check engine light, has cascaded into 3 weeks…”

Ted has worked on assignment for The North Face, covering some of the company’s highest profile expeditions in Nepal, Angola and Kenya. He shoots TNF’s athlete summits each year. Ted also works closely with Black Diamond Ltd, shooting commercial photo and video projects throughout the year. He is an official ambassador for Goalzero and Boulder Denim. Other clients have
included Columbia Sportswear, DJI, Travel Alberta, Destination BC, ReelRock Films, Royal Robbins, ThermaRest, Cascade Designs, Utah Tourism, Feathered Friends & La Sportiva.

Ted Hesser on Instagram: “Sometimes I worry and overthink everything too much. I get caught up in the headline news, and the intellectual concerns of our times.…”

Prior to focusing full-time on photography, Ted worked for nearly a decade in the clean energy industry. He received a masters degree in renewable energy engineering from Stanford University, and a bachelors degree in Physics from Colorado College.

Chris Burkard

Chris Burkard is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker,
and author. Traveling throughout the year to pursue the farthest expanses of Earth,
Burkard works to capture stories that inspire humans to consider their relationship with
nature, while promoting the preservation of wild places everywhere.


ChrisBurkard on Instagram: “In the Bible of stoke there is a verse about this.”

Layered by outdoor, travel, adventure, surf, and lifestyle subjects, Burkard is known for

images that are punctuated by untamed, energized landscapes and peak moments of
adventure. He has accumulated an audience of over one million followers to become a
globally recognized social influencer.

ChrisBurkard on Instagram: “Is there a more beautiful display of the Earth’s beating heart than the Grand Prismatic Spring from above? . This was taken a few years ago…”

Burkard is often central in synthesizing the creative projects he is involved in, across
stakeholders. His holistic and visionary perspective has earned him opportunities to
work on global, prominent campaigns with Fortune 500 clients, appear as a TED
speaker, develop specialty product lines, teach national and international photography
workshops and publish a collection of books, including a children’s book. Along with his
team, Burkard is based out of his full-scale production studio and art gallery near his
hometown in Central Coast California.

At the age of 30, Burkard has established himself as a global presence and influencer,
accomplishing a prolific portfolio, connecting people from around the world and
producing some of the most recognized creative work of our time.

Renan Ozturk

“We want to show the beauty, but also the fragility of this remote strip of land”, says Renan Ozturk. “But to cut through the noise and create an impact in public awareness, we can’t just go on a boat and take beautiful pictures and hope a few media would cover it. So we put together a group of filmmakers, photographers and environmentalists, to make a meaningful representation of this place with wide reach. And we will produce a documentary about it all, including first ascent climbing and true boots on the ground exploration, as that is the kind of content that really creates awareness these days.”

Renan lives to tell stories about our connection to the natural world, often set within the most challenging environments on Earth. He’s constantly searching for projects that move him — films that have a strong visual identity matched with some deeply compelling human element.


Renan Ozturk on Instagram: “After 12 hours of operating a snow machine for my first time, I was getting tired and bleary eyed moving at 70km/h across the pack ice. I…”

He began his career as an expedition climber and landscape artist, spending years living in a tent beneath the big walls of U.S. National Parks and in the snowy Himalayan mountains. All of his paintings were created on expedition, carrying large cotton canvases on his back, sometimes even using natural pigments pulled straight from the earth to capture these wildly beautiful landscapes. He received National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2013 for his combination of cutting-edge first ascents and visual storytelling.

Renan Ozturk on Instagram: “Tears froze to Misba’s (@misbanorthpole) face as the cold hard realities kicked in of life at 89° N and the 10 day self-supported journey…”

Currently, Renan works as a commercial and documentary filmmaker, an expedition climber for The North Face, and a photojournalist for Sony and National Geographic. The films he’s made over the years have had a global presence; he’s probably best known for MERU (cinematographer/subject), which won the 2015 Audience Choice Award at Sundance, and the critically acclaimed Sherpa (cinematographer/co-director), which screened at TIFF and Telluride. He’s directed and shot commercial work for major international brands such as Apple, Google, DJI and Nike.

Renan Ozturk on Instagram: “While I’m still over here in the 🏔 thin air for a bit longer, been thinking about an upcoming expedition that I’ll be leading with…”

Taylor Rees

Taylor Rees is a documentary filmmaker, photojournalist, and avid adventurer. She is driven by an insatiable curiosity to explore and share stories beneath the surface to bring about greater understanding around natural resource conflicts, climate change, conservation, and human rights. She holds a Masters degree from Yale in environmental management and anthropology, giving her stories a rigorous scientific and social justice background. She has shot and directed doc films for clients including The North Face, National Geographic, and United Nations.


Taylor Rees on Instagram: ““Our technology has marched ahead of our spiritual and social evolution, making us, frankly, a dangerous people.” – Steven Greer [pipes…”

Jeff Kerby

Jeff Kerby is an ecologist and photographer. His work spans the Arctic to the mountains of East Africa, exploring species interactions in extreme environments. Currently a fellow at Dartmouth College’s Neukom Institute and the Institute for Arctic Studies, he’s spent the past decade studying Arctic landscape change in Siberia, northern Canada, and Greenland. He uses quantitative photography to track changes in plants, animals, and landscapes beyond the traditional perspectives and time frames of Arctic fieldwork.


Jeff Kerby on Instagram: “Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan // Lush fields full of poppies and other alpine flowers spill down from sharp ridges. Thousands of Kurds…”

Jeff is also an award-winning narrative photographer and videographer. His photos have been published in National Geographic Magazine, Geo Magazine, and the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival (Grand Prize – Photo Essay), in addition to multiple contributions to environmental films, web and TV series. He earned his PhD in ecology from Pennsylvania State University.

Jeff Kerby on Instagram: “Initiate launch! || My hands were full so I had to use my nose to tap the takeoff countdown button. I spent last summer in the Arctic with…”

Rishi Sugla

Rishi Sugla is a PhD Candidate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography with expertise in interdisciplinary research. His main focus is long-term changes to Earth’s geosphere and biosphere. Beyond his research, Rishi focuses on climate and environmental justice organizing and activism while working on projects in Southern California, Chile, and Argentina. He deeply believes that community-drive, decolonial science with a focus on forming relationships is an important path forward. Rishi is slowly growing his skillset as a communicator so he can better tell nuanced stories about the roots of our climatological and ecological problems and the people they impact most.


Rishi Sugla on Instagram: “It’s inevitable. It’s just how things are. Things have always been this way. Give here and take there. Step forward. Step back. Shrug your…”