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‘Preparation is Key’. It’s an cliched phrase for sure but it’s become a mantra for me alongside ‘Familiarity is Key’. For us, the first priority is getting back safely - even if that means giving up on the objective. Close behind this though is to enjoy the experience, feel into the environment, learn something along the way and create some amazing imagery that allows us to share our experiences. As our trips and expeditions become more ambitious, there will be more unknowns, more unexpected turns of events. It might be a sudden bank of fog rolling in on a mountain ridge reducing visibility to a few meters. A slope being far sleeper in reality than the contours on the map indicated. A marked trail simply not being there or a locked gate and barbed wire fence blocking a bridge prompting an 8km detour as the sun was setting. Sometimes you can face more than one ‘surprise’ in a day. All of these things stress your preparedness and all of these things underline the need for you to have confidence and comfort in your preparations and your equipment. To this end, before every trip, and especially if we have added new kit, we test, test, test! This can mean getting funny looks as you tramp around a city with a loaded rucksack, fiddling with the straps until the adjustment - and comfort - is just right. It can mean spending time in the gym or on training walks getting to know and pushing our physical limits. Or it can mean shooting seemingly endless pictures at home as you get to grips with every feature of a new piece of camera gear. But all this is essential. It means that using your equipment becomes almost like a reflex - you eliminate some unknowns - so when the day throws you a little surprise, you can focus on dealing with it in the most appropriate way and without your gear getting in the way. And when you get your preparation right, it means you can concentrate on the good stuff: enjoying the hike and making beautiful images.