Dec 28, 2006 at 7:25 pm #1220972
There is something to be questioned about lightening one's camera gear for the sake of saving weight for UL hiking.
After thinking for a while, I believe there exists an invisible line between those who want a camera with them for snapshot purposes and those who want to take advantage of UL hiking so they can get good pictures.
I am a photographer and make the majority of my income through my photography. I could care less about the money because photography is my life passion. For me, UL hiking is an opportunity to take some amazing photos that I will cherish and that might inspire others. My love for photography, travel, and the outdoors were all sparked by the magnificent photos in National Geographic magazine. The NG photographers lugged tons of gear and risked their lives daily to get those pictures, but the end result is undeniably awe-inspiring.
Personally, I cannot justify lightening my load of camera gear. The gear I plan to hike with weighs in at about 12 lbs. To an ultralight hiker, 12lbs is probably jaw-dropping. One of my main reasons for hiking is to take good photographs of what I see. I have done many a day hike and a few overnighters with gear weighing more than 12lbs, but I was very glad to have that spare battery and that 4lb ultra-wide lens.
The difference between photography and backpacking, with the exception of tripods, is the higher the quality of the gear, the more it weighs. However, I am willing to lug extra weight for my photos- they matter that much to me. I'd much rather nurse a few extra blisters than regret my entire trip because I came photographically unprepared.Dec 28, 2006 at 8:11 pm #1372295
@mckittreLocale: Seldovia, Alaska
I think you answered your own question.
It depends on whether you want the camera mostly to preserve memories (even the lightest camera can do this), or if you want the photos for their own sake, or for other uses.
Even in the second case, there's a tipping point. If heavy camera gear prevents you from getting where you'd like to get and doing what you'd like to do, then you can't take any pictures of it.
My camera gear seems to keep getting heavier and heavier (7 pounds or so now, I think, luckily split between two people). I think it's probably worth it, but am certainly considering possible ways to lighten it as I contemplate the total weight of camera + all my other gear + two weeks of food + packraft, etc..Dec 28, 2006 at 10:09 pm #1372297
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
Thanks for your post. If your publisher requires you to shoot with a heavy digital SLR kit, then that's a burden you'll need to carry. The good news is that cutting back on other gear weight can still extend your range, allowing you greater opportunities to find that perfect shot.
If, however, you have the flexibility to break from the DSLR, then you can indeed achieve superior quality at perhaps a third or even a quarter of the weight. And that's a path worth exploring!Dec 29, 2006 at 5:55 am #1372304
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I can certainly appreciate your perspective, but I have also noted several pro photographers who have done amazing things with fairly compact and light weight kits. Galen Rowell first comes to mind. While Galen did carry a fairly complete kit at times, he created a number of wonderful images when he was carrying a fairly compact kit which consisted of just a FM-10 with a couple of lens, and some filters which I believe added up to around 4lbs. There have been a number of landscape photographers which have used light weight leica kits. Of course, if you are going for big game (or worse, birds) then you are stuck with big / heavy lens.Dec 29, 2006 at 6:18 am #1372307
@christownsendLocale: Cairngorms National Park
I don't think you need very heavy camera gear to get good publishable results. I've had thousands of photographs published over the years in books and magazines, all taken with lightweight gear. Currently I use a Canon 350D DSLR with 18-55 lens (28oz) and a lightweight Cullman tripod (22oz) or Gorillapod SLR (5.5 oz). If I carry other lenses they are a Canon 80-200 lens (9.5oz) and a Tamron 11-18 lens (12.5oz). My back-up camera is a Ricoh GR-D (7oz). With filters, memory cards, spare batteries and cases the most I ever carry is 7lbs and it's mostly around 5lbs.Dec 29, 2006 at 2:02 pm #1372341
>I believe there exists an invisible line between those who want a camera with them for snapshot purposes and those who want to take advantage of UL hiking so they can get good pictures.
