How do you take formal portraits of 2-ton, ten-feet-tall subjects who live in the jungle and just won’t stand still for you? And how do you get all your gear to the most remote part of northern Thailand safely and in good working order?
This is the challenge Bay Area photographer Carol Stevenson has every time she travels to the Thailand to continue her multi-year project documenting the rescued street elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. The solution – build an open air studio in the jungle and rely on Lowepro to carry the kit.
“Each trip is a bit different, depending on the time of year and the weather conditions, so the location of the studio varies,” writes Carol. “We use a bamboo framework and stretch a 38′ x 20′ foot white backdrop across the frame. With the help of the mahouts (and a passing elephant), we erect it right in the jungle. With the harsh light of the tropics, I shoot just after sunrise, usually with only an hour of good light to work with.”
“My Nikon D3 is amazing in low light conditions, and I sometimes add battery powered strobes to replicate the look of an indoor studio. Apart from the backdrop, we have to set up and break down each day, and the shoot can last for 30 days, so there’s a lot of work hauling gear around the jungle on a motor scooter and in a tuk-tuk (Thai 3 wheel taxi).”
“We also shoot in the field during the day to capture the elephants in their natural environment. So not only does the studio gear have to be easily transportable, I need on-the-go bags when I’m trying to keep up with the elephants.”
“I rely on Lowepro for three transport needs: the long haul, the daily studio schlepp, and for the ‘ease of use in the field’ shoots.”
For the long haul, the bodies and lenses go in a Pro Runner x450 AW in the cabin with Carol. The more robust equipment is in cargo in a Pro Roller x300 AW, which has accompanied Carol on more than 40 flights with no damage to her gear. The Pro Roller x300 also does double duty for the jungle studio. And she uses the Passport Sling for quick one camera/lens shoots, or a Versapack 200 AW for heavier duty field work.
“The Sling and the Versapack give me unique flexibility,” adds Carol; “if I HAD to pick a favorite, it would be the Passport Sling because of its fast and quick access to my gear. And with two Pasport Slings, one does double duty as a banana bag (for elephant bribes)”.
Derrick Story is the Photography Evangelist for Lowepro.