Nikon Ambassador Kirill Umrikhin uncovers the lost world of the Commander Islands

Epic photographic adventure reveals rarely-seen landscapes and wildlife, and delivers a new surfing landmark

Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 12th December 2018 – A new photography project from Nikon Russia Ambassador Kirill Umrikhin takes us to a sparsely populated and largely unexplored part of the world: The Commander Islands. Located in the Bering Sea in the Aleut region of Russia, Kirill’s project reveals a ‘lost world’ of volcanic landscapes, rare wildlife and vast ocean.

Expedition yacht “Liberty”, Lisinskaya bay, Bering island
Nikon Z 7 | 1/640 sec. | f/4 29mm | ISO 250 | NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S

Gorelyi volcano, Kamchatka
Nikon Z 7 | 1/640 sec. | f/4 24mm | ISO 250 | NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S

Armed with the Nikon D850, Nikon D5 and the new Nikon Z 7, Kirill’s expedition was far from conventional in his bid to explore somewhere few travel, action or wildlife photographers have journeyed. Travelling via yacht over the 6,000-metre-wide Aleutian-Kamchatka trench, the team evaded several storms to reach the islands and become the first documented group to kite surf these waters of the Bering Sea. 

Opening new possibilities 
Renowned for his extreme sports and travel work, Kirill’s vision was to discover the islands’ elements through surfing and sailing. Yet the unique wildlife and people that call these islands home offered a new perspective, testing his talent as a wildlife and documentary photographer.

Kirill Umrikhin comments, “With so little information available about the islands, I was dependent on contacts of the Komandorsky Nature Reserve to help me plan my journey. But what waited for us was so much more than I could have ever expected and planned for. It is a place defined by its incredible wildlife, including beaked whales and orcas, rare seabirds and over a quarter of a million seals - one fifth of the world’s seal population.”

North seal point, Bering island
Nikon D850 | 1/2000 sec. | f/4 400mm | ISO 500 | AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

North seal point, Bering island
Nikon D850 | 1/1600 sec. | f/9 15mm | ISO 1600 | AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED

Kirill’s journey also shines a light on the community inhabiting the islands. Nikolskoye, the only village in the Aleut region of Russia, is made up of 700 people, with a school, hospital, and even a stage to host local events.

Surfing the elements
Battling the extreme conditions of the Commander Islands via boat wasn’t the only way Kirill got up close and personal to the wildlife and waters of this unique place. He and his team are the first people in the world known to kite surf these waters of the Bering Sea. 

“This trip is about the unique connection between humans and nature - the simplicity of living through the land and elements. Surfing waters which no traveler has surfed before showed me the world is not just getting smaller; there are still places of mystery and adventure to explore, marvel at and document.”

Peter Tyushkevich, Khalaktyrskiy beach, Kamchatka
Nikon D5 | 1/3200 sec. | f/4 550mm | ISO 200 | AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR (with teleconverter)

Nikolay Rakhmatov and Peter Tyushkevich, North seal point, Bering island
Nikon D850 | 1/4000 sec. | f/8 400mm | ISO 400 | AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Always be prepared
Equipment-wise, Kirill opted for the unbreakable Nikon D5, with its 153 focus points and 99 cross-type sensors, to capture the high-speed, extreme sports. The Nikon D850’s unrivalled 45.4 MPs of image quality, meanwhile, paired with his favourite AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens, enabled him to capture the detail of the unique animals that call this place home from both above and below the water’s surface.

Kirill also had the chance to put the new mirrorless Nikon Z 7 to the test which, coupled with the NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S zoom lens, helped him achieve both a range of dramatic landscape and more intimate profile images. 

Arian rock, Bering island
Nikon D850 | 1/400 sec. | f/2.8 400mm | ISO 640 | AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Birds of Bering island
Nikon D5 | 1/2500 sec. | f/2.8 200mm | ISO 200 | AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

“Whether battling tricky waters via boat, hiking for miles on the Steller Peak or sharing the surf with whales and seals, the combination of these three cameras and lenses meant every feasible shot was possible."

Kirill concludes: “This was a dream trip for me – not just as a photographer but as a traveller, project manager and an athlete looking to move people through a lost world they wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.”

You can see all the images here: Special Project

The Nikon Europe Special Project Programme

The Nikon Europe Special Project Programme offers the opportunity for Nikon Ambassadors - consisting of talented and influential photographers from across Europe - to realise their dream projects. The programme forms part of Nikon’s ongoing mission to support inspiring photographers, giving them a platform to undertake projects they are passionate about while creating a community of visual artists who aspire to do things differently.

For more information about Kirill’s project please visit his Special Project page.

The kit

During his project, Kirill used the following equipment:

● Cameras:
   ⚬ Nikon Z 7 
   ⚬ Nikon D850 
   ⚬ Nikon D5

● Lenses:
   ⚬ NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S 
   ⚬ AF FISHEYE NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8D 
   ⚬ AF-S FISHEYE NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED 
   ⚬ AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED 
   ⚬ AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G 
   ⚬ PC-E Micro NIKKOR 45mm f/2.8D ED 
   ⚬ AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR 
   ⚬ AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR 
   ⚬ AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III

About Kirill

Nikon Russia Ambassador Kirill Umrikhin is one of Russia’s most renowned professional travel and sports photographers. During recent years, Kirill has hosted several personal exhibitions and photography masterclasses. He has also secured award wins in national photo contest ‘Best of Russia’ in 2013 and 2014, with his avalanche station photo featuring as one of Russia top ten images captured in the last decade.

All images are © of Kirill Umrikhin