The Hike–Was It Worth It? « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

The Hike--Was It Worth It?

What’s Up?

I am somewhere in South America. I hope that you are well. Jim and Jen are at the office most days to help you with your mail order needs and Instructional Photo-Tour sign-ups. I still need folks for San Diego, Japan, Galapagos, the Palouse, and the Bear Boat (Grizzly Cubs) trips. Among others 🙂 Please e-mail for couples and discount info for all of the above. Click here for complete IPT info.

I will have intermittent internet access for the rest of my South American adventure. I get back home late on December 25, 2016. Best and great picture making, artie

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of the folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear, especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

The Streak: 395!

Today’s blog post marks a totally insane, irrational, illogical, preposterous, absurd, completely ridiculous, unfathomable, silly, incomprehensible, what’s wrong with this guy?, makes-no-sense, 395 days in a row with a new educational blog post. As always-–and folks have been doing a really great job recently–-please remember to use our B&H links for your major gear purchases. For best results use one of our many product-specific links; after clicking on one of those you can continue shopping with all subsequent purchases invisibly tracked to BAA. Your doing so is always greatly appreciated. Please remember: web orders only. And please remember also that if you are shopping for items that we carry in the new BAA Online Store (as noted in red at the close of this post below) we would appreciate your business.


This image was created from atop the hill at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia with the hand held Canon 24-105mm zoom lens (at 28mm) now replaced by the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/500 sec. at f/5.6.

Manual selection center AF point/AI Servo/Rear Focus AF one-third of the way into the frame and re-compose. Click here to see the latest version of the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

King Penguins/mostly Oakum Boys in the Salisbury Plain colony

The Hike!

I climbed to the top of the 700-foot hill above the Salisbury Plain King Penguin colony on January 10, 2007. We took an ill-advised route that began with a long, brutal trek through tall tussock grasses. Old folks littered the deep mud puddles on their backs. I made the mistake of bringing too much gear and not enough water. The old 500mm lens was way overkill. Once we began the ascent, I fell far behind the group. Once we got halfway up, I remember having to take ten steps at a time and then rest for a full two minutes. I stopped only briefly at the top to make a few images.

Before the 2016 Cheesemans’ expedition I thought that I might give the climb a go again even though I had not attempted it on three previous trips. And though I am not sure why, the thought persisted even after my gall bladder surgery. And then—before I knew it–the day was at hand, two weeks and six days after my inflamed, sludge-filled gall bladder had been surgically removed. The venerable Tim Carr thought that I could make it. So I set off with my gear–the 100-400 II, the 24-105, and one 5D IV body–stowed in my Xtrahand vest along with two bottles of water. I hand-carried my Induro GIT 304L tripod with—as always—a Mongoose atop it.

As we headed out I asked Tim to point out our destination. It seemed so far away and so high up that I was sure that I would never make it. And I thought that if I made it up there is no way that I would ever make it down …

As we headed out and up I asked Tim to point out our destination. It seemed so far away and so high up that I was sure that I would never make it. And I thought that if I made it up there is no way that I would ever make it down … I struggled from the get-go. CES staff member Greg LaHaie kindly offered to swap a lightweight walking stick for my tripod. That lightened my load considerably and gave me hope. We walked an extra ½ mile to get around groups of loafing, molting King Penguins. And then we began the climb. Loose rocks and soft tundra made things difficult and we crossed several snowfields.

Once we were well above the colony—we had gained 700 feet in elevation–I learned that we needed to descend 250 feet along a tussock covered knife-edge ridge to reach the prime photographic overlook. That alone took me another 30 minutes. Once I reached the top of the bluff, the scene below was both spectacular and disappointing. Very few adults had yet made it into the colony that was populated almost entirely by Oakum Boys, the brown young King Penguins from the previous breeding season. Lacking were the beautiful patterns and bands of color formed when there are many thousands of adults and young filling the breeding areas.

After creating only a few images I knew that I needed to head back up the ridge and then down the hill. So I did. Greg loaned me a second walking stick, Kiwi blog-buddy David Peake kindly grabbed my tripod, and another Kiwi, IPT veteran Kent Downing, agreed to wear my vest down the hill. Just as I had on the way up, I moved slowly on the way down carefully considering the consequences of each step.

At one point we faced a fairly large snowfield. Someone asked if is would be OK to slide down on our butts. One of the ship’s staff members took us to a point above the snowfield so that we would avoid hitting any rocks on our way down. I leaned back, lifted my legs, and glissaded quickly down; what great fun!

Before I knew it I had made it down to the flats. We had just a few gentle rises to traverse before we made it back to the landing beach. As I walked over a muddy spot I slipped. For a moment it seemed that my left foot would become trapped beneath me, hyper-flexing my bad left knee as I had done in Alaska a decade earlier. On the way down I freed that foot before crashing ingloriously into the mud and slamming the right side of my head into the earth. But I was so happy not to have trashed my left knee and put the rest of the trip in jeopardy that I got right back up and told everyone that I was fine. Which I pretty much was.

Was It Worth It?

So that brings us to my always favorite question: was the 3 1/2 mile climb worth it? Photographically? Definitely not. But psyche-wise, it was great for me. Making the hike left me feeling that I was not quite ready to pack things in, that I could tackle pretty much anything that the Southern Ocean or the rest of the expedition had to offer. It was a good feeling.

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9 comments to The Hike–Was It Worth It?

  • avatar Cheri

    Definitely worth it … stunning!

  • avatar Kent Downing

    Hi Artie- I admire you for going for it at 1500 % I was more than happy to assist you at Salisbury Plain. I remember watching you glissading down the snow bank, walking poles pointed towards the sky, and laughing out loud with happiness as you descended. What a magical destination, including the other landings that we visited. Ditto with David Policansky’s comments for me too (Hi David !). CES is a first class operation the whole way through!!! Sign me up again.
    And thanks for the daily landing guidance during the expedition too-a big plus.
    Safe travels.


  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi again, Artie. Tim Carr is amazing, isn’t he? Not only is he older than you, he’s even older than I am, and yet he hikes like a man half his age. And he’s a fine photographer as well. Here’s a “was it worth it?” question for you. Our trip was early, and so, as you point out, the adults had not all returned to the king penguin colonies yet. And only a few macaronis were at their colonies, and just a bit later one can expect many thousands of them. But we got a whole lot of southern elephant seals, the fur seals were still reasonably calm, and we got spectacular snowscapes on the beaches with penguins on them. Was it worth it to have gone early? I for one had a wonderful trip, and I”m completely happy with it. But it was my only visit to South Georgia so I don’t really know what it would have been like a month or even 2 weeks later.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. I do like the image. I also understand your feeling of success. I was worried before the trip that I would be undone by rough seas. Even though I went flying across the dining room on the roughest day I actually enjoyed the stormy seas. You all looked like little tiny penguins up on that ridge.

  • avatar Catherine Costolo

    Congratulations, Artie! I do not think I would have done it!

  • avatar Gary Axten

    Gotta love your attitude towards life. The slide down sounds the best bit.

  • avatar Kerry Morris

    I agree with Bob – nice image, and so worth the hike.
    Great accomplishment and beautiful view.

  • avatar Bob Allen

    I totally dig this image and yes it was worth the hike. That’s easy for me to say as I sit at home ;7)

    I do a lot of hiking here in hot sunny southern California, wearing my LowePro pack + 45 lbs of gear + tripod. So I can relate to doing a lot of physical work, sometimes to be denied the prime image that’s in my mind.

    BTW, paragraph 3 of “The Hike!” is repeated (albeit slightly reworded) in paragraph 4.