Looking back, I’m still using stuff I bought in 2010, including the REI jacket, KATA camera pack and the Toshiba external hard drive, which is the backup to my main image storage, a MacBook Air. The Nemo Nocturne sleeping bag, purchased last year, was a success, as was the cover for my iPad, but I’d still like to find something that provides a little more protection, but isn’t made from leather. The transport case got 15 original oil paintings to Ulaanbaatar undamaged and I’ll be using it again this year (more on that next week). My two Nikon D80 bodies with their Nikkkor 28-300 and 80-400 lenses are taking one more trip after a professional cleaning. They have served me well, but newer bodies like the D610 have some features that I know I’d really use, like in-camera video. In the meantime, the Panasonic camcorder also goes one more time.
Below is the list of art supplies I’m taking this trip. The new additions are in the photo above. I really like the Nature Sketch from Pentalic. It seems to take all media nicely, including watercolor. The only thing I would fault them on is that the cover is flimsy and gets beat up easily. I’m going to put packing tape around the edges. I’m taking my Yarka watercolor set, but also bought a Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor travel set for its small size that lets me slip it into the pocket of my photo vest or the old point and shoot camera bag that forms my “portable art studio”. I also got some Koi Water Brushes in three sizes. I got the idea for these from a blog post by James Gurney. They are the same plastic-barrelled, nylon-tipped brushes with a reservoir holding different colors that you see sets of, but are empty. Gurney had one with water and a couple with dilute ink in them. A very fast way to lay down a tone without having to carry a water container and separate brush. I tried one out yesterday, doing a quick sketch of Alexander with a pen that doesn’t have permanent ink and then using the brush over the ink to create a wash tone. I liked it.
Old point and shoot camera bag holds all the art media except the Yarka watercolor set
Moleskine sketch journal, usually two
Spiral-bound Nature Sketch sketchbook 7×5”
Sakura Micron pens- black and a few colors, .01 to .03
Derwent water-soluble colored pencils
Derwent drawing pencils- HB, 2B, 4B, 6B
Kneaded rubber eraser
Small pencil sharpener
Yarka watercolor set and Winsor Newton Cotman Watercolor travel set
Winsor Newton white gouache (tube color)
Sable watercolor brushes, round- 4, 8, 10; various flats
Waterproof folding water “bucket”
8×8” loose pieces of 300 lb. watercolor paper-(a couple dozen)
9×12″ Arches cold-press block
7×10″ Cartiera Magnani “Annigoni” toned 100% cotton block
8×10” piece of foamcore to hold watercolor paper
Roll of 1/4” drafting tape (low adhesion) to attach watercolor paper to foamcore
I’ve never bothered to take a tripod to Mongolia because, for what I’m there to see, there’s never time to set it up. The animal or person or light would likely be long gone, not to mention the weight of my very nice full-sized Manfrotto with the gimballed head. But last year, one of the other people on the Expedition was doing some night photography and her pics were great. Well, you can’t beat Mongolia for nighttime skies in the countryside since there is no light pollution at all. So I searched around and on the B&H site I found this MeFoto tripod that got good reviews from photographers who travel and use it in the field. It does sacrifice some sturdiness, but seems well-made overall. It’s also only 12.4″/315mm in length folded up and weighs only 2.6lbs/1.20kg. It unfolds to 51.6″/1310mm in height. The plate that holds the camera body let me mount the camera quickly and easily. In my studio. So we will see how it does in real field conditions. You can get them in a variety of accent colors. I went for red.
My old LL Bean light hiking boots have served me well, but were always just a mite short. It got uncomfortable last year, particularly in hot weather when one’s feet swell up. Time for a change. I found these Merrill Salidas at our local outdoor store. Not wild about the lavender accent color, but they were comfy the minute I put them on. They are breathable and water resistant, both desirable in a Mongolian summer that can oscillate from heat to rain to cold in just a few hours.
Finally, what I hope will be a main solution to the recharging-in-the-field challenge. I’m usually able to use the lighter in the vehicle with a Kensington adapter that has a regular outlet on one end and the lighter insert on the other, but last year there was an odd wiring situation in my van. I’d plug in my iPhone or battery charger and we’d roll, but nothing would happen. If the driver stopped or even turned off the ignition, charging would occur. Go figure. But considering we were a LONG way from anywhere, it was worrisome, especially the camera batteries. So I’m going to take this PowerMonkey Extreme, which has a small solar panel and a battery pack, as backup. The sun shines in Mongolia 274 days a year, so it’s a natural for solar recharging. The problem is that flexible, roll-up panels are fairly large and there’s no guarantee of being in one place long enough for it to charge a battery. The drivers are justifiably very conservative about laying or attaching anything they’re not familiar with on or to their vehicles since they will be stuck dealing with the consequences if there’s a problem. “What could possibly go wrong?” is not a good way to operate in the Mongolian countryside. I’ll be trying it out here at home, but won’t know what it will do when it counts until, well, it counts.
So that’s the gear report for this next trip. If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment!