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OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO • F7.1 • 1/320 • ISO 200

At 5,895 m, Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain and volcano in Africa. Furthermore, it is one of the most fa-mous mountains in the world, and as a result up to 60,000 tourists attempt to climb it every year.

This inspired me to think about how to take a different approach to the classic stories about climbing Kili-manjaro as part of my current “Volcanic Seven Summits Project”. In doing so, I discovered that although the “Roof of Africa” has already been challenged a few times by bike, it has never been tackled by e-bike.

As I love breaking new ground and facing new challenges, I immediately knew this was the project for me.

In fact, I broke new ground in several different ways. I had never properly ridden a mountain bike off-road before, never sat on an e-bike, and—as a landscape photographer—had very little experience of photo-graphing action and storytelling.

Therefore, the key focus and most time-consuming element of this trip was the preparation. This involved three intensive months learning MTB techniques in the Alps and my in native Taunus, as well as collaborative studies with the University of Innsbruck on charging technology with solar panels, car batteries, and calculat-ing the potential solar radiation. Plus intensive photographic research, using Google image search to view action photos of mountain bikers. At the same time, I tried out all sorts of different camera positions and perspectives during my training. The easy manageability of the E-M1 Mark II allowed me to photograph and film from different perspectives even while riding. I preferred to use the 12-100 mm lens (M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO) with its large focal length accessible at any time.

OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO • F4.0 • 1/1600 • ISO 200

Based on research and test shoots, I then wrote a screenplay with all of the images required for the story, in-cluding some details on aperture, lens, and perspective. I created a large proportion of the photos in my head prior to the tour.

OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO • F5.6 • 1/100 • ISO 200

When the trip finally began, it became clear that the long preparation had been worthwhile. I was able to master even steeper sections on the e-bike without any problems. This meant we were able to relax and en-joy the majority of the route thanks to the support from the motor. We were probably the most rested tour-ists ever to reach the Kibo Hut—the starting point of the summit—at an altitude of 4,700 m. However, one of the most magnificent moments of the trip was traveling the final few meters towards the summit: Riding the bike 6,000 m up high against a backdrop of ancient glaciers—pure bliss! This photo of Roman riding his e-bike in front of the glaciers is another that I had devised in my head before the trip and noted in the screen-play. In total, I captured almost 90% of the images listed in the screenplay on the actual trip.

OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO • F7.1 • 1/1250 • ISO 200

However, I felt it important to avoid basing my trip on the screenplay, but rather describing and photo-graphing the authentic experiences I had. Firstly, this meant I had to allow adequate time and, secondly, I had to develop a sense for when these potential stories were looming. For example, our meeting with Emil from Moshi turned out to perfectly describe the fascination of this trip. He himself had already climbed Kila-manjaro with his MTB. So we were delighted to entrust him with my bike and film him taking it for a spin —with no help from the electrics at first. He was already very impressed, but after switching on the motor, we couldn't stop him! Whooping and cheering jubilantly, he hurtled up a hill before returning shortly afterwards with a wide grin on his face.

OM-D E-M1 Mark II • M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO • F6.3 • 1/1000 • ISO 200

I have the same grin when I look back on this trip during which I succeeded in breaking new ground in so many respects.

  • Anonymous

    Peaked Kilimanjaro 10 years ago. Then with E3. Worked fine, only the volcanic ash spoiled the lens hood. I still use the same 50-200mm now with an adapter to E-M1, excellent lens.

    Heikki Hemmilä, MD

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