A Photographer Hits The Trail

There’s something about 92 pounds of gear and going uphill that makes me wonder why I’m doing this? The answer is, If I’m making the effort to be out here I need to have the right gear to produce images worth enlarging.

I’ll pack the usual cameras, lenses, sturdy tripod, filters, speedlights, tent, sleeping bag, water pump and a weeks worth of energy bars. It’s important to have an old school compass, maps and real hiking/backpacking boots like the Lowa boots I have that are designed to handle heavy loads when out on the trail.

Now most people reading this are saying to themselves, this dude is nuts, all he needs to bring is an iPhone8 Anniversary model? Or perhaps downsize to M4/3 (Four-Thirds or Micro FourThirds as in Panasonic).

Well yes and no is the answer to that, because an iPhone is not going to give me enough control over what I’m trying to achieve and even though marketing teams do a great job pushing their products and crowning Megapixels as the magic bullet, you will not get the same results side by side with a 36 megapixel phone compared to a full frame DSLR.

First the sensors are different sizes, which means the pixels are different sizes which means the quality will be different and that’s an entire subject on its own.

When you are up on top of a mountain and everyone has their arms stretched out in front of them composing a picture with their iPhone or tiny mirrorless camera, I quietly take off my pack and inquiring minds that want to know what’s in that pack?

Most of my hiking pictures were taken with a variety of Nikon film cameras and after 1999 I used a combination of Nikon digital cameras along with my film cameras up until 2006. I use a variety of lenses, some are pictured in this article.

Why use a tripod when you can use ISO one million hahahah! Lower ISO settings will produce cleaner images no matter how high you can dial up the ISO. You also need slow shutter speeds to blur water flowing in streams and over waterfalls.

I had been using my original Gitzo 1548 with Kirk BH-1 ball head on hikes (as seen in the picture collage below) with my 600mm telephoto attached. This was the best all around tripod I had ever used, but there was situations where I needed more height or to stabilize the camera while on very steep inclines.

I bought a Gitzo GT5560SGT rated for a load capacity of 55lbs. that can reach an extreme height of 8.5′ (2.6 m) and weighs 7.5lbs, which is only an extra pound heavier that my GT1548 and I gained a lot of versatility. The last update was my Kirk ball head.

I had great luck with that head, but when I sold my tripod, the BH-1 went with it. Not really a big problem though, The BH-1 had been updated with a quick twist release, so purchasing a new Kirk BH-1 for the Gitzo GT5560SGT was fine.

The latest tripod update *November 2012* includes an addition of the newly designed Gitzo 4552GTS that extends 7’9″ and the popular Really Right Stuff BH-55 as well and it’s a fantastic head. 

I did a lot of research on choosing a tent for my on the trail photo trips. It had to be 4 season, but have the luxury of a 3 season tent like screens for open air in warmer weather. I needed fast setup in darkness, water and wind proof and have plenty of room to stretch out and review my images at the end of the day.

I chose the Mountain Hardwear Light Wedge 3 that has a pack weight of 7.2lbs. (3.3kg). That’s quite heavy for a backpacking tent, but there’s plenty of good reasons why I chose it. It’s 3 season, has a rainfly and it’s 3 person which means 3 sleeping bags shoulder to shoulder will fit.

The tent works so well, I was able to camp in -20 degree weather, so as far as I’m concerned it works as a 4 season tent for me.

The space is fabulous ! It’s like a Condo in the woods.  I love stretching out at the end of a long day and reviewing my images without feeling like I’m packed in a sardine can. The entrance shown in the lower left picture is 74″ (188cm) wide and the other end is 58″ (147cm) wide.

The length is 96″ (244cm) and the vestibule of the rainfly pictured is 40″ (102cm) wide and 29″ (74cm) long, so you can see it’s really roomy and has an inside height of 50″ (126cm). Like I wrote about having the right camera gear, I also need the right camping gear to make each hiking trip an enjoyable experience so I can concentrate on photography.

Safety on the trail is very important to me. Being well rested and alert can be the difference between coming back with memorable images instead of a broken leg or worse.

Article By Mark La Monica –  lamonicapictures.com


All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

1 Comment on A Photographer Hits The Trail

  1. yup. Just what I intend to do in the near future . I am a south african in China for a while. Hpe you enjoy it ,I do.

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