Only one week till our Chernobyl tour

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By Andy Thorne

on the 20th February 2017


As I discussed in an earlier post, we have decided to go ahead with the Chernobyl tour, despite the situation in Ukraine. Now the decision has been made, the preparations are in full swing! From area maps and guides to equipment, there is a lot to do!

Inspiration Where To Travel

For a long time I have been following the guys on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Facebook page and English Russia website. Both of these are amazing resources for staying up to date with the Zone of Alienation and events and news in the region. Unfortunately they do post a lot of "illegal visits" by people who seem to be quite reckless with their own safety, but they do tend to get into some amazing places from which you can draw inspiration.

Aside from the obvious places like the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (CNPP), reactors 4 and 5 and the vague "Pripyat Area", I've come across some pretty amazing places than I'm hoping we can go to. Unfortunately for you, I'm going to be really mean and save them till I come back and post about it :D

Equipment and Gear

One of the main reasons for going is photography. As you may know, I'm quite a keen amateur photographer and uniting my love of cameras and the Zone of Alienation couldn't go unmet! With regards to what I'm taking, you can see above - I'm taking no risks :)

DSLR Cameras

We're taking two DSLRs: the full frame Canon 6D and the 1.6x Canon 1100D. The 1100D was my first camera and we're taking it as a backup for the much better 6D. Sometime in the future I'm going to write a post on the 6D because it is a seriously good bit of kit for what you pay! We've also packed 3 spare batteries for each camera, which should be plenty for each day, as we can charge them at night and in the car. We also have a few socket adapters, just in case one breaks :)

DSLR Lenses

We have 3 lenses for each camera in wide, mid and telefocal ranges. As you would expect for the 1100D, I have starter Canon EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 lens and the Canon 55-250mm F4-5.6. I also picked up a second hand Canon 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 for the 1100D, which is surprisingly a brilliant lens. If you own a 1.6x Camera, this is by far the best Canon wide angle zoom lens!

For the 6D, we have some good prime lenses. The cheap and cheerful Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II should provide good base coverage and the Canon EF USM 20mm F2.8 should provide some high quality stealthy wide angle shots. On the telephoto scale, I have recently purchased a Canon EF USM 70-200mm F4, which should cover that end of the scale.

DSLR Extras

Accessory-wise, we're taking a set of Graduated and Neutral Density Filters (on the left of the image above), a pleasantly surprising superb YongNuo YN568EXII flashgun with diffuser and a couple of heavy duty camera bags. Finally, we have a Benro tripod, which thankfully I've - literally - only just managed to break down into smaller peices so it will fit in our hand luggage!

GoPro and Accessories

A few years ago a bought a GoPro Hero3, and there is no way I'm leaving that behind! I've stocked up on batteries for the tiny action camera, as the battery life in them is not what you would call... good.

Compacts

Finally, I'm taking a couple of old Samsung compact cameras, which to be honest, I doubt we will use. But you never know, best to be safe than sorry!

Getting There and Back

The most stressful part of this has been the flights. ARGH THE FLIGHTS! We only wanted to go for 4 days: 1 day out, 2 days in the Zone, 1 day back. Easy? Nope, at least not cheaply. Wizz Air (who seem to be the Hungarian version of RyanAir) are very stingy with carry on baggage. The large camera bag and the tripod wouldn't fit, so we ended up having to buy more space. This wasn't too bad - What sucked is that they don't fly into Ukraine every day. Specifically, the day in which we wanted to fly out. In the end, we booked the flights to Ukraine with Ukraine International, which were about twice the price, but at least the baggage allowance was reasonable!

Oh, and I forgot to mention - they both operate out of different airports in Kyiv! Oh the joys of traveling!