View Full Version : Article: Photography and Long Distance Hiking, final final draft

12-08-2005, 16:21
Photography and Long Distance Hiking

Chris "Suge" Willett

With a Substantial Contribution from Nate "Tha Wookie" Olive

Additional contributions from: Whistler, MisterSweetie, Java, Ratbert, Lumberjack, and Rainman.

December 2005

In this article I am going to attempt to help new hikers and photographers figure out a good camera "strategy" for long distance hiking. There are many resources on the web to help you take better pictures, figure out what sort of camera you might want, and comparisons between cameras. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, instead I'm going to focus on topics that are more relevant for distance hikers and that are not generally covered elsewhere. Instead of making simple recommendations, I will give questions and topics to be thought about and how I (and others) might answer them. For the purposes of this article, I will define a long distance hike as being one in which you have the time to grow a respectable beard. This is completely arbitrary and you can simply define it as being at least a month in duration. Or three weeks. Or six months. Or whatever.

First, some terminology. None of these definitions are meant to be precise. They are simply meant to help facilitate the understanding of a reader who might not be familiar with the jargon of photography.

Point and Shoot Camera: A camera that you don't change a lot of settings on and still get good snap shots. Examples include the Olympus Stylus Epic (film) or Verve (digital). The least expensive kind of camera.

Digicam: A digital camera with many manual features like an SLR and generally a higher megapixel count. You can't really change lenses with it.

SLR: A fancier camera that has interchangeable lenses and many manual features.

Megapixel: A notion of how much detail the digital camera can record. More is better, but usually isn't important enough to make it a deciding factor of one digital camera over another.

RAW: A fancy digital format that allows you to do a lot of post-picture processing on the computer.

Mass Storage Device: A bit of computer hardware that you can transfer your photos onto from memory cards. Examples include portable drives and CD burners.

Rather than write the article in a traditional form, I'm going to format it in a way that will help readers get quickly to the information that they want. Unattributed sections are from me, the rest should have the appropriate contributor cited. If you have something that you would like to contribute, write it up and send it to me either via a PM or email.

1) What kind of photo outfit would you take on a long distance hike in the US? I would bring my Canon G6. This is a 7.1 megapixel digicam and has enough features for me to take the kind of pictures that I like. For example, I can set exposure fully manually and can shoot RAW files. It has a reasonable zoom lens on it, even if it isn't optimal. I would carry a 2 GB card and put a 1 GB card in my bounce box along with a spare lithium ion battery and the battery charger. On the Appalachian Trail, where large towns are frequent, I would burn images to CDs as I went. On a more remote trail where large towns are less frequent (such as the CDT, PNT, or even the PCT), I would put a portable CD burner in a bounce box. I have a Tamrac padded case that I put on my hipbelt (the loop is wide enough for the belt) and carry the camera there.

Tha Wookie says: I've used a Nikon F3 SLR for over 5000 miles. It is legendary for its durability and manual options. Although my view finder is dark, and as a result I get soft results on occasion, I've found it to take great shots. I routinely use extended exposures. I would caution anyone who uses an SLR to make sure it has settings for flexible shutter release times. Look for the "B" setting on the shutter release dial, which means "Bulb". While walking the American West Coast Trail, sea spray was a real concern. I'm not sure that a digital camera would have made it. The steel-body F3 had no problems. But on the flip side, is a heavy body. To compensate, I used a Tamron 24-50mm. Tamron makes very light lenses, with good quality. I also carry a 2-lb Slik tripod, and an optional 35-110 lens.

Whistler says: I was pleased with my Fuji Finepix A330 and xD memory cards--all the photos I posted here on WB are with that camera, reduced by about 75%. Weight is about 6.5oz. A sliding lens cover keeps things protected and prevents fumbling for the 'On' button in the heat of the moment. It has good battery life [4-500 shots taken, still on original Li batteries]. It also has a quality macro mode, clear menus, and fairly quick start-up. I kept nearly 300 photos [one month's worth for me] on the high/normal setting on one 256m card. Never needed my 256m back-up. I carried it in a small sub-2oz REI Accessory Pocket, modified and attached to my shoulder strap for easy access. Also in that pocket I kept a Kroger plastic grocery bag as a foul-weather liner, and the whole deal was covered with my poncho if needed. No moisture problems at all.

Mister Sweetie says: I use a Nikon Coolpix 5400, a 5.1megapixel digital camera. I have the option of other lenses with this camera, but I have none. The battery is proprietary Li-ion. It uses Compact Flash (slower but cheaper than Secure Digital [probably the better way to go nowdays]). The 5400 has a twist screen, which is very nice; you're able to take pictures of yourself and frame them well. I have 512mb of memory on one card, and two 256 cards, and I've never had them all full at once, including a weeklong trip to the Grand Canyon. I tend to take pictures at full resolution (but not RAW), so that should give you some idea of storage space needed. use a hip belt attached bag to carry the camera, and it works great. My specific bag is a Lowepro Rezo 110 AW, but any of the Rezo series work the same... It's a top-opening bag, and when attached to your hipbelt, the top opens away from your body, making it easy to get to the camera. I've found it very convenient. The Rezo series also has an attached "all weather" cover, which I think it just sil, with elastic to keep it tight.

Java says: This may seem nit-picky, but I think its worth mentioning. I thru'd with a Contax g-series rangefinder. I also shot Provia 100f. I now shoot Velvia on the trail. I still carry the rangefinder (a G2) when hiking, and find that it's much lighter and has better glass (Zeiss lenses) than an average SLR. That said, I'm a professional photographer, represented by an agency, and my trail photography is published in books and magazines. If people are looking for lightweight, ease, and the highest quality, (IMHO) a rangefinder (esp the Contax G's or a Leica) is the way to go. I can't quite figure out why more people haven't caught onto them for hiking...they are tough, have interchangable lenses, can be auto or manual...the list goes on.

