If Conrad and the South Col Five reach the summit this Friday, there’s a chance you will know immediately—on your phone. Using iPhones and the popular photo sharing app Instagram, our climbers have been documenting their expedition from start to finish.
Expedition leader Conrad Anker (@conradclimber) posted National Geographic’s first Instagram from Kathmandu on March 23. Since then, more than 60,000 fellow Instagrammers have begun following the adventure on our account, @natgeo. And there’s one thing they all want to know: How do you keep your batteries charged?
So we asked our three most active shooters—Andy Bardon (@andy_bardon), Sam Elias (@bookofsamuel), and Emily Harrington (@emilyaharrington)—how they do it and what they’ve learned about squeezing the tallest mountain on Earth into a square.
What model phone do you use?
All: iPhone 4S
How do you charge your batteries?
Andy Bardon: We keep our batteries charged by using solar panels in Base Camp.
Emily Harrington: I have this mini-charger I take with me up to Camp 2. It works pretty well and will fully charge my phone a few times before running out.
How do you keep them charged in such cold temperatures?
AB: The trick to keeping them working up high is to keep them warm. I have a chest pocket in my base layer (long underwear) that I store my phone in. The inside pocket of your jacket would work too, but don’t plan on having any battery life if you keep your phone in your backpack. With temps around zero Fahrenheit, it is key to stay on top of it.
EH: I sleep with my phone in my sleeping bag to keep it warm at night and put it in a chest pocket during the day to keep it close to my body.
Any particular shots you’re hoping to get? We hear rumors of 3G at the summit.
Sam Elias: Most of my shots are inspired in the moment—spontaneous creativity. Of course, however, I hope to get a shot on the summit.
EH: I don’t think the 3G works this year, but I’d love a few summit shots and will Instagram them once I get to Base Camp.
Besides Instagram, what other photo apps are you using?
SE: I never shoot the photos in the Instagram app, so learning to shoot for the Instagram format—small and square—can be challenging. I also use Camera+, Diptic, AutoStitch, Tilt Shift Focus, Squaready, and Slow Shutter.
EH: I like the options that Camera+ offers, and that you can decrease the intensity of the filter (i.e., if you just want a tiny bit of HDR—high dynamic range—to bring out the mountains, you have the option of sliding the intensity down from 100 percent to 15 percent, or 25 percent or whatever you think looks best).
AB: I use Camera+, Diptic, CrossProcess. The best lesson that I have learned on this trip is to experiment. Be creative and shoot what inspires you. If it doesn’t work out, you can always delete it.
Do you have favorite filters or techniques that work best on snow and ice?
AB: Shooting in snow can be really tricky. It is so bright up here that it is often hard to even see the screen on your phone. It’s important to remember that you need to expose for the brightest part of the photo, otherwise it will be all blown out. I usually tap the snow right around my subject to make sure the photo won’t be overexposed.
SE: Most filters work with snow/ice, because there is so much contrast (white and black). HDR always results in an interesting effect though.
EH: For snow and ice, I actually try to avoid HDR because it’s too harsh, but I do use the “clarity” option in Camera+ because it brings out textures and shadows in the snow and ice that are otherwise flat.
What about at night?
AB: You wouldn’t believe how bright the moon is up at Base Camp. When it is even a crescent moon you don’t need a headlamp at all. The full moon makes it seem almost like dawn or dusk.
SE: I steady the phone by propping it against something completely stable. Then a slow shutter or steady camera sensor app will help.
Don’t your fingers freeze when using an iPhone on Everest?
EH: A little known fact: The + volume button on the side will shoot as well, so you don’t need to use the touch screen.
AB: Yes, frozen fingers are a problem. Once your hands get cold enough your phone doesn’t even recognize them. The North Face makes a pair of fleece gloves, which allows you to work your phone in cold temps. When it gets really cold and you are forced to wear heavy gloves or mittens, I actually use my nose to take the photo! Sounds ridiculous, but it works.
To see more of their “ridiculous” shots from the top of the world, follow @natgeo on Instagram.