Behind the Scenes of Everest's First-Ever Photo Studio

Tsering Tenzing Sherpa lighting The Swiss Machine, Ueli Steck, in Pheriche.     Photo: Grayson Schaffer

Italian alpinist and ace helicopter pilot Simone Moro (right) and his sirdar Jagat Limbu at the Everest Base Camp helipad, April 2012

A yak looks for a snack in my camera boxes in Pheriche.

Some people have been asking how we're doing our lighting. To give Everest Base Camp a studio look, we've assembled a kit from commercial photography standard bearer ProFoto.

The key piece of gear that makes it all possible is the new Pro-B3 1200w/s AirS battery pack. It's the lithium-powered update to the older 7B power pack, and it delivers consistent flashes even in subzero temperatures at 17,500 feet. We've got two of these with a set of spare battery inserts but have yet to run down in a day's shooting. To charge these beasts, we've been using a basic GoalZero solar setup, which, thanks to the Pro-B3's built-in trickle-charging capability, can top off a charge in a sunny afternoon.

To modify the light, we're using a pair of umbrellas (36" and 54") mounted on an Avenger Mini-Boom that offer maximum flexibility. With a diffuser and some warming gels, they produce soft, flattering light. Uncovered and paired with ProFoto's 2400w/s ring flash, they produce a harsher look with no shadows. Most importantly, the whole kit can generate enough electricity to overpower the high-altitude sun. That's a lot of juice.

To get everything here, we used three 1600-size Pelican cases. One Pro-B3 and a 1200w/s strobe head fit in each of two cases and the ring flash and a spare strobe head fits neatly in the third. Each of the Peli cases weighs 35 pounds—well underweight for checked luggage.

[Editor's Note: By "we," Schaffer means "he." We sent him to Everest without an assistant. He's been making key grips and best boys out of climbers, camp cooks, Sherpas, and anyone else unlucky enough to wander by.]

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