2) Film or Digital? This is a big question that many people face if they are looking to buy a camera for hiking. Overwhelmingly, I would carry a digital, unless there was a good reason otherwise (discussed later). The advantages of digital are great: No film or developing costs, you can see (via the LCD) if you got the shot or not, you can print only the pictures you like, making up a web page is much easier, distributing pictures to friends and family is a snap, and so on and so forth. Buying a point and shoot film camera and taking ordinary print film doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me for the AT. However, there are some reasons to consider standard film: If you take slide film and use an SLR with a reasonable lens, and know what you're doing, you'll get far better results than with a digital camera. The resolution and color that you get from slide film really is superior. If you are willing to haul the weight and take the time, it is the way to go. However, on a long distance hike, this rarely seems to happen. If you have a point and shoot film camera already, you can still get great shots. See the comparison section later on in the article. Another reason to consider print or slide film over digital is if you don't have regular access to a computer back in the mundane world. In this case, print film and a basic point and shoot camera is the way to go. A final reason is if you want to give slide shows: Slide projectors are very common, LED projectors less so.

Whistler says: For the AT, I'd recommend digital, because... Access to civilization comes frequently and conveniently. You can take a high volume of photos without 'budgeting' your film. You can have the film developed or disseminated in less time. Fewer logistical/ postal issues--which was important for me because I didn't have anyone to mail things from HQ. You never really have to open the camera.

Tha Wookie says: I've always used film, but I am considering switching. I like the consistent results from film. I also like the fine-grain films that can capture detail way beyond most commercial digital cameras. I use slide film. The downside is that I do a lot of computer presentations, and scanning slides is expensive! Unless you can find a company that scans slides during the E-6 process, expect to pay $1 per slide for digital slides, for the lowest resolution scans. For the cover of the American Hiker magazine, the high-res scan cost $68! As it turned out, it was printed poorly and the cost was really a waste in my opinion. So if you want digital files at lowest cost and less flexible print-size options, get a digital. If you want very high quality photograghs for art or display, consider film, but be wary of the costs. Actually, the high-end digital cameras (11 megapixels+) are now "better" than film, but those cameras, and the programs needed to work on them, are very expensive ($3K-7K). If you shoot high volume, and sell them, they are a good investment.

3) While hiking, how should I carry my camera? Unless it is raining on you at the time, you should have your camera in a place where you can reach it without stopping to take off your pack. The more accessible your camera is, the more pictures you will take. When I used to carry my camera in my pack, I found that most of my pictures were taken in camp or during a break. Moreover, if you have to spend thirty seconds digging your camera out of your pack, you'll miss a lot of impromptu shots, such as wildlife, hikers doing something stupid, people with their pants down, etc. How you carry your camera depends on how large it is. For a point a shoot size camera, you can generally just put it in your pants or shorts pocket. ULA packs have hipbelt pockets that easily hold a basic camera (better than pants pockets). If you have a larger camera, such as a digicam, there are several companies that make padded cases (very light) with a belt loop large enough for standard hipbelts to slide through. Tamrac makes the one I used. For larger cameras, like an SLR, a chest slight works nicely.

Tha Wookie says: You must keep your camera handy, or you will miss the shot. I now carry mine around my waist in a Low Alpine no-frills case, that's hardly bigger than the camera. Although, after a while, it starts to wear on my hip. So then I start doing one-arm curls. The big thing is that you don't want your camera to swing around, or you will bang it on something or throw it on purpose from the aggravation of bump-bump-bump for hundreds of miles.

4) How much film or memory should I bring? This depends on the camera and how many pictures you take. Assuming you are shooting film and using a basic camera, I would consider about 10 shots a day to be average, with plenty of wiggle room so that you don't run out of film. If you send your bounce bucket 3 weeks ahead of you on the trail (see later), you'll want 210 exposures, or roughly 6 rolls of 36 exposure film. Some people will take less than this, some more. Digital memory cards are a different deal and how many exposures you'll get out of 1 GB card depends on how high of a resolution you want and how high your camera can go. My 7.1 MP Canon generates, roughly, 6 MB RAW files shot at maximum resolution. On a 1 GB memory card, this translates to about 135 images. I could, instead, shoot maximum resolution and size JPEG files and get about 330 shots. One advantage of the digital is that you can erase bad shots. If you don't know much about cameras, see the recommendations later.

If you go the digital route, you'll have several options for memory cards. For example, Lexar makes three different kinds of Compact Flash cards. The main difference is in speed of writing files from your camera to the card. This doesn't make a whole lot of difference to a typical hiker: Fast speed is necessary for photographers taking burst sequences of photos of things like sports, wildlife, etc. I would buy the basic card rather than something with the words "Ultra" or "Extreme"

Tha Wookie says: I shoot a roll a day [36 exposures], or a little less.

Whistler says: I kept nearly 300 photos (one month's worth for me) on the high/normal setting on one 256m card. Never needed my 256m back-up.

5) How should I resupply with film? I think the easiest way is to use a bounce bucket. Buy a bunch of film at a discounted rate. Put 3-5 rolls of film in your pack and the rest in the bucket. Mail the bucket about 2-3 weeks ahead of you. This also allows you access to rechargeable batteries and other nice things. However, you can also simply buy film as you go. If you are using slide film, this won't work as many places simply don't have things like Velvia or Provia on hand.

6) What happens when I fill a memory card? If you are taking higher resolution pictures, it is unlikely that you'll want to lay out the cash to buy enough memory cards to cover the entire trips. On a trail like the AT, it should be possible to find stores with CD burners. You take your full (or partially full) memory card in to the store and burn two CDs. Mail them to separate places and erase your card. There are other options, including buying a portable burner or mass storage device. It is also entirely possible to buy a 2 GB card and take mostly small resolution pictures (which will make fine 4 by 6 inch prints and look good on a computer) and still not fill up the card. However, this is sort of like putting all your eggs in one basket.