Absolutely. I carry a 5.1 oz Pentax Optio WP camera so I can take pictures of my drenched buddies with a clouded-in Mt. Rainier in the background, my nephews dwarfed by a monster tree in the Olympics, a sheer mountainside with waterfalls between squalls in Hawaii, or my shadow on snow when going solo in the Wyoming backcountry. Just little lightweight low-res photos that trigger high-quality memories. But I appreciate the work of people with the skill and dedication to get good results from their heavy camera gear. I'm looking forward to putting Ross Hamilton's Olympic Peninsula 2007 calendar on my wall in a few days.Dec 29, 2006 at 3:01 pm #1372345
While reading this thread I just can't seem to purge my mind of images of Ansel Adams lugging an 8×10 view camera to high points in the Sierra Nevada.Dec 29, 2006 at 8:59 pm #1372391
I like that someone else piqued on the image of Ansel Adams' efforts.
I also really like the sentence: "Just little lightweight low-res photos that trigger high-quality memories." That is poetry.
On the note of Ansel Adams, we owe a debt of gratitude to Adams for all that he has done for us today. Yes, he took stunning photographs of the American wilderness, but he is also directly responsible for the preservation of that wilderness to this day. Adams' photos were so stunning that they sparked the creation of the first National Park and allowed John Muir to create and keep the Sierra Club alive. Muir and Adams were very close friends, in fact.
This is one of the main reasons for my photography: to inspire others. When many people imagine the great places of the Earth, they bring forth in their mind images of photographs they have seen. I can use my photography to inspire others to get outdoors and see the sights and feel the heights. Without visitors, the National Parks would not exist.
When out in the field in chilly temperatures, with a headache, and growls in my stomach, I imagine the drive that Ansel Adams had. I don't give up a sunrise for extra sleep because I, as a photographer and environmentalist and a hiker, have an obligation to myself, Adams, and those that see my photographs to present a view of the most magnificent places on earth.Dec 30, 2006 at 3:40 am #1372406
Yellowstone was an NP b4 Adams' birth and Adams was a pre-teen at the time of Muir's death. I suspect you were thinking of William Henry Jackson.
As awed as I am with the effort Adams put into his work, Jackson's was even more impressive.
They both contributed heavily to the two great treasures you've mentioned.Mar 5, 2007 at 9:52 pm #1381219
Here is a different point of view.
About 30 years ago I met Mr Maitani the chief designer/engineer at Olympus , the M in OM. He was a climber as well as a keen photographer. After having designed the Pen system, 35mm half frame interchangeable system, he decided that the standard size SLR were too big and heavy and produced the OM1. With that and 3 lenses he climbed and took some great shots , all for less than six pounds.
FrancoMar 8, 2007 at 2:35 pm #1381635
I wish some manufacturer would make a half-size digital slr, or a "half-compact" digicam with exchangable lens. I guess it is a question of agreeing on a standard, which is perhaps not so in these days :)
I think digital compacts are amazingly good, though, for their size.Mar 8, 2007 at 6:25 pm #1381661
Olympus are getting there with the E 410, about 20oz inc lens/battery/cardMar 8, 2007 at 6:52 pm #1381665
@jbairdLocale: Deleware Watergap A_T
I just took a look at your .com, ….loved your photosMar 9, 2007 at 3:41 pm #1381790
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
I'm with you on this. I'd love to see a four-thirds digital interchangeable rangefinder, possibly Leica CL-sized using Contax G design concepts and downsized lenses.
An alternative would be interchangable leaf-shutter lenses, eliminating the focal plane shutter. One could advance the Ricoh GR1 or more on-point, the forthcoming Sigma DP1 as an interchangeable lens platform.
Clearly this is a niche market, but when the gusher of disposable digicams finally slows down there should be more opportunity for high-quality submarkets to be developed. But the brutal digital camera depreciation has to slow down some.Mar 9, 2007 at 8:37 pm #1381812
@mckittreLocale: Seldovia, Alaska
Prepping now for a major expedition starting off in June: Seattle to the Aleutian Islands (4000 miles, 9 months). Journey on the Wild Coast: http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/WildCoast.php. This will take me through some really amazing country, and I hope to have some photos to match. Will put those all on the web as well…Mar 15, 2007 at 12:31 pm #1382431
I am also a professional photographer and regularly go on backpacking trips for the sake of capturing magnificent photos. And while I agree with your logic (Why sacrifice weight for quality photogrpahy, if photography is the goal?), I do question your equipment selection.
