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  1. #1

    Default Photographers on the trail?

    I am a photographer who is planning an upcoming thru hike. I was just wondering how other photographers went about carrying their camera/lenses/tripod while on the trail. I was also wondering if you kept the camera in your backpack at all times, because it seems a little annoying to constantly have to put down and pick up my 40 pound pack every time I want to shoot.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    While I don't consider myself a "photographer" in the professional sense, I do like to take photos as opposed to snapshots. Long distance hiking and serious photography, unfortunately, are somewhat mutually exclusive for most, always a compromise.

    I often carry a compact dSLR, Nikon D5100 with just one or two lenses. A CP filter and an ultralight folding tripod (tabletop) completes my photo equipment for long distance hiking. When I needed a lighter, more compact kit, I've carried a Ricoh GR. Great little camera with a wide angle fixed lens and a large sensor. Have been happy with that as well.

    The Ricoh is carried in the hip belt pocket of my pack, so it is always close at hand. The SLR is carried in a Lowepro top loader, attached to my shoulder straps with carabiners. This works quite well. Extra lens is packed in top of pack.

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    Registered User 2Ply's Avatar
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    Take a look at the ribz front pack. Works great for keeping lenses and other gear at easy reach.

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    Carry a point and shoot camera within easy reach to capture snapshots and spotaneous events. Keep the DSLR in your pack. You'll do more hiking than shooting.

  5. #5

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    If I were determined to carry a DSLR, I would have those 4-way elastic straps for binoculars. I would rather carry a small digital camera shooting RAW and use post-processing software. I would rather purchase SSD cards and small LiIon camera batteries and recharger, than pack a DSLR.

    If any camera, provide for protection from water.

    A small digital camera has the advantage of shooting video, if a Class 10 (Class 6 minimum) SSD card and it will mount on a SticPic on your hiking poles. I think HD video requires a Class 10 SSD card.

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    I have been using a Pentax compact optima 60 and a stick pick with great results. I had a pocket made by Chris Zimmerman that goes on my chest strap, is water proof with a double pull zipper so is it right where I need it always. I have been kicking around a fx camera with a 10 or12mm wide angle for this year but wide angles lens are expensive. Best of luck.

  7. #7

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    I always carry a good camera on a thru-hike despite the extra weight. The resulting pictures are always worth it. One of the reasons I got into ultralight backpacking was so that I don't mind carrying the extra weight of my camera equipment. I often have a lighter base weight (9.5 to 10.5 lbs) with the camera gear then most hikers who just use their cell phone's camera. So where is the downside?

    However, a camera in the pack is one seldom used. You often come upon a situation where you need to have immediate access to the camera or you'll miss the shot. A thru-hike is often about making miles, so you don't have a lot of spare time during the day to spend doing other things. So if you can't take a photo in a minute or two, you often won't be motivated to take the shot. This doesn't mean you won't have some time for photography. I just find that I'm only willing to spend any time on it around sunrise and sunset. I do take a lot of photos during the rest day, I just don't spend much time on the shots and use whatever lens is already on the camera. So the camera has to be carried in an accessible manner.

    I always find a case or something that will work as one that I can mount to my hipbelt or shoulder straps; I prefer to mount to the shoulder straps. This way I can grab the camera in an instant. Any extra lenses do get put in the pack as they won't be used much during the day. I normally keep a small zoom lens (that favor's wide angle) on the camera and carry one other lens in the pack that I may break out if I decide the shot needs it and I'm willing to take the time to bother. For a case, I currently am using a SeaToSummit Padded Soft Cell bag (2.2oz) rigged to my shoulder strap as a camera case. It also could be mounted on the hipbelt as it has 2 straps on the backside. I keep a gallon size ziplock in case of drenching rain to give the camera added water protection when needed.

    An alternative for DSLRs that can be almost as good are some of the mirrorless camera systems. They are essentially a smaller (and lighter) DSLR without an optic viewfinder (and hence no need for a mirror and thus can be smaller) and also use exchangeable lenses. So you can pick whatever lens size you want for your trip. Some, like Sony's mirrorless cameras, use the same APS-C sensors that the cheaper DSLRs use. The popular Micro 4/3 Cameras by Panasonic and Olympus can also take some excellent photos though the sensor size is smaller (crop 2x).
    Last edited by Miner; 12-28-2014 at 15:22.

  8. #8

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    I'm convinced that taking a really good picture is more about being in the right place at the right time and how to compose the shot then how good a camera you have is. Although having a good camera no doubt helps.

    There will be times you'll want to stop and break out the high end camera gear but for the most part having an easy access Point and Shoot shirt pocket camera will be good enough. You'll take a lot more pictures that way.

    Last year on a section hike of Virginia I decided to forgo a real camera and just use the one in my Tablet as I knew there wasn't going to be a whole lot of things I wanted to photograph in Virginia. Because of the size of the tablet I carried it in a pocket on the back of the pack so I had to drop the pack to get it out, then turn it on and wait for it to boot. This inconvenience really cut down on the number of photos I took. But being able to do "selfies" was fun.

    So, carry the high end gear if you like, but have a decent P+S camera on your shoulder strap or waist belt.
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  9. #9
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    I shoot for a living, so the last thing I want to do while hiking is carry a big camera I carry a high quality compact that shoots raw files.