Tha Wookie says: I would stick an Ipod in the bounce box and download them there, or send the card home and change it out with a freshie.

MisterSweetie says: I'll submit a specific suggestion that something like the XS-drive Super would be great in the bounce box. It will accept any media card. You'd just dump the pictures to the drive, and you'd have an empty card to keep using. The drives use laptop hard drives, so you can get them in large sizes (up to 80gb, I think). This would be a great way to go.

7) What about batteries? It is unlikely that you'll be able to get through the length of a long trail and not need to replace batteries. If you have a basic point and shoot camera, you can put batteries in a bounce bucket or buy as you go. For conservation purposes, I would urge the use of re-chargeable batteries. Many digital cameras use proprietary, rechargeable batteries such as the Lithium Ion ones that my Canon takes. In this case, I would buy a spare set and put them and the battery charger in a bounce bucket. It helps to know how many pictures you can take before needing a charge, however. You can go on the manufacturers advice and you'll probably be ok. Be aware that the more you use the LCD screen, the fewer shots you'll get before needing a re-charge. On my G6, I don't use the LCD screen at all unless I have to, and I tend not to review pictures unless I'm not sure of myself. For example, timed shots, odd metering situations (lots of light, not much light, unevenly distributed light), etc. I haven't recharged my batteries since mid August and have taken about 300 pictures since then.

Tha Wookie says: Obviously, a film camera is far more efficient than a digital. I use about 6 little watch batteries per 2000 miles. They weight nothing, no recharging units, and little cost. They power my light meter and timer.

Ratbert says: A word about AA rechargeable batteries. They are not all created equally! AA batteries are a good choice because they are so easily obtainable in towns if you've drained your rechargeables but are still a ways from your next mail drop. I like the idea of the bounce box with the charger in it. When you purchase your AA rechargeables, pay attention to the mAh rating. (Milli Amps Hour, I believe) This is telling you how much juice they can hold. If you find some on sale and the price seems too good to be true, they may be 2050 nAh batteries. Look for 2300 or even better, 2500 if you can. Each step up should represent about a 12% increase in battery life. Also, use Nimh (Nickel Metal Hydride) AA batteries rather than NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) as the Nimh batteries can be "topped off" when recharging. NiCad batteries must be completely drained before charging.

8) How many megapixels is enough? This depends on what you want to do, but for most people it doesn't matter. A pretty standard number these days is 4 megapixels. You'll be able to make fine prints of moderate size and your shots will look great on the web. A 3 MP camera will be fine. So would a 5 MP camera. But, given the choice, I would buy a cheaper, rather than more expensive, point and shoot digital camera. If you make the jump to a digicam, you'll get more megapixels and the ability to make prints of a larger size, say 11 by 14 or higher. Megapixel counts of 7 or 8 are standard here. However, unless you know how to take advantage of the features of more advanced cameras, or are willing to spend the time learning, I wouldn't go this route.

Tha Wookie says: You have to get over 11 to get close to good slide film.

9) Is my camera going to survive? That depends a lot on how you treat it. There are three big foes: Your own stupidity, grit, and condensation. Stupidity can't really be accounted for and normally takes the form of dropping the camera. For example, it is in the chest pocket of a shirt, you lean over a stream to get some water, and out it falls. Or, you casually try putting it in your pocket, miss, and it falls over a cliff. Grit is more serious. Bits of dirt, sand, and other things can get inside a camera, especially a film camera since you're putting in film all the time. If enough grit gets inside, your pictures will have scratches on them. You can clean your camera easily enough with a small brush that will cost you a dollar or so. A good way to prevent grit is to put your camera in a case or a zip lock back before putting it in your pocket or hipbelt. Condensation is a little more serious issue. For example, you pitch a tarp near a creek and the temperature swings overnight. Your tarp and everything underneath it is covered in dew. If you leave your camera out and exposed, that is bad. However, simply by leaving it in its case or covered up you can solve this problem. I put my camera in its case and then put that in my sleeping bag stuff sack overnight. No problems so far.

Tha Wookie says: Respect gravity, use a strap, and keep it out of the water! After that -good luck! I use a silica packet to take out moisture that builds in the camera case. Also, I have some extra zip-locks in case I experience a complete failure to stay dry. I also clean my lenses religiously! Consider getting a screw-on UV filter to protect your expensive lenses!

10) What shouldn't I take pictures of? Most hikers are open to having their pictures taken, but not all are. You should ask first. For example, you roll in to a shelter and want a picture of people as they cook dinner. Simply ask, "Do you mind if I take a picture of you?" That is, be polite. Don't take pictures of people, especially locals, with the purpose of making fun of them. With friends, it is probably ok. Don't take pictures of people's homes or businesses, especially inside, without asking. For the most part it is common sense: Would you want someone snapping a picture of your messy room at home?

Tha Wookie says: You should shoot whatever you want. You don't need anyone's permission to take a picture, but it is good to be respectful. Remember, you need to get permission if you are going to publish an image. So if it's a good one, get their conact info, and name always. Consider sending them a file.

11) What are some good things to take pictures of? This is easy on the AT: People and everyday activities along the trail. These will mean a lot more to you afterward than yet another picture of a hazy green valley in Virginia. In the early morning (about 6 to 8), the light can do strange things and you can get some fantastic shots. The same goes, though to a lesser extent, in the early evening near sunset. All my best shots come from these times. Other good things to take pictures of include trail and road signs, shelters, your campsite for the night, meals in towns, the water in a washing machine, and so on. Close ups of flowers are also nice. Personally, I don't find the AT (except in certain places) to have the same raw beauty as places in the West. That doesn't mean it doesn't have its own beauty, just that a shot from the top of Clingman's Dome doesn't carry exactly the same power as a shot looking out from Forrester Pass on the PCT. Use your imagination, however, and you'll find good things to take pictures of.