For example, I have two pro backpacking camera rigs. My "heavy" rig is a Canon 5D, 25-105L lens, and a SLIK Sprint Pro tripod, for a total weight of 5.3 pounds. My lightweight setup is a Pentax K10D, 21mm and 43mm (or 70mm) Limited primes, and the SLIK Sprint Pro tripod for a total of 4 pounds. Some might argue that the tripod isn't up to pro standards. But, I have a technique where I hang a weighted pack from the center column of the tripod, increasing its stability exponentially, far exceeeding the stability of the heaviest standalone tripod.
So, a complete high quality camera rig can be had from 4 to 5 pounds. I don't see a need to carry 12 pounds of camera gear into the backcountry, unless you're including some serious telephoto lens for wildlife photography.
http://www.imagineimagery.comMar 15, 2007 at 4:09 pm #1382451
@naturephoto1Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
I too am a Professional Photographer. But, you have not seen backpacking with a 4 X 5 camera. My modified Toho 4 X 5 weighs in at 2lbs 12 oz. I can have as much as 20 to 25lbs or so of photo gear including my Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod, lenses, Kodak Readyload film holder, Fuji Quickload film, spot meter, filters, loupe, dark cloth….
Unfortunately I am not a lightweight backpacker with all of this gear, but I do use lightweight and UL backpacking equipment to try to keep my pack weight (5.5lb McHale custom Panel Loading Pack) at least reasonable.
RichMar 29, 2007 at 1:58 pm #1384059
My UL habits are meant to allow me to haul my camera while still maintaining lightweight total weights.
MY normal setups + weights (inlcuding accessories like extra batteries, polarizers, lens hoods, cleaning cloths, memory cards)
17-55mm 2.8 IS
70-200mm 2.8 L
2X EX TC
(3.5kg + tripod) (usaully only if I plan to have skiers or wildlife/birds as subjects)
My NORMAL carry:
17-55mm 2.8 IS
105mm 2.8 Macro
(~2.7kg + tripod)
Lightweight: 20D + 17-55mm 2.8 IS (~1.5kg)
UL: Canon A610, minitripod (~300g)
If was doing no action shooting, the ultimate lightweight setup would be:
24-105mm 4 L IS
(1610g + accessories + tripod)
That kit would be about $4KMar 29, 2007 at 4:13 pm #1384075
Similar to Summit I take UL gear to let me take my camera equipment (strictly amateur) with me.
11.9 – camera – Panasonic FZ3
13.0 – wide angle – Kodak Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 0.7x
5.5 – macro – Olympus B-Macro
30.0 – tripod – Slik Sprint Pro w/o extension
4.0 – batteries (firstname.lastname@example.org)
0.5 – memory (2@.25)
0.4 – cleaning cloth
1.7 – filter – polarizer
1.0 – shock cord from tripod to backpack to stabilize
This gives me macro (+2.5 diopter) and a range from 24mm to 420mm, f2.8-f8.0. Adding my Olympus TCON 17 (11oz) takes the setup out to 670mm and brings the total weight to just under 5lb.Jun 21, 2008 at 8:31 am #1439415
@karipostLocale: New Hampshire
Don't feel bad. I'm a serious photographer too, and my calculated camera gear makes up half my pack weight. I do plan on getting a better backpacking setup, but my gear weighs in at around 13-15lbs or so now, so I completely get where you are coming from. This is my current gear…
Canon 1D Mark II N (the heaviest DSLR ever made)
17-40mm f/4L USM
70-200mm f/4L IS USM
25mm extension tube
Gitzo GT3530S 6x Carbon Fiber Tripod
RRS BH-55 LR Ballhead
Extra NP-E3 Battery
I plan on eventually lightening my load by buying a 5D, RRS BH-40 ballhead and lighter carbon fiber tripod for backpacking. I think I should be able to reduce about 4lbs that way. Right now, I have the heavier camera and support setup because I also photograph birds and wildlife using a 300mm f/2.8 and I don't yet have the money for two setups.
