With the 24-70mm to the polar circle.

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Interview with Mike Fuchs

With the 24-70mm to the polar circle.

Photographer Mike Fuchs has a foible for snow and ice. On April the man from Berlin started his next polar expedition. He carries the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2,8, with him, which has proven itself as a reliable partner in extreme conditions.

Freezing cold and icy fingers; at temperatures far below the freezing point Mike Fuchs is at his best. For five years the photographer from Berlin travels “from glacier to glacier, from snowflake to snowflake”, as he describes on his website.

In 2010 he was present when an expedition tried to cross the frozen “Beringstraße” (Beringroad) by car.

For six weeks, the team was stuck in a scurry of snow in the very east of Russia. Both the people and their materials had been stressed to their limits. This was an extreme experience, which motivated the then 30-year-old, to go on new adventures. His motto: “Only if you risk to go too far, you find out how far you really can go”.

Since then Mike Fuchs consistently looked for new polar challenges. In 2012 he went with his team in the extreme north of Scandinavia by foot. 2013 he climbed the over 7100 meter high Peak Lenin in the Kyrgyz Pamir mountain range. A few months previously the “mission icefox” had pushed him to the north of Spitsbergen, where he used his camera to document the test of a transport sledge. Three Weeks at up to -40° Celsius – a life endangering action, which had to be well prepared.

Nothing but snow for weeks

“To deal with and handle snowstorms lasting for days, cold hands, nothing but snow for weeks, and extreme freezing temperatures, “this is the biggest challenge of such wintery tours.”

Says Mike Fuchs. “We have improved our equipment consistently as time went by. It is perfectly adjusted to the extreme conditions.”

Mike Fuchs' photograph equipment must be as light and stout as possible.
He rarely carries more than three lenses. A Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 DiVC USD serves as reliable “bread-and-butter-lense”, furthermore a bright 85mm-fixed focal length and just in case a kit lens for replacement.

“The clear air and the high contrasts require extremely good scopes”, says Mike Fuchs. “The lenses have to be able to record even fine details and a high dynamic range under glazing sunlight.”
Mike Fuchs likes to work with sharpness-unsharpness-effects. Therefor he appreciates the extraordinary imaging performance and the bokeh of the Tamron 24-70mm with an open aperture f/2.8.

High optical quality

Indicators for the high optical peak performance of the 24-70mm-lense by Tamron are amongst others the two letters “SP”, which stand for “Super-Performance”. The Engineers have built in a total of 17 glass elements divided amongst 12 Groups. Factors for the high image quality are also the three LD-lenses (Low Dispersion) and two XR-lenses (Extra refractive index).

The high aperture Tamron-lenses beyond that are pleasing and meet the special demands of a wintery extreme journey. “Zoom and focus ring lay relatively wide apart and are sufficiently wide enough, to be able to grab them with gloves.”, says Mike Fuchs.

Three layers of gloves

The polar photographer has developed his own technique to protect his fingers in the extreme cold from frostbites. “To keep the forefinger warm is one of the toughest challenges”, he says. “Through the contact with the cold camera the fingertip can go dead within 20 seconds.” Especially insidious: If the finger has gone dead already, you don’t feel the frostbite until it is too late. To protect himself, the photographer wears three gloves. On a pair of thin under gloves he puts thick fleece gloves and on top of that some heavy leather gloves with lambskin lining.

His fingers and toes are not the only parts the photograph has to keep warm. The lithium ion batteries lose their power quite fast when getting cold. “When I am not photographing I put the   batteries in my pocket, so they don't get cold.”

Appealing variety despite the exertions Mike Fuchs enjoys every single day in the snow and ice: “In everyday life at home you always get distracted by something, the eyes get confronted with thousands of irritants from dawn till dusk”,  says the Berlin citizen. “It is completely different in the white widths of the polar region. There you can let your thoughts run free and keep focus on an idea the whole day.”

In the middle of April, Mike Fuchs starts his next expedition. In Alaska he wants to mount the barely 6200 meter high Mount McKinley. “I love it. To photograph in areas of which there are existing only a few pictures yet.”, says Mike Fuchs. He will carry with him again two Tamron lenses, besides the established SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD for the first time also a SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD. So far I have mostly worked with wide-angles and normal focal length. Now I am excited, which fascinating image details I am going to record with this outstanding high resolution telezoom.

The equipment

“I photograph with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III on my polar journeys. Furthermore comes a Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2,8 Di VC USD and a wide aperture 85mm-fiexed focal length for portraits.
To Mount McKinley I will also carry a Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2,8 Di VC USD. While working outdoor at home I usually work with a professional flash system, on the expeditions I use only a light system flash.

5 Photographer tips for winter expeditions

  1. Reduce your equipment to the main thing. Every gram too much is unnecessary ballast and can endanger the success of the tour.
  2. Make yourself confident with your own equipment. On an expedition you have to be able to handle it with thick gloves.
  3. Use the Snow as a big reflector. Position your subject when shooting a backlit photograph in a sink, so the sunlight of the snowfall reflects in your back.
  4. Work in the manual mode. The high contrasts and the blazing light lead to measuring errors in the automatic exposure.
  5. Have a plan. Think about what pictures you want before your journey starts. The concept helps you to achieve your own continuous visual language.

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