Tha Wookie says: I personally like inpromtu shots. Try to get people comfortable before you shoot them, and avoid the basic smile at the camera shot. That which inspires you. Camping shots, shoot at night, shoot all day long. Get every aspect of hike in, not just the scenic shots. Shoot pictures of your nasty feet. Shoot anything you want to remember, or express to someone else. Imagine what it would take for someone to really understand what thru-hiking is all about.

Whistler says: I wish I'd taken more photos in general, and especially of people. I'd probably grab one of just about everyone I tented or sheltered with, or talked with for more than a few minutes.

12) What about disposable cameras? These are not a bad route to go if you're not going to take many pictures. However, you'll get better quality from a $70 point and shoot camera like the Olympus Stylus Epic and it will be cheaper in the long run. If you pay $10 for a disposable camera, or film for $3 a roll (roughly same number of exposures), you'll need to take 10 rolls of film or more to make the point and shoot camera the better option.

Tha Wookie says: If you have no concern how they will look, these are a great option. I will never trust my trail memories to one again.

13) What about zooms? Most point and shoot cameras (and digicams) have zoom lenses on them. On digitals, you generally also have something called "digital zoom". Ignore this completely. It is the camera equivalent of "underbody coating" on cars. All it does is blow up the picture. Guess what? You can do this on your computer. The optical zoom number is the one to pay attention to.

Tha Wookie says: Lower mm means wider view, higher means tighter and closer.

Ratbert says: It's easy to be seduced by the 3X or 4X Digital Zoom rating. Optical Zoom (Canon makes a 12X with Image Stabilizer that is very nice) is telling you how far you can rack that zoom lens out so that you don't have to get too close to Yogi to snap his pic. This also makes candid shots of folks easier because they are more at ease if you are unobtrusively taking pictures from a distance. The one place where the Digital Zoom shines is that it allows you to zoom in on your review shots on the LCD screen to check for sharpness. Did the breeze make that flower move just a little? Check the review, zoom in and scroll around, then delete and reshoot if you have too. If it's fuzzy when you blow it up on your monitor at home, then it's too late to reshoot.

Lumberjack says: The more optical zoom you use, the more sensitive to movement the camera gets. At 10 x even the slightest vibration can blur the picture.

14) What about tripods? A tripod is a three legged device that you put your camera on. You can use it to steady the camera to help you take a picture in low light, or to get shots of yourself or others where there isn't a convenient rock or sign post to place the camera on. Most cameras have little threaded holes on the bottom side to attach to a tripod.

Whistler says: Next time, I'll bring a small tripod at about 1-2oz, like the ones available at http://www.backpackinglight.com. It can make your shots much simpler to frame and execute.

ThaWookie says: Many will say that use of a tripod is what will distinguish the pro from the ameteur. The basic premis is "the more still the camera, the sharper the shot". This is very true. Shooting a camera is like hunting with a rifle. When you take a shot, hold your breath and steady yourself against a tree or rock. A tripod makes it more stable, but the downside is the weight and hassle of breaking it out. For those who shoot on low ISO settings (like for film types velvia and kodachrome), you often must use a tripod to get a sharp shot in low-light situations. The general rule is that you can steady a shot by hand down to 1/30 of a second (that's being absolutely still and supported by something). After that, you will need a tripod. Plus, for time-exposure shots, a tripod is essential, unless you happen to find the perfect rock that can hold your camera. For these shots you will also want to prevent moving the camera when you click the shutter, which can be accomplished with 1)a shutter release cord 2)a timer that you set and walk away 3)a digital remote, available with new digitals. I use a slik compact XL -very cheap and light. It weighs about 2 lbs. I keep it in a homemade sil-nylon bag. If I could change it, I get flip-release mechanisms for the legs instead of the screw-types. Also a ball head on the top would be nice, but not as essential.

15) What is the difference in quality between the different formats? This isn't easy to answer as it depends on the person taking the photos (the better photographer usually wins) and whether you are looking at the end result on a computer screen, a 4 by 6 inch print, or a 13 by 19 print. However, to provide some comparisons, here are some links to look at (ignore all the writing unless you've got a ton of time):

Olympus Stylus Epic and print film. These pictures from my last AT section hike are taken with a $70 point and shoot film camera and the Fuji film I found in Walmart. I scanned them in to a computer with a bottom end scanner at work.


Olympus Stylus Epic and slide film. These are take with the same camera during the same summer and come from the GDT. However, I shot a variety of slide film (Velvia, Sensia II, something from Kodak) and scanned in the pictures using a high end slide scanner.


Olympus D395 Camedia. 3 MP point and shoot digital camera. These were taken last May in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington.


Canon G6. 7.1 MP digicam. These were taken this summer, also in the Alpine Lakes.


Nikon N80 with slide film. These were taken last March in the Grand Canyon. A mixture of Velvia and Sensia II.


If you've looked through the photos, you'll see that the $70 Olympus does a pretty good job. Be warned: For prints beyond 4 by 6 inches, it isn't so good. With slide film, I've got a couple of reasonable (fuzzier than I'd like) 11 by 16 inch prints. However, almost all the pictures on my walls at home are taken with the SLR and slide film. I do have two pictures from the Canon G6, but at 11 by 14 size.

Tha Wookie says: This is a very wide open question.

Here's me using a point and shoot on the AT: http://trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=4277

Then here's an advantix point-shoot camera on the CT (notice the haze from moisture build-up, I was carrying it next to my water bottle, and didn't know the damage until I was done:


Here I switched to the F3, and Fuji negative film on the PCT:


Finally, here's the Slide film using the same F3 on the AWCT:


NOTE: All you are seeing are digital files. Because they are low-res scans, they look far worse than the film versions. See my website for what high-res scans can do for the same film.


