Photography in the wild – Outdoor tech tips.
Photography is one of my favorite things to do, my grandfather was a photographer and my uncle is a photographer so you could say it’s in my blood. I enjoy outdoor and adventure photography the best, and find it fun to use the elements around me to get creative artsy shots of anything interesting or beautiful that presents itself before me. For me having my camera handy at all times is best way to capture anything that might happen at a moments notice in the outdoors. But doing this sort of photography has it’s limitations. There are just some places you can’t carry a heavy tripod, or even a lightweight one would be useless if the wind picks up. And backpacking with numerous of lenses can really add unnecessary weight.
Here are a few tips and ticks I use to keep my gear light weight, waterproof, charged up, and steady while on an adventure.
1. When you can’t take a tripod along
It would be just silly to carry a tripod backpacking or rock climbing. Although they do sell trekking poles with camera mounts now and even make a pretty cool lightweight and air travel friendly monopod www.trek-tech.com going that route I could see it blowing over on an uneven surface with a heavy DSLR mounted to it. They even make pretty cool flexible tripods that would be awesome for getting creative shots called a Gorillapod. But the one that would support a heavy DSLR would be to heavy to carry on a long trek. So when traveling light I like to use my secret weapon. A small microbead travel pillow about 8.5×11″ in size.Not only is it great to use for napping on the plane, but its extremely light weight, you can wash the outer case it’s in and I got mine at target for around $14. Dual purpose products are the way to go when packing light. I would put the pillow on a rock or in between tree branches and because of it’s bean bag like filling you can position your camera on top of it and it holds it steady so you can capture that perfect shot. I was able to get awesome night photos but what would have been even better was if I had gotten the remote Giga T Pro wireless timer before I left for this trip, so I could film time lapses and take night shots without physically hitting the trigger. But when traveling light it wasn’t a priority at the time, still wish I would have had it though. Also to keep light I only brought with me 2 lenses. A Canon 18-200 for Safari and getting shots where I needed to zoom in. And a Sigma 10-20 for the wide angle shots. Lenses can be very heavy! So pack only what you think is necessary for your adventure. My camera of choice is the Canon 60D for my adventures, although the 5D and 7D have weather sealing I purchased it due to it being lighter weight wise, it’s slightly smaller and for it’s swivel out display.
2. Backpacks & Straps
When it came time to get a new backpack I spent a lot of time researching one that was right for me and my photo needs. ClikElite makes some awesome backpacks and gear but I wasn’t sure about the fit being only 5’1″ and without a store to try them on first I went to good old REI and found a womens Deuter backpack similar to this one that fit me perfectly and it also had a separate section in the back I could put my photo gear separate yet still easily accessible from my other gear. And comes with a rain cover which is nice. But I knew that I wanted my camera accessible at all times, so carrying it on my chest was my best bet. Now don’t get me wrong there are times when strapping it to the front of your backpack would be unwise when your rock scrambling etc, and for times like that I keep a smaller camera like a Canon G10 handy if I still want/can to take a shot. But as for strapping on my DSLR I use Kata camera straps and “S” climbing hooks to strap it to the front shoulders of my backpack straps. The “S” hooks are great as I can easily unclip the camera and leave the “S” hooks in place. Like other heavily trafficked trails, the trails on Kilimanjaro kick up a LOT of very fine dust. Even just moving your arms swirls dust around so keeping your camera clean is tough. Unless you keep it in a pouch strapped to your chest on in your backpack it WILL get covered in a fine dust. But if kept in a pouch it may be harder to get your camera out and ready at a moments notice, and carrying the pouch adds weight. To stay light and have my camera ready in an instant I used a Buff and put my camera inside of it so the straps came out each end of the Buff and could still be attached to my backpack. It really helped with cutting down the dust factor and still kept my camera easily accessible.
3. Go Solar
Making sure your batteries are charged and ready is key. And if your trekking to far off places for long periods of time or in countries with who knows what kind of electrical outlets, going solar is the way to go. For charging DSLR batteries I use the Nomad 7 Solar panel by GoalZero. It has a port for a USB and an adapter for a 12V DC charger. So you can charge anything with a USB and anything that will hook up to a car charger. I got this adapter by Pearstone so could charge my LP-E6 battery with it. I took 2 LP-E6 batteries with me for my 2 week trip in Africa and always made sure at least one was charged. And I avoided reviewing my photos/video to save battery life. I strapped the solar panel to the back of my backpack so I could charge my iTouch (which was needed by the Spot Connect) while I hiked. And strapped solar panel to the tent when I needed to charge the camera batteries. At night I would take all the batteries out of my cameras and put them in my sleeping bag along with anything else techy and used my body heat to keep them warm in the cold night temps. (cold will kill your batteries) To avoid my lens/camera getting foggy due to hot/cold temp changes I kept it in my backpack at night in it’s LowePro case with packets of silica gells, like the ones you find in a new shoe boxes.
4. Memory & Waterproofing
Knowing me I take thousands of photos and out of those there may only be 100 or so that I actually think are ok :). So having sufficient memory for my camera is key. And I only trust my files to ExtremePro memory cards, they are more expensive but they are waterproof, shockproof, x-ray proof, they are great for recording video with HDSLR’s and I’ve never had an issue with lost data on them. For my Kilimanjaro trip and Safari after I took three 16GB cards with me, and only ended up maxing out 2 cards with video and photos. I also brought a waterproof case to store the cards in after they were full. A Flip mino HD camera for times when you want to film discreetly and a smaller Canon G10 for around town.