Check out my website http://www.karipost.com if you please!Jun 21, 2008 at 10:08 pm #1439484
Good news for you Kari. Nikon and Sony will announce their FF model at Photokina , this September, so I can see Canon also coming out with a new version or at least dropping the price of the 5D, possibly both.
FrancoJun 22, 2008 at 12:24 pm #1439537
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I agree there are two arenas" you either want "shots of record" — snapshots that are a visual record of your trip, or more artistic/commercial quality photographs for publication or sale as artwork.
Having ultralight gear makes life a lot easier for the pro outdoor photographer. In the "old days" you might be hauling something like a Canon F1 with an all-metal body and lenses to match, along with a hefty tripod, film, strobe, etc. I've hauled a 4×5 up a few hills too. And then there was your regular camping gear on top of the load of cameras. I miss those days like a sore tooth.
We're getting some nice compact digital cameras that are close to bridging the divide between point and shoots and high quality SLR's. The waterproof Pentax Optio and Olympus SW series cameras have higher resolution than the best of the digital SLR's offered a few years ago. The waterproof features also take care of the issues with dust getting into your megabucks SLR too.
These issues have been around since George Eastman built the roll film snapshot cameras for people to take snapshots vs the heavy and complicated view cameras. When I went to photography school in the late 1970's, our aged instructors bad-mouthed the 35mm SLR as an amateur format camera. We rolled our eyes.
On the art side, there is that school that uses the simplest type of equipment for a deliberately primitive image, like the Diana and pinhole cameras. The real lesson from these artists is that what you point the camera at is more important than the resolution and sharpness of the image. There are decades of essays and books on these issues. Put the lowest resolution digital camera in the hands of one of these artists and they will find a way to use the limitations of the format to bring back images that provoke and have their own beauty.
Another thing to remember is that images for the computer are limited by our monitors, which are far below the needs for printed images. A 5mp camera will produce images that will still need to be reduced for on-line publication.
What is the real difference between an amateur snapshot and a pro image? The nut behind the viewfinder.
Snapshots are done quickly, at the moment, in process to the actions of the day– a sleepy tent mate, cooking breakfast, a quick grab shot of a viewpoint during a rest stop. A pro will produce snapshots that aren't much different than anyone else, but I would *expect* a higher proportion of well framed, exposed and focused images.
What is different about a pro's best work? Time spent chasing the image. Getting to just the right spot, waiting for the right light, choosing the lens focal length to get the compression and perspective that best interprets the scene. Control over exposure, contrast and plane of focus is also used to aid interpretation of the scene. And the camera will be on a tripod to eliminate motion blur and deliver the best quality image possible.
A pro uses expensive (and heavy) equipment not for its own sake, but to insure that the investment made to get the photographer to the scene produces the best possible images.
In photography school we came to ask this question to illuminate the difference between the photographer and the equipment: would you rather own an image made by Ansel Adams with a pinhole camera, or a rank amateur with the most expensive view camera? Short discussion there.
My best 35mm portraits were made with a old manual Pentax screw mount 35mm camera that cost me $50. It was the setting, the light, the subject, the framing, the exposure, contrast, and my (hopefully) skillful use of the camera. Those were local shots and not made under contract or with a deadline. Had I been sent halfway around the world to take a portrait of some VIP, I would have been duty bound to take good gear just to insure I came back with the goods. Your professional reputation is on the line.
For photojournalists working in extreme conditions, durability is every bit as much the issue as quality of image. If you're dodging bullets or working in sand, dust, water, or extremes of temperature, you need some darn tough gear.
My personal finding is that I take a lot more photos when the gear is with me and easy to use. I reach in my pocket, pull out a tiny camera, flip a switch, zoom and frame and punch the button. I don't need to take my pack off, unwrap an SLR from its protective container of choise, remove the lens cap, worry about the rain/mud/dust, feel obligated to get out the tripod, etc, etc, etc.
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