Java says: My trail photography can be seen for now on my very out-dated (I'm right in the middle of a redesign) website http://www.visualalex.com.

16) What about after the hike? This is where the fun begins, as you've been hiking for a long time and now have a lot of pictures to deal with. There are a lot of interesting things you can do, such as putting together a photo album or creating a web page. In either case, try to use your pictures to tell a story, rather than having a bunch of unconnected shots. It helps if you have a lot of pictures of trail life, rather than nothing but pictures of green valleys. If you shot digital, you'll be able to make a web page fairly easily: Use some editing software to compress the pictures down to reasonable size, clean them up some, and post them. If you have access to a Mac, you can use something like Graphic Converter, which comes bundled with most Macs. I'm sure Windows has something similar. If you want to get fancy, something like Adobe Elements or Photoshop CS are popular, but probably overkill. Select the digital files you like the most, load them on to a jump drive, and have you're local photoshop make prints for you. If you shot print or slide film, develop the film. If you don't have access to a scanner and want to put up a web page, have the photo shop scan them too.

Tha Wookie says: One should think about this before investing in anything. What do you want your picture to do? Explain the hike to friends? If so, how? Slide show, digital slide show? Do you have the computers, programs, and equipment? Are you calculating film processing costs? Planning on selling the prints? These abilities will all depend on what kind of equipment you use.

Rain Man says: Good photos are turned into lousy photos when they are posted [to whiteblaze] without basic necessary info, such as WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW? I realize we ignorant victims might not need each and every one of these basic journalism minimums, but we at least need WHO, WHERE, and WHEN. A great photo posted on WhiteBlaze that doesn't tell me WHO, WHERE, and WHEN has to get a bad rating. We're not just an abstract "artsy" group or site. We are first and formost a concrete "informational" group or site. Thus failing to give basic, fundamental information with each and every photo posted,-- well, you might as well not post the photo in my opinion.

17) Information Sources?

Jonathan Ley has several pdf files detailing photography and hiking and you can access them via http://www.phlumf.com

A good source for equipment is B&H Photo: http://www.bhphotovideo.com

You can read reviews of a bunch of digital cameras at http://www.dpreview.com

For general photography information http://www.photo.net

Tha Wookie
12-08-2005, 17:50
Looks great -I wish this article existed before I started LD hiking!

12-08-2005, 17:53
Based on your pictures from the AWCT, it looks like you did pretty good on your own!

12-08-2005, 18:17
Nice Job, Chris.

The Pierce links don't open, though.

Glad you took the F3, Wookie. You need to go back to the AT with it. Please!

12-08-2005, 18:20
i looked at the subject of the first post on this thread and thought to myself...what in the world is "photorgraphy"?

then, i opened the thread and realized that "photorgraphy" is actually slang for photography.

you've compiled a great article here. i thought i knew my way around the camera and long distance hiking, but i've read through the article a couple of times and have already learned quite a few things.


12-08-2005, 18:20
Drat. It looks like the editor actually did put dots in, rather than just displaying dots but keeping the full address. I'll see if Rock can edit the post as I cannot and don't really want to reformat everything again.

12-09-2005, 02:17
Great article Chris. I was hoping someone would do this and get most of the research done before I did my thru hike inb 2010. I am holding off on buy my new digital until then though. Because if I ran out and bought one today it would be out dated next year.

Uncle Wayne
12-09-2005, 03:36
Thanks for the detailed article. I'm sure everyone knows this is possible but here's a low cost method I use to share my AT section hikes with anyone who visits my home or that has a DVD player.

I use a 3.2 mp Olympus Stylus digital camera, (forget the correct name) and download the photos to my computer, via the USB port, with a cable that comes with the camera. Using freeware / shareware software, there are several types available, I arrange the photos into a slideshow backed up with music of my choice.

The software allows editing the photos, adding text to explain a particular shot or just about any editing feature you can think of. I burn the slideshow to a CD-RW or a DVD disk, pop it in the DVD player and then view it on my TV.

The slideshow presentation is controlled by the DVD remote and can be paused etc. to explain a certain photo or to answer questions. We've found it a great way to have something playing in the background when we have a get together of any kind.

Tha Wookie
12-09-2005, 10:59
Nice Job, Chris.

The Pierce links don't open, though.

Glad you took the F3, Wookie. You need to go back to the AT with it. Please!

I don't know if you're referring to my AT pics online or just to new pics in general, but since it came up, I need to explain something:

When TJ's changed their server, all my pics got completely scrambled (bad pixelation) when it was over. I guess I ought to go change them, but I hardly look at those journals anymore, so I always forget. Even if you didn't mean those, thanks for reminding me. I just don't like doubling back, you know?

BTW, here's a new one from the Benton Mackaye Trail


12-09-2005, 11:02
I haven't had time to read the article carefully. I've got to get a grant application in the mail today. But it strikes me as excellent. However, three things popped out immediately. The first is knitpicking. Few females will qualify if the standard for long distance hiking requires a decent growth of beard.

On item 3, third line, the first "camera" should be "carry."

And on item 9. When I carry a light weight point and shoot I try to wear a pocket tee, and keep the camera in the pocket, with a strap hanging loosely around my neck to prevent dropping.

With my SLR I carry it in a pouch at my waist, but again with a strap for protection against dropping. I keep a water bottle on the left and the camera on the right to provide balance.

Because the strap is simply to protect the camera and carries no weight, the lightest strap you can find is best.


12-09-2005, 12:31
The first is knitpicking. Few females will qualify if the standard for long distance hiking requires a decent growth of beard.

Yeah, I pondered this, but not being a female it was hard for me to come up with a biological qualifying standard for what "long" meant. My designation is pretty arbitrary.

Thanks for all the comments and contributions. A special thanks to Tha Wookie for providing so much additional information. And for the AWCT TJ, which is keeping me from falling asleep while my students struggle through 4 hours of final exams.

