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  • Oars + Alps

We see the outcome of astrophotography: beautiful imagery of the night skies. But what else do these photographers need besides, of course, their cameras? Astrophotographer Jack Fusco details everything he needs for a successful trip in every type of condition.

The following blog post has been written by Jack Fusco for Oars + Alps:

As someone who spends a lot of traveling to vastly different locations to photograph the night sky, one of the most common questions I receive is “what do you pack for a trip like that?” No one wants to be unprepared or to leave something at home that would’ve been useful or, even worse, something necessary.

While there will always be a few key items that overlap, the rest of my gear list is determined by the anticipated weather and the subject that I’m planning to shoot. I picked out three very different locations to show a bit of what comes with me to each spot.

Milky Way lined up with trail of Dantes View
Photo: Jack Fusco

Location: Death Valley, California

Time of Year: July

Anticipated Weather: Dry |  Day 120F Night 80-90F

Photographic Subject: Milky Way over Dantes View 

Visiting a location like Death Valley can require unique precautions. Many of the locations throughout the park are quite remote and don’t have cell service. Any sort of activity in the heat that comes along with visiting Death Valley around the Summer months shouldn’t be taken lightly. For this trip, I had done a good deal of preplanning and had been to the exact location the year before. (You can read an in-depth look at my planning of the images here). 

Thankfully, Dantes View is one of the higher elevation areas of the park. This means slightly cooler temps once the sun finally sets. The downside is this area often suffers from very strong winds. 

Preparing for Death Valley, I picked out clothing that would keep me cool with a lightweight long sleeve option for later in the evening. I knew I was planning on capturing a huge panoramic image, so I brought my two favorite lenses for that approach, the SIGMA 20mm f1.4 and 35mm f1.4. This would allow me to capture an undistorted field of view and let the most light in as possible. Perfect for combining images into a panoramic.

I knew I would be exhausted from the late nights here, so I made sure to bring along my Wake Up Eye Stick so I could maybe not look quite as exhausted as I felt. I also brought along the Cooling + Cleansing Wipes to help me feel fresh throughout the day and night. I also made sure I had plenty of the Hydrating Antioxidant SPF 50 Spray to help during the more extreme conditions of the day time.

Oars + Alps Hydrating Antioxidant SPF 50 Spray sitting on rock overlooking a body of water
Photo: Jack Fusco

Death Valley Gear Needed

Camera Gear: Sony A7SIII 

Lens: SIGMA 20mm f1.4 DG DN | ART / SIGMA 35mm f1.4 DG DN | ART

Tripod: Gitzo Travel GT1555T Series 1

Oars + Alps Products: Wake Up Eye Stick, Cooling + Cleansing Wipes, and Hydrating Antioxidant SPF 50 Spray

Clothing: Rhone Reign Lightweight Hoodie, Tee, and Versatility Shorts

Vibrant green Northern lights over a mountain
Photo: Jack Fusco

Location: Iceland

Time of Year: February

Anticipated Weather: Wet | Day 30-40F Night 5-30F

Photographic Subject: Northern Lights

The anecdote, if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes, has never been more true than when spending time in Iceland. While known for its notoriously bad weather conditions, the moments of good weather are more than redeeming to make it all worthwhile. You can almost guarantee you’ll be in wet and windy conditions at multiple points of your trip. Some of my favorite photos from Iceland have come just moments after sticking out strong winds, clouds, and rain. 

On a good Winter day, the air temps can be somewhat mild, but it’s often the arctic winds that bring the colder air. I always make sure I bring plenty of layers to be prepared for changing conditions. For my camera gear, I tend to bring wider angle lenses to capture as much of the beautiful landscape as possible while capturing big views of the sky as well. With any luck that sky will be full of dancing aurora.

My favorite Oars + Alps products to bring with me consisted of my Travel Kit, Dry Hand Repair Cream, and Everyday Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 37. Cold weather always tends to dry out my skin and the last thing I want to deal with is discomfort in my hands while I’m trying my best to keep them warm while shooting. The Travel Kit always comes with me when I’m on the road. After long, exhausting days, it’s nice to have a bit of consistency at the end of your day. Which, for me, often comes shortly after sunrise. 

I also brought along the Everyday Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 37. One thing you can count on in Iceland is frigid winds. It may rain, you might get sunny days, but you will definitely get windy days. The Everyday Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer gives the perfect amount of protection for long days exploring. 

Oars + Alps dopp kit, Everyday Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 37, Aluminum-Free Deodorant, and Travel Size Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash in the snow in front of a mountain
Photo: Jack Fusco

Iceland Gear Needed

Camera Gear: Sony A7SIII 

Lens: SIGMA 14mm f1.8 DG HSM | ART | SIGMA 35mm f1.4 DG DN | ART 

Tripod: Gitzo Travel

Oars + Alps Products: Fresh Ocean Splash Travel Kit, Dry Hand Repair Cream, and Everyday Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer with SPF 37

Clothing: Rhone Winter Club Pant, Reign Long Sleeve, Sherpa Fleece Full Zip, Tundra Quilted Hooded Jacket, and Rode Jacket

Mt. Rainier trail in the forest leading up to Milky Way in night sky
Photo: Jack Fusco

Location: Mt. Rainier, Washington 

Time of Year: August

Anticipated Weather: Mixed | Day 75F Night 40F

Photographic Subject: Milky Way over Mt Rainier

Photographing the night sky in the Pacific Northwest can be incredibly rewarding when everything lines up. The difficulty really comes into play when you only have a few days for the conditions to work out. Weather forecasts near Mount Rainier are better looked at as a best guess than a guarantee. It’s not uncommon for your night to consist of low layers of fog that come and go without much warning. This means, being prepared to wait out poor conditions is a must.

Higher elevations and mountain weather also means larger than normal swings in conditions from day to night. Even a relatively warm day can end with temperatures being near freezing. Many of my nights out shooting start with a hike well before sunset and continue late into the night. So, being prepared for these conditions with layers is key. I normally pack my jacket in my camera bag along with my gear to wear once the temperatures start dropping. The last thing I want is to end a night early because I wasn’t prepared.

My Oars + Alps kit for this trip included, as always, the Travel Kit, an Aluminum-Free Deodorant, and the Travel Size Hydrating Antioxidant SPF 50 Spray. Having something with SPF when you’re spending time at higher elevations is super important. The Sun is always stronger than you realize and sunburn can definitely sneak up on you quite quickly. For longer hikes where I need to end up around people at some point (workshops or meetups), I always toss a full size deodorant in my camera bag.

Close up shot of Oars + Alps Fresh Ocean Splash Deodorant on side of jagged mountain
Photo: Jack Fusco

Mt. Rainier Gear Needed

Camera Gear: Sony A7SIII

Lens: SIGMA 28mm f1.4 DG DN | ART | SIGMA 14-24mm f2.8 DG DN | ART

Oars + Alps Products: Aluminum-Free Deodorant, Travel Size Hydrating Antioxidant SPF 50 Spray, and Fresh Ocean Splash Travel Kit

Clothing: Rhone Versatility Pant, Reign Tee, and Tundra Quilted Hooded Jacket

 

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