Martin Hartley takes his MP to the Edge of the Earth

Following a treacherous 60-day trek covering 483 miles, Arctic explorer and photographer, Martin Hartley, has reached the North Pole with colleagues Ann Daniels and Charlie Paton. Recording photographs that would be impossible to take on digital equipment in the harsh Arctic conditions, Martin has captured vital images using a specially-tested LEICA MP camera with LEICA ELMARIT-M 24mm f/2.8 ASPH lens, which were selected as part of the official photographic equipment to take the historic pictures for the Catlin Arctic Survey expedition. Jenny Hodge from the Leica Camera team connected with Martin about his epic adventure.

Q: You and the other members of the explorer team drilled holes in the sea ice along their 483 mile (777km) route and collected water samples for a team of scientists to analyse, to advance understanding of the impact of increased carbon dioxide absorption in the Arctic Ocean. You have many harsh conditions to face on this expedition which you’re also documenting on film – how does this extreme environment effect your photojournalism?

A: At the very start of an Arctic Ocean expedition, temperatures can drop below minus 50 Celsius, but generally temperatures in February and early March hover around the minus forties and low thirties. At these temperatures, battery-powered electronic devices become unreliable and are prone to failure, cameras being no exception. These low temperatures cause everything to shrink: auto focus lenses become too tight and have to be focused manually, aperture leafs often jam; it is during these times that photographic opportunities can be lost. This happens because cameras or batteries are often stuffed under several layers of clothes to keep them warm, and the effort to take the cameras and batteries out is just too much, especially when survival is more important than anything.

I carried the Leica MP around my neck in a thin waterproof bag to stop the moisture from my breath landing and then freezing on the viewfinder. The camera was instantly accessible all day every day, no matter how cold it got. Every time I wanted the camera to work, it did. The focusing was fast and the shutter never failed – not once – during the entire expedition. Missing a shot because of camera failure due to severe cold was never a worry, no matter how low the temperature reached.

Martin Hartley specializes in documenting the most inaccessible places on earth. Martin has been nominated one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment for his work documenting the state of the North Polar sea ice cover with the Catlin Arctic Survey. For more information on Martin and his photography, visit www.martinhartley.com.