12-11-2005, 13:40
A very good article.

Just a suggestion for future updates...I'm curious about wide angle lens, and the uv, polarized, and neutral density filters. Will these improve shooting conditions on the AT-in particular the ND filter? Also thinking the wide-angle might add a nice element to woody cove shots..

I've got these on order for my digital--but I like to hear other's experience.

12-11-2005, 14:06
You should add something about medium format and maybe even large format as well. not that most people would consider either, but just for completeness. also why no mention of the advantages of prime lenses. it seems that for lower weight, a lot of hikers would do fine with a slr and a 50mm prime. they weigh less, and stop down a lot faster, and it is one less thing for people to think about, not to mention the better image quality.

Tha Wookie
12-11-2005, 15:38
A very good article.

Just a suggestion for future updates...I'm curious about wide angle lens, and the uv, polarized, and neutral density filters. Will these improve shooting conditions on the AT-in particular the ND filter? Also thinking the wide-angle might add a nice element to woody cove shots..

I've got these on order for my digital--but I like to hear other's experience.

I've got a minute about the Neutral Density (ND) filter:

First of all, don't let the name scare you. It really means "changes (usally reduction effect) incoming light levels". Therefore, the ND is used to make the scene darker to your film or digital sensors. The "Neutral" part means it acheives this darkening effect without changing the color -it's neutral color (greyor other). The "density", I believe, refers to the grouping of neutral color on the filter. In other words, ND filters come in ranges of intensity, based on the "density" rating of the filter. These ratings are translated into the number of F-stops that it drops the exposure.

In other words, they make it darker.

This is really important if you want to shoot things that require the shutter to be open for a while. example: if you want to get a "flow" effect with a waterfall or creek, you use the ND filter to lower the light so you can get the exposure without blowing out (over exposing) the bright parts (like the sky, like I just did on the BMT with some otherwise gorgeous creek shots:datz ) . So you can keep the shutter open long enough to get teh movement of the water.

The other type of ND, that I find most useful for landscapes (especially the coast;) ) , is a "graduated" ND, which just means it has a line on the filter where the neutral color starts (with half or so staying free of any filtering mask), and then is gradually darkens as it moves away from the line. This helps hide the use of the filter from the photo viewer. You line it up with the horizon or whatever the line (or in some cases, curved) filter matches with the brighter part of teh scene. Otherwise, it looks contrived. But really, it's just compensating for the inadequacy of film or digi's to see what we see with our naked eye.

ND's are very useful, and can take your photos to the next level.

12-11-2005, 15:58
A belated thought occured to me. When I bought my current camera I also selected for the body style. I tend to stick my fat fingers in front of the lens with miniture cameras leaving finger prints and ruining pictures. Might be woth a mention.

The article is shaping up well.

12-11-2005, 18:58
also just a thought, but maybe a bit about black and white. I know its a hassle without a the right setup, but it can have an impact that cant be reproduced with digital or color, and as an aside the whole genre was invented in black and white, and i can scarce name a nature photograph that can exceed ansel adams's work.

03-21-2006, 19:10
I'm pretty pleased with my Canon Elph, small light weight and even the 3.2 Mpixel version that I have is adequate resolution.

Part of the purchase decision was determined by the fact that it had about the lightest most compact recharger. Small enough that I don't bounce it, but carry with me.

03-27-2006, 20:24
Wookie, I got a new dSLR (Canon 20D) recently and will be doing a section hike and am curious about the best way to carry such a camera on the trail while having it readily available. I would think around the neck, but all the bouncing around can't be good for the camera or my chest. Any ideas?

Tha Wookie
03-27-2006, 20:43
Wookie, I got a new dSLR (Canon 20D) recently and will be doing a section hike and am curious about the best way to carry such a camera on the trail while having it readily available. I would think around the neck, but all the bouncing around can't be good for the camera or my chest. Any ideas?

do you have a hipbelt?

the Neck won't work until it is stablized up front. I would not want any weight on my neck.

03-29-2006, 21:56
do you have a hipbelt?

the Neck won't work until it is stablized up front. I would not want any weight on my neck. no, do you have any specific suggestions?
Thanks :)

03-30-2006, 00:21
Wookie, I got a new dSLR (Canon 20D) recently and will be doing a section hike and am curious about the best way to carry such a camera on the trail while having it readily available. I would think around the neck, but all the bouncing around can't be good for the camera or my chest. Any ideas?

These work pretty good for me.


They clip onto your shoulder strap D-rings with metal clips (overkill) and then you just pop the fastex buckles to unhook and shoot. Or, use these to attach a zoom padded holster if you want full protection for your 20D. Lowepro has nice holsters because certain models open away from you, making access easier.

Having it on your chest takes a little getting used to, which might make wearing it your hipbelt a better option. If you do use these clips for the chest set-up, you can secure the bottom with an elastic cord or something similar to make it a tad more secure. Either way, it makes putting your pack on and taking it off just a trifle more of a headache. But, you'll get a lot more shots than you will with your camera in your pack!

Tha Wookie
03-30-2006, 12:29
no, do you have any specific suggestions?
Thanks :)

If you don't have a hipbelt than I would use a light bag that just carries what you need to pull it out and get a shot, i.e., one that holds the SLR body, one lens, and a couple pockets for lens cleaning materials, extra film/memory cards, filters, ect. To carry filters I use a Compact Disk neoprene filter case that attaches to my camera bag strap.

The trick is to get the smallest, lightest one that will hold the camera securely so that you can access it with out taking your pack off.

