The Desert Island scenario for photographers……..

Yup, it was bound to happen. Sooner or later someone (actually a lot of times since a lot of newbies ask me this interesting question) would ask for this, what do I bring to a desert island of despair~~~~~~? (dum dum dum da~~~~~~~)

Well if say hypothetical you told me that you were going to send me to a desert Island for a week (let’s say for the sake for a photo assignment). I wouldn’t start worrying about what lenses to bring and all that crap, the first thing I would do is call up the mental hospital and have you committed or get the heck far away from you!

What is this bloody fascination about photographers and their gear when the discussion of the Desert Island scenario comes up? It becomes so feverishly insane to beyond the point of gear masturbation! Its literally comparable to Trekkies discussing on how they could win the Kobayashi Maru scenario if given the chance! (like anyone would even dare give these people the command of the toilet and a magazine let alone a starship!).

My point here is that you’re missing the bigger picture! If you know you were going to be sent to a desert island, you can’t just think about the damn camera and lenses! Because if you did then you’re going to die really fast even before the first day is over!

I could literally discuss about why so many people think about their camera gear first when such a topic arises but I want to spare myself a stroke from citing the many reasons, so we’ll skip right to what you SHOULD BE THINKING ABOUT FIRST!

The first thing you should worry about when face with such a possible scenario (aside from getting out of that predicament) is survival! One week may seem very short to most people (especially to most people who do nothing but talk feverishly about their camera gear) but out there especially in the “desert island scenario” you’ll be dead before you can be asleep by night fall!

So what do you need to bring along with you if you’re going to a desert island? Well for one thing, its not the camera gear but stuff such as water, food, portable shelter and medicine (please don’t say you won’t get sick for that one week, I’ve seen men and women fitter than me becoming sick just from a bug bite!).

I guess now I have to list out the gear I would bring, so here in no particular order along with the reason:

1. A steel canteen with water (say about 600ml) along with iodine tablets in case you find a water hole to fill your canteen with or if possible bring a small portable water filter unit, search google.

2. A week’s worth of energy bars or packed dried food in ziplock bags. If your stay turns out to be longer then expected, you may need to bring additional gear to hunt or fish depending where you’re going.

3. Medicine such as for diarrhea, fevers, antibiotics, food poisoning and painkillers especially important, pack mefernic acid 500mg tablets along with Neurofen plus because let’s face it people, unless your as fit as the guy in that show “Man vs Wild”, just after a few hours of walking (especially for the people who just buy camera gear so they can talk about it on the Internet!) you’re going to be in so much pain that you hope you’ll die then.

4. Some camping gear (a tent or sleeping bag at the bare minimum!)or at least a survival combat knife (no, that swiss army knife you bought from the MacGyver fan club is not enough! You nerds!). You’ll need shelter for the night and please don’t think the outdoors is like in those movies where there are always big clearings. Most of the time, you’ll need to make those clearings. Also a map and a damn compass! If also possible bring along a wick to be able to start a camp fire or bring a working lighter! Do not try matches because if they get wet, you’re screwed!

5. Communication device such as satellite hand phones! Forget cellular hand phones! They are only usable within areas where civilization is nearby! I’ve actually been with people who thought they can survive with their……black berry only to find out that the thing shorts out from the lightest contact with moisture.

Notice something incredible if you get past all of that? You would be carrying a lot of gear, probably about 8kgs worth and this is stuff you need to survive so you can’t go cheap unless you know how to survive off the land (and no, just because you know how to cook a pack of ramen using the microwave or after watching 2 episodes of “Man vs Wild” on Discovery channel, it doesn’t make you a survivor). So at this point then you can you can begin the gear masturbation stage of camera. Do you even dare bring anymore than 2 kgs worth with that load of gears on your back already?

I always found it funny when people talk about bringing 2 bodies, 5 batteries along with a solar charger, 70-200mm lens along with 14-24mm lens and maybe a 105mm macro lens , laptops and etc etc. Only do this if you have a mode of transport!  They talk as if someone else would be carrying the survival gear (which pretty much defeats the desert island scenario which is supposedly done alone!) or that they would be able to carry the 10kgs worth of camera gear plus the survival gear so in total 18kgs worth of items on their pathetic backs. What I have listed so far is only for the Desert Island scenario, there can be other gears for other scenario such as for the Savanah, Alaskan, Arid and even battlezone scenarios then you’ll need other stuff like rifles and ammo or maybe snakebite kit and anti-venom serums and etc.

If I’m not mistaken, the US military soldier carries about what? 23kgs worth of gear into the battle field? These are men (and women) who have trained for almost a year in running 10 kilometers a day with full gear along with other murderous training. DO you think you can do it? I don’t even dare to think of what would happen in the desert island scenario as the first thing I would worry about is how to survive which so many people fail to think about first!

Now you’re gonna ask for the sake of argument, what would I bring then? Which I would then reply with, “What would you bring then?” Because ultimately its up to you guys on how much weight you can carry, if you think you can carry 20kgs of stuff, fine and well because I sure will not. I would at most bring maybe a body such as the D700 with 1 battery and one lens. I wouldn’t dare even consider to bring anything else unless I can shave off the weight from somewhere else. If you want an idea of what is a good weight limit in such scenario, stick to 10 kgs because the heavier the weight you carry, the more energy and water you’ll need and the distance you can travel per day is shorter which is not want you want if you plan to hike yourself out of there!

Also if you have need to run say away from wild animals (unless of course you have a rifle with ammo! and no, the Macgyver knife or that combat knife will not be enough to stop that wolf/bear/snake/rhino/tiger/lion/etc because it involves getting within biting range of the animal), then the lighter, the better!

In conclusion, I am not dissing anyone about their Desert island scenario lens choices, but that we have to be bloody practical. I too would agree with most of those people with their gear choices but only if I have some mode of transport (aside from my feet and back) that would allow me to carry all the stuff otherwise forget it!

PS:Finally finishing Metal Gear Solid 3 for the Ps2 does not make you a survivor either because most of you would probably pass out just from the thought of eating raw snake or fish or bugs…….

2 thoughts on “The Desert Island scenario for photographers……..

  1. Hey Alex, I feel you. True, there’s a lot of those to consider before worrying bout camera.

    Instead of bringing my D300, I’ll prefer to have a Powershot G10 with 5 batteries (~1 for each day).

  2. Pingback: Mind your weight! « dreaming Artemis

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