The filmmaking feats and photographic treats of our American friends on the Kuril expedition.

I’ve already mentioned a few times that we had a few American friends along for the ride adventure in the Far East, and that I’d be ‘getting to them’ later on. Well that later on has arrived!…

So who were these folks from the U. S. of A. (and a few other countries), who traveled with me and my regular expeditioners?

First up – Mr. Chris Burkard, the very famous and very successful photographer of all things extreme, distant, fantastic – often and preferably all three at the same time. He’d heard lots about the Kurils, and had long dreamed of exploring and snapping them. So one day, while researching the islands on the internet, he couldn’t help but come across my blog and ephoto-albums, since there probably is no other blogger/amateur photographer who’s written and snapped the islands more than moi. I mean – really, you can’t avoid Me & D.Z. and Co. on the net if you search for anything Kuril-related: if you simply put in the name of a Kuril volcano into Google Images – a ton of our holiday snaps come up toward the top of the list!

Chris had also told his friend and colleague, Renan Ozturk, about his dreams of getting to the Kurils one day. Now, Renan, by a fortunate coincidence, had been invited to the start of our skiing expedition to the North Pole in April 2018. There, Renan had met our P.T. – in charge of such events – and told him prior to embarking on the North Pole mission about how much he and a friend of his (Chris) wanted to see the Kurils (all this: textbook ‘organic networking’ perhaps more than fortunate coincidences:). P.T., in turn, told Renan how – as per another fortunate coincidence? – me and my usual posse of extreme travelers were planning a trip to the Kurils the following year. Finally, completing the circle, my frequent extreme travel companion, olly_ru, had had for a while the idea of inviting extreme blogger-photographer-travelers on a Kurils expedition.

So that’s how the stars aligned initially. Next there was a long period writing up plans, budgets, even contracts, apparently; thankfully I have K-folks who look after all that. I think the one thing that was done real quick was my agreeing to have along with us the photographer-bloggers and other scientists and photographers – all Americans, and also, later on, the zoologist and Pacific seals expert Vladimir Burkanov. I’ll be introducing each here a little later…

Eventually, after all the planning, the expedition was all finalized – with its own hashtag even: #FromKurilsWithLove (Russian), Instagram, and Twitter. And for detail, there’s the Tomorrow Unlocked From Kurils with Love page – well worth checking.

Here are some of our American guests, hard at work ->

And finally – those long-overdue introductions:

Renan Ozturk – traveler and photographer, cinematographer and landscape artist; has worked plenty for National Geographic; legendary expedition climber; and one of the world’s top extreme (high-altitude) documentary makers. Developed together with P.T. the idea for the #FromKurilsWithLove expedition, which he took part in as director of photography and co-director.

Here he is talking about the Kurils:

Taylor Rees. Taylor is crazy into making documentaries on the natural world and protection of the environment. She has an extraordinary gift for telling amazing stories that stick in your mind. Taylor also helped inspire the idea of the #FromKurilsWithLove project, of which she is a producer and co-director along with the others. She also played a key role in the selection of the science commentators for our expedition.

Chris Burkard – already mentioned in a previous post, Chris is one of the world’s most famous landscape photographers, with three-and-a-half million (!) Instagram followers! He was one of the first supporters of the #FromKurilsWithLove project. But, paradoxically, since his photos and comments were viewed by millions, the tourist industry of Kamchatka and the Kurils may have some trouble coping at first with increased interest in the region given its underdevelopment and low capacity. Btw: Chris and Renan shot terabytes of video during the expedition, so really looking forward to the resulting film!

Jeff Kirby – ecologist, NatGeo photographer, popular science commentator. Jeff traveled with us as… an Arctic ecosystem expert! Sure, the Kurils are a long way from the Arctic, but the harsh, changeable climate plus the bleak tundra landscapes mean the two locations actually have quite a lot in common.

Rishi Sugla – Ph.D. to his name, oceanographer, eco-activist, and recently a science communicator. Ocean biodiversity expert. Here’s just one of his Instagram pics – but check it: it’s as biodiverse as it gets!

Ryan Hill – the most expert drone operator I’ve ever met. Helped Chris Burkard during film shooting. Was known to occasionally – especially on Ushishir – give out loud yelps of astonishment when viewing what the drone was videoing. Was in charge of a lot of kit!

Ted Hesser – mountain climber and extreme photographer. Helped Renan and Taylor throughout the expedition as assistant cameraman, which included the important job of managing all the raw film data.

Vladimir Burkanov – (not American, but included here as a guest specialist on the expedition). Russian zoologist specializing in marine animals of the Far East. Became the anchorman and motivator of the expedition; told many a fascinating and unique tale, and simply a great guy!

Povel Torudd – the K-employee mentioned above a few times already (‘P.T.’) (also not American; actually Swedish). Shaped the original concept for the expedition together with Renan and Taylor and became its leader; is also an executive producer and producer of the upcoming documentary #FromKurilsWithLove, together with Taylor Rees.

Alejandro Arango – our head of public relations. Any ambitious project such as this – there’s no way he wouldn’t be involved. And it’d be way too boring an ambitious project without him anyway!

Sebastian Andrei – another (non-American) K-employee – a very new one at that. Hired, and next thing he knows – he’s on a extreme Kurils expedition! The definition of ‘in at the deep end’! Respect!

Olga Rumyantseva, aka, olly_ru. One of the more hyper active members of the expedition. Wet-suit ocean snorkeling-diving; thoughtful and helpful guide: experienced traveler to chaperone the inexperienced office lizards ).


So there you have it folks – the full line-up of our special guests on our Kurils-2019-expedition. And all together we made it a fantastic project. Well done all of us!

Make sure you check out the mini-documentaries, short videos and short stories from the expedition at Tomorrow Unlocked. For example, this one here, on all the kit that was needed for the project.

In closing, here’s Chris talking about the expedition:


Here’s Vladimir talking about how modern technology helps the work of a zoologist immensely:


Here’s Rishi on big data protecting wildlife:

Woah – Chris Burkard sent me some of his pics. Oh my grandiose! Yep, I can see why he’s so popular: each pic – a masterpiece. Here he is, btw:

PS: assorted, unsorted pics…


Woah – I’m approaching a hundred Kurils pics in this one post. I think we’ll allow such wanton disregard for conciseness this once. With pics like these – why not?!

Next up – pics by Renan Ozturk and Taylor Rees ->

Krenitsyna volcano:




And here’s a place I still haven’t told you about – but will shortly:

Hope you enjoyed that photo-summary of the extraordinary natural beauty of the Kurils (and the tragic side too – that poor seal with the plastic round its neck). But I’m not done yet! There’ll be more tales from the Kurilian side shortly…

The rest of the photos from our Kuril adventure are here.



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    Dave Waterson

    These photos are incredible!
    Having just returned from Galapagos, the Kurils are now on my bucket list.

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