I've tried chest harnesses, but they invariably get sweaty and bounce around too much. So far a bag like this is the only that works: http://www.campmor.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?productId=39159409&memberId=12500226

It's just an example. I'm not suggesting to buy this bag. But it's the style that I suggest -just fits what you need. If you want to change lenses, you can store the lens in a different place. Island Mama made me a lens case out of sil-nylon and neoprene that I attach on my shoulder strap so I can change lenses without taking my pack off. For me, it's the only way it could work -if I had it on my hip, then it would be too much weight with the SLR and other lens and it would become unweildy. At times I took the hip bag off and stored it in my pack (especially when the light was not good for photos). Other times I carried it in my hand and did bicep curls to keep my upper body looking like the lower.

See this picture: http://www.aldha.org/wcoast.htm

There you can see how I carried the other lens on my shoulder strap (the green bag that everyone asked me about).

This other picture from the AP shows my whole set-up: http://www.dailygamecock.com/media/storage/paper247/news/2004/09/29/News/Hikers.End.First.Known.Continuous.West.Coast.Trek-735192.shtml?norewrite200603301128&sourcedomain=www.dailygamecock.com

Let me know if I can help more:)

03-30-2006, 13:26
Thanks for your suggestions guys.....I am going to take a look at all of these options. I appreciate the time and responses. :)

Tha Wookie
04-09-2006, 19:35
Thanks for your suggestions guys.....I am going to take a look at all of these options. I appreciate the time and responses. :)

Please note, everyone, that I meant to say "Compact Disk neoprene filter case" above [edited 4/9] instead of "neoprene filter case".

Tim Seaver
04-10-2006, 11:41
You don't need anyone's permission to take a picture, but it is good to be respectful. Remember, you need to get permission if you are going to publish an image. So if it's a good one, get their conact info, and name always.

You don't necessarily need someone's permission to publish an photograph that has them in the image. Many factors are involved, from the end use of the image, to how recognizable the person is/isn't in the image.

Generally, if it's for any kind of advertising, you should get a model release, but if it's editorial use and the person appears "incidentally" in the image, you do not need their permission in most cases.

Doing a web search for "fair use" or "model releases" will bring up the kind of information you will need.

Here's a start at:http://www.danheller.com/model-release.html#5

Rain Man
12-23-2006, 21:12
I fixed the links.


SGT Rock,

Thanks for inserting the correct link. Any way to fix it in the 1st post in this thread, which just takes you straight back to the 1st post in this thread? The link from the Articles section of the home page does the same thing. Unless someone reads the thread to find your above post, they just get taken in circles. I'm not even sure that a Search for Photography will find the Article. Sorry to be adding to your To Do list!!!



06-12-2007, 16:44
Great info.

One other piece of advice for digital cameras, plan your shot before turning the camera on. Try to avoid browsing pictures on the camera itself and spending lots of time with various settings. That burns batteries fast. SD chips are so cheap now, and almost weightless that there's no reason you can't carry enough for your whole trip without having to erase a single picture.

11-25-2008, 19:49
I couldn't imagine loading up my tripod for my thru next year - then I came across this brilliant homemade (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1041948/1_image_stabilizer_for_any_camera_lose_the_tripod/)tripod idea. Basically, take a bolt that screws into your camera, attach it to a string, then use a large washer on the other end of a string that is your height. When you need the tripod, you stand on the washer at the end of the string to stabalize the camera and shoot.:sun

11-26-2008, 14:41
I couldn't imagine loading up my tripod for my thru next year - then I came across this brilliant homemade (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1041948/1_image_stabilizer_for_any_camera_lose_the_tripod/)tripod idea. Basically, take a bolt that screws into your camera, attach it to a string, then use a large washer on the other end of a string that is your height. When you need the tripod, you stand on the washer at the end of the string to stabalize the camera and shoot.:sun

AWESOME! I love it! I'll give it a try for Turkey Day ... I've been looking for a way to get more stability for Thanksgiving photos without the tripod or flash.

This section should be updated annually? Anyone volunteer? :-? I just got a 16GB card for my DSLR for $60 on Amazon. Something like 1500 RAW images @ 10 megapixels.

IS (images stabilization) lenses (or bodies now, too) and/or low f-stop lenses are another nice way to be able to shoot in lower-light situations without a flash or tripod. That combined with the string stabilizer should do a pretty nice job for everything up to 1/10 second exposures or so I would imagine. Maybe even more?

The 18-55mm f/3.5 IS lense that came with my new Canon XS is surprisingly good for the weight and cost.

I also have a 50mm Canon f/1.8 Mark I (metal) lense that is ridiculously light, small, and cheap and takes incredible shots. Now that I'm pretty much DSLR-only I'd like to get Canon's 28mm f/1.8 to offset the 1.6x focal length ... or a fullframe DSLR, but that isn't in the cards for this year. Or probably next. :rolleyes:

03-08-2009, 08:40
Under the topic of Tripods the nifty little gizmo at http://www.thestickpic.com/ has proven to be a lightweight and great option for those who like to do a "walkumentary." Cheap and light weight, just make sure you secure your strap and order the right one to fit your set of poles. Good video reviews on Youtube.

03-27-2009, 13:40
regards!, check that http://sourceradix.com/m/f27.html

03-27-2009, 22:24
Did anyone notice that "photography" is misspelled in the title of this article? If it's going to be all official and stuff, maybe that should be fixed... If for no other reason, so it will come up properly when people search for "photography."

10-11-2009, 11:36
Through all the discussion with cameras, film vs. digital, pixels, etc., I haven't seen any mention of using a camcorder on the trail. I was considering taking along a hard drive style HD videocam on a future AT hike, to make a video story. For example, Sony makes a 40 hour model that's less than 2 pounds. Even when I have to start the cam myself then walk into the picture, I can edit out those start-stop portions.
I would like to hear some thought on this.

Hot Shoe
10-11-2009, 12:24
Wookie, I got a new dSLR (Canon 20D) recently and will be doing a section hike and am curious about the best way to carry such a camera on the trail while having it readily available. I would think around the neck, but all the bouncing around can't be good for the camera or my chest. Any ideas?

