I've been preparing for literally days for this trip. That's unusual. Most of the time it's the night before I leave on a dawn patrol flight (pre-7am) that I'm shoving stuff into my bags and hoping that it's enough. I was going to be in Nicaragua and Costa Rica for three weeks last Spring and I started packing at 9pm the night before. Not this time.
I've now packed the Kuiu ICON 7200 pack (that's 7,200 cubic inches) four times over the past five days, and every time it's gone together differently. This afternoon I finally got it. (I think). I talked to Lance (Kronberger), the guide who's show I'm filming. That technically makes him the Executive Producer as well... anyway, Lance told me that Tuesday afternoon he will look at my pack for about ten minutes and tell me how to re-pack it. Which is exactly what I need, a pro. And Lance is that. More about him later. I will say that he and his wife, Nikki, have been amazingly accommodating and flexible... and have been really responsive in getting information to me.
So I packed the 7200 one last time today, and it worked. Amazing. I was able to get everything production-oriented into the core and most accessible portion of the pack, and saved the outer areas for my life support. I still have a few things to get in there but I've got a good idea where they will go. It's 35lbs right now, and I'll max out at somewhere near 45lbs when I start walking.
The key... I've discovered something in my observations of how this all goes together... is in the redundancy. And I'm not just talking about having back-ups. I mean, when I can take an article of life-support and double duty it as a production item, I've taken a huge stride forward. Here's an example. I have this headlamp from Light and Motion. It's awesome. The thing is nearly as bright as a car's headlight. I'm not stretching the truth on that one. It's bright. And light weight. Well, there will be these occasional needs for a production light, for shooting at night. Mostly when Lance turns to the camera in the tent and describes something of importance for the next day. The Light and Motion headlamp is meant for spot-light sharp vision in the wild. I could buy an LED light to mount to my camera's hot shoe, but it's bulky and heavy (every ounce counts). The double A batteries alone will weigh me down.
So here's what I did. First I had to get that headlamp to mount to my camera. I bought a cheap mount for the hot shoe - a bar actually that will hold two or three devices. It's usually used for wireless mics. Then I zip-tied the light head to the bar. Easy so far. Now I had this very bright light targeting anywhere my lens would be pointing. Problem is it's too bright and creates a nasty hotspot in the middle of the scene. What I needed was diffusion.
Fortunately, last week I visited John Northrup at his home studio, (John is handling one of my most important clients while I'm gone. He's my first choice as a producer/DP and editor. We think similarly, and Some people even say we look alike.) John gave me some diffusion paper to use next time with my client, Kuiu, some of the lighting, he noticed, had hot spots. So I took the diffusion and started playing with it on the Light and Motion light. It worked. But I needed an easy way to get it to stay on the light head.
I won't bore you with all the ways I failed to make it work. Here's what I did to solve the problem. I took a typical pharma pill bottle (the kind with a white, reversible, locking childproof cap. I carved the white cap to fit just barely over the light head. Then I wrapped the inside of the hole with gaffer's tape. That gave it just enough friction to allow the thing to stay put. Then I needed a way to hold the diffusion filter in place. So, using a hack saw, I cut the pill bottle just below the threads. That now makes a filter ring that screws (and locks) onto the white cap. So I cut a disk of the diffusion just the size of the inside of the white cap and screwed down the "filter ring" and it holds it in place. Perfect. I've just added 1oz to my overall pack and converted my headlamp into a second purpose. From life support to light and grip equipment.
Here are a few pics:
So... this journey will likely be filled with little strange things I've never noticed. I'll do my best to capture them and write them up here. The messages from Heaven on this day were, "be thankful for what you've been given... and use what you've got in any way you can to make the most of where you are." That's a good enough message for me today as I scramble to fit the rest into the pack... only to have it rearranged in a few days... but that'll be yet another word from On High I'm sure!