    The folks who have successfully carried big cameras had some sort of front pack. Take a look at these, for example. He had (iirc) a 5D Mark II and the 35/1.4 and a tripod. The camera was carried in a front pack for easy access.

    You can make time for photography even on a long distance hike. But you'll need to make the time there's a lot to do, especially the hiking part. I always come back from hikes wishing I had shot more portraits of the people I met on the trail.

    If I wanted to be more serious about photos on the trail, I'd look at one of the high end large sensor compacts like the Panasonic LX100. Or just bring one of my Fujis with a single fast lens.
    Ken B
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    Our Long Trail journal

  10. #10
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    I'm mostly into wildlife photography, so I wouldn't even consider hauling along my 1DX & 800mm lens when backpacking. When we go for backpacking trips here in the Cdn Rockies, I bring along a simple P&S from Canon (S90 right now). For our AT thruhike in 2015, we decided to buy a smartphone with a decent camera and just use that - eliminate the excess weight of a separate P&S (b/c we would have some type of cell phone anyway). I admire the tenacity of anyone who would carry a DSLR for an entire thruhike!

    If I was into serious landscape or people photography for the AT, I'd probably go the Panasonic LX100 route - that Bigcranky suggested above. For landscapes & people, I'm content with something that blows up the odd photo up to 8x10 max, so I'm fine with just the smartphone. I might be tempted to pick up a solid P&S when we get to Maine, so I would have it for the last few days when the photos become much more meaningful personally - that extra weight for the last several days would be worth it for the boost in image quality for that last day on Katahdin.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by ColleenGoldhorn View Post
    I am a photographer who is planning an upcoming thru hike. I was just wondering how other photographers went about carrying their camera/lenses/tripod while on the trail. I was also wondering if you kept the camera in your backpack at all times, because it seems a little annoying to constantly have to put down and pick up my 40 pound pack every time I want to shoot.

    Thanks in advance!
    I have tried a lot of different approaches, but have settled on carrying my SLR in front. It took some trial and error, but I have found rigging that works for me. My camera case is attached to the straps of my backpack so that the weight of the camera is on my straps, not on my neck. The straps on the camera case are off center, so he camera case rests against my chest. It does not swing back and forth. The strap on my camera is loose enough that when the camera is in the case, the strap is loose. The lid on the camera case closes with Velcro, so that I can open it quickly.

    I use only an 18-200 Nikon VR Lens, so I don't change lenses when I am hiking.
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  12. #12

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    I got one of these so I could bring a real camera while hiking:
    https://peakdesign.com/store/?c=clips
    It keeps the camera perfectly still (no bouncing around). You press a button to free it for use; slide it back in after.
    The latter steps do take some getting used to (especially putting it back). But it can make a world of difference when the camera's that accessible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lkmi View Post
    I got one of these so I could bring a real camera while hiking:
    https://peakdesign.com/store/?c=clips
    It keeps the camera perfectly still (no bouncing around). You press a button to free it for use; slide it back in after.
    The latter steps do take some getting used to (especially putting it back). But it can make a world of difference when the camera's that accessible.
    Well, that's interesting indeed.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  14. #14

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    Which peakdesign clip do you use?
    Last edited by Connie; 12-29-2014 at 10:15.

  15. #15

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    For what its worth, I carry a DSLR in a fanny pack that I secure to my back back. I rotate the fanny pack around so I can reach it easily by hand and not have to take the pack off to get a photo. The nice thing about the fanny pack I use is its deep and provides a "pocket" the camera can sit in with the top open and the camera is easily accessible. In bad weather the pack rain cover allows the fanny pack to be tucked into it.

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    If you haven't already, you might watch "Mile, Mile and a Half." It's the JMT but a small group of photographers and videographers hiked it over 25 days and made the movie. Could be some good ideas for you/your gear.


    "Your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.
    "


  17. #17
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    I am still waiting for an ideal Trail Camera. Given the kind of conditions you face on the AT I would want a ruggedized, waterproof, lightweight camera. I know this puts me in the 'point and shoot' crowd, but I have been using a Panasonic Lumix DSC-TS3 for my trail camera. I have not been that happy with the quality of the photographs and may give an Olympus TG-3 a try next.

    If they ever come out with a rugged, waterproof mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera, I will be all over that.

    @Shutterbug: I love my Nikon 18-200 VR lens, but I only haul that beast on short day hikes. Even then I find it a pain. The lens keeps extending by itself as I walk and clunks into things. I know, I need to figure out how to strap a camera case to my front pack straps.

  18. #18

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    Peakdesign backpack clip is for that camera.

    Fuji X100? Mirrorless. Interchangeable lenses. See photos online made with this camera.

    I have the Fujifilm Finepix F550EXR w/GPS 24mm wide 15X optical zoom.

    Look at dpreview. Download, read the full Manual.

  19. #19

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    I lugged a nikon w the 18-200 lens all over for years. I made the move to a mirrorless setup and I couldn't be happier. Better quality than my aging nikon at a quarter of the weight. I went with the sony a6000 and I am very happy with it.

  20. #20
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Connie View Post
    Fuji X100? Mirrorless. Interchangeable lenses. See photos online made with this camera.
    The X100 series is terrific, but has a fixed 23mm f/2 lens (35mm full frame equivalent, so a moderate wide angle in practice.) Fuji does make a couple of conversion lenses for it, possibly more of a pain than they are worth though.

    But the X100s or new X100t would be an excellent choice for a serious photographer who likes that focal length.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

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