You might try one of these, although you may have problems manipulating the strap with a pack straps over it.


Just out of curiosity, what lens will you be using on your section hike?

10-13-2009, 09:54
I carry my Nikon d-40 with extra lens ... I carry it in a hip bag with its own belt....very convienent. its a triangular bag that accepts the camera face down.. it padded and works great. I can get the camera out and a pic taken very quickly. Very comfortable.. Doesn t get in the way of the pack. It ran me about 60.00 .. I bought it at a photo shop so I probably paid a lil more.... Look online and find something. I love it.. e mail me if you want more info [email protected]

06-26-2011, 21:35
When in 1996, the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce members hiked from Nimblewill Church to the spot where the hike in trail was to be built to have a shovel dig ceremony, I carried a motorized Canon F-1 around my neck except when the sheeting rain hit us on the way up. Now that trek was only a mile or so but the camera part wasn't so bad. But as any news photog will tell you, f8 & be there is the way to get good shots. Now, 15 years later I'm finally starting to make plans for some section hiking and wouldn't think of carrying that piece of brass. But if I have a camera, it will be where I can almost instantly get off a shot. If it isn't instantly available, it might as well be left at home. My son's little Kodak with the wide leather strap made by an AP shooter will probably be what I carry.

02-27-2012, 00:58
I'm very much torn between taking my Powershot Elph (very light, full HD) and my Fujifilm Finepix 3D (not as light, 3D on the fly, shoddy 2D, eats through batteries.) I wonder, has anyone thru-hiked with a 3D camera? After viewing some of the 3D pics on nVidia's website, of various places around the world and some of their spectacular views, I am very tempted to take both. One for good, old fashioned 2D, and one for the breathtaking vistas. Weight in the pack though... what to do, what to do...

02-29-2012, 20:41
Sony has the Cyber Shot on sale for $139 now. Just got mine int he mail today. Full HD and has a panoramic 360 degree shot taker. It's pretty nice. The media card won't arrive until tomorrow so I can't fully mess with it yet. The features I have been able to play with are really impressive! AND it only weighs 4oz!

10-17-2013, 05:35
Thanks Chris. You have done great job!

10-17-2013, 08:55
ND filters: Wookie, Before I read your explanation, I knew all about ND filters, what they do, when to use them, etc. After reading your explanation I'm totally confused. No worries. I will continue to use my 3 stop ND filter with my Nikkor 50/1.4, Hexanon 35/2.0, Leitz 50/2.0 and Nikkor 85/2.0 on my M5. A polarizer is also a 1.5 stop ND filter. A polarizer is essential for streams, foliage, any time there are reflections and glare that rob your images of fine detail. Photoshop will NOT replace a polarizer.
Latest thought on backing up your images away from town: If you are carrying a phone (who doesn't on long trails?), put a 64 Gb micro-SD card in your phone and a 16 Gb Eye-Fi Pro X2 (my friends use smaller Pro cards that may no longer be available) card in your camera. Set the Eye-Fi card to Push on Demand. Once a day (lunch stop perhaps), Push your files from the camera to the phone. The Eye-Fi Pro cards are the only ones that will Push RAW files. RAW files are the only file format that should be used for digital photography.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Wondering if I should carry the Hasselblad 501 c/m or the Pentax 6x7 and a bushel of film backpacking.


10-17-2013, 12:38
Best camera clip I have found to date. I received this last week and took it on my first hike over the weekend. Worked flawlessly, camera does not slide around, move, shift, etc.


Make sure you get the pro-pad in addition to the clip.

10-17-2013, 14:41
Thanks for the fairly balanced discussion of film vs digital. I've hiked with a Contax G, Rollei 35, and other classic film rangefinders with excellent results.

I would add that for something that's done only once in a lifetime, there may be an advantage to having tangible tactile negatives and paper prints rather than just 0's and 1's on digital media that will be inaccessible after a few years, and may even disappear in an instant when a hard drive crashes.

max patch
10-17-2013, 14:57
When I first discovered trailplace years ago one of the hot topics of the time was what type of camera to take -- film or digital. That doesn't come up so often these days.

10-17-2013, 15:36
Thanks for the fairly balanced discussion of film vs digital. I've hiked with a Contax G, Rollei 35, and other classic film rangefinders with excellent results.

I would add that for something that's done only once in a lifetime, there may be an advantage to having tangible tactile negatives and paper prints rather than just 0's and 1's on digital media that will be inaccessible after a few years, and may even disappear in an instant when a hard drive crashes.

Cloud computing!

10-17-2013, 17:51
film vs digital should not be a debate; both are valid mediums. Like to walk or ride horses? Why, there are automobiles now! :cool:

Of course there are storage solutions, which regrettably change from year to year, and they are rarely used and have their own problems over the times span of decades.

Cloud computing!

I used both, although I've lost all digital photos older than 2008 due to hard drive crashes. I still have all the film negs of course.

It would be nice if media failure, product obsolescence, and format changes were not major problems over time, wouldn't it?
Think of all the time and effort going into taking images that simply evaporate so easily...

10-27-2013, 18:31
from Swain's camera (UK):

“There is”, he said, “a real danger that a family who don’t make prints or manage their electronic images will find themselves without any photo history. He compared this to the Domesday book, created on paper in 1086 and still readable today over 900 years later. Yet in 1986 a new Domesday book was created, at a cost of 2.5 million containing maps, pictures and video footage, It was stored on CD and is no longer readable.
“We need” said Williams “to shock people into realising that their heritage is not preserved electronically.

There's more on Print it or Lose it here: (http://www.pmai.org/home_pma.aspx)

09-24-2015, 08:50
I will define a long distance hike as being one in which you have the time to grow a respectable beard.Still reading thru this but the time it takes to grow a respectable beard for the ladies is hopefully longer than 6 months!!!:eek: