5 Hiking Tips for Photographers

Share

Photography and hiking have gone together for years and years. Whether you’re planning a day hike with friends or a 7-day solo trek, here are 5 tips to carry you through your journey. May your photos be second only to your adventures!

1. Know your goals. Planning is everything. Sometimes you have to start at the end to find the beginning. Whether you want fun snapshots with friends at Grand Canyon or fine art prints from Yellowstone, it’s important to make a list of honest, achievable goals and put together a plan to make them a reality.

Research the area you’ll be hiking. Collect updated maps, info, and news on the trails. Get Google-ing! There are thousands of websites dedicated to hiking. If you’re traveling to one of the amazing US National Parks, check out www.nps.gov for info, pics, and all sorts of other goodies.     

2. Take the camera that you’re willing to carry. Sure, the new Leica S2 packs enough resolve and megapixels for brilliant gallery-size landscapes. Carrying the weighty body and a case of lenses could be the start of your Ansel Adams career. Of course, you have to be willing to carry it.

If you’re an SLR shooter, consider limiting your lenses to the essentials. If you know it’s gonna be a scenic wide angle trek, the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 might be the only thing you need for your D700. Bird photography will require something longer. Tamron makes a great 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax cameras.

Every hike is different. Carrying all your gear can do more harm than good. Sometimes it’s better to leave the SLR at home. A tough little point and shoot like the highly durable and surprisingly light Canon D10 might be all you need. The camera is freezeproof, waterproof, and shockproof. Use a carabineer to clip it to your belt or backpack for spontaneous shooting wherever you go.


3. Check your gear before leaving the house. Make sure that your camera, lenses, and other equipment are in proper working order. Don’t leave the essentials behind! It’s easy to forget a battery left on a charger or a memory card left in a card reader. 

4. Dress / pack appropriately. Hiking ain’t a fashion show. It’s important that you chose clothing that’s comfortable and functional. This is the first line of defense between your body, your camera equipment, and the elements.

In the cold months or in places that have rapid shifts in weather, it’s best to dress in layers. A breathable moisture wicking shirt is a good thing to start with. Stack your clothing logically and always make sure to bring an extra pair of socks. Dressing in multiple thin layers is far more comfortable than wearing a heavy coat. For the outer layer, consider a rainproof shield like the Gitzo Four Season Jacket. Oversized pockets and padded storage on the exterior can handle a multitude of photo gear and accessories.

Trekking in hot climates or at high altitudes? Many hikers forget to cover up with long sleeves, a proper hat that shades your ears and neck, and sunglasses. The sun can be brutal. Prepare for it.

When it comes to carrying camera equipment, the question becomes vest or bag? There’s no right or wrong answer here. B&H carries a full lineup of photo vests from Domke and Humvee by Camp Co. If you’re carrying a lot of gear, a larger backpack like the National Geographic NG-5737 Earth Explorer might be the better play. Equipped with multiple compartments for photo and personal gear, this is a comfortable way to carry everything you need.  

5. Consider support options. A tripod is essential to many landscape and nature photographers. Sometimes the difference between a run-of-the-mill and exquisite sunrise photo is determined by a camera support. Lightweight options such as the Benro C-169M8 and the Gitzo Ocean support a good amount of weight and pack down extremely small.

If you’re at a quandary between carrying a camera support or a hiking stick, the Novoflex Hiking Stick might be just what you need. Weighing only 9.8 ounces and strong enough to carry a fully loaded DSLR, this is the perfect double duty walking stick / monopod.

Another popular option is the Joby Gorillapod. Available in different sizes for point and shoots and DSLR cameras, the Gorillapod uses bendable, gripper legs to attach to tree branches, fence posts, and just about anything else you can image.

This list is far from exhaustive -- it’s just a place to get started. Got a photo / hiking tip? Share it with us below!

David Flores is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York City.

Add new comment

Though I've lived in NY for awhile now, I'm originally from NC.  The state has some amazing parks and trails that are great for hiking and getting some cool shots of nature and wildlife.

I particularly like the site www.trailsofnc.com since it provides sort of a one-stop shop for various parks in the state.

Full Disclosure - The Trails of NC site is run by my brother and his wife, but I have no direct involvement with the site and gain nothing by passing along the link.

I'm not familiar with Novaflex, but I'm very familiar with Leki.  They make a single hiking pole (similar to the one referenced in this article) that has a monopod mount under the removable knob. At minimum, you'll want something like the Manfrotto 234RC Swivel/Tilt Head, you can use their (heavy) quick release or replace that with an Arca-Swiss quick release mount if that's what you are using with the rest of your tripod gear.  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/554098-REG/Manfrotto_234RC_234RC_S...

If you want to go high end with an extremely lightweight carbon fiber tripod and pano ball head for panoramic shots, you can't go wrong with the Gitzo GT-1541T Traveler tripod (folds down to approx. 16") and the Markins Q3T pano ball head custom designed to fold down with the 1 series Traveler tripods.  http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/548364-REG/Gitzo_GT1541T_GT_1541T_... and http://www.markinsamerica.com/MA5/Q3T.php?req=Q3TLK but they'll set you back a cool grand and it won't hold any monster lenses (though I doubt anyone would want to pack a 300mm f/2.8 two days into the wilderness anyway).  Depends on what your budget is and what your priorities are.

Sorry, I've never bulldozed any North Carolina hiking trails, so I can't speak to that...  ;-)

Take everything.

If you are going on a hike to take pictures, take everything. Zoom lenses, macro lens or extension tubeset....flash, off camera shoe cord. Extra memory cards. Carbon fiber tripod. Graduated ND filters. Yeah, even that crazy Lens Baby. 

If you take everything, you'll be in better shape from shlepping, or at worst you'll suffer a little for your art. If you don't take everything, you'll miss the piece you leave at home or back at your base, and thus miss a shot. Been there done that.

A week or two before your trip, haul your full backpack with you to work a few days a week. Take a short hike during lunch. Take the stairs. Get used to the weird center of gravity. Access your equipment, rearrange it until everything is where you really want it.

I did this before a Sedona-Grand Canyon-Las Vegas Trek. It pays off.

http://www.sphotography.com

has some great travel ideas and also workshops

i love the new products that are out there at B&H

Remember proper footgear.
NS_ActualOpen=window.open;
function NS_NullWindow(){this.window;}
function NS_NewOpen(url,nam,atr){return(new NS_NullWindow());}
window.open=NS_NewOpen;

I often take train and railroad photos, and the ground I walk on is often rough, with granite rocks, ballast that has spilled away from the tracks.

I wear boots or heavy-duty shoes, and with steel toes. This is really protective gear. A bright red or yellow shirt is also helpful.

David : Excellent article with logical information.

Noteworthy responses as well particularly that of Leo King.

I love landscape photography and whilst I do not do much hiking, there are times when one needs to walk "a few paces" to get the best position for the "one in a million shot" that we all strive for.

I do tend to carry all my gear with me. My reason for this is that you never know what you will be faced with even though you may have planned for something completeluy different. And I do not mind "suffering for my passion"

Thank you for the great article.  I was hiking long before I picked up my first camera, and one thing I want to add is the necessity for water.  If you are thirsty, you take risks with your life and equipment.  I use the Primus AW.  www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/496002-REG/Lowepro_LP35091_PEU_Primus_AW_Backpack_Black_.html  It has enough space for hiking and Camera gear, plus it has a water bottle pocket, and an outside flap with compression straps that holds a camelback nicely.  As the reviewers say, it is a bit heavy, and it does take a bit to get used to the quick entry system, but those are a small price to pay to keep you and your gear safe.

Have fun.

Leko

The National Geographic NG-5737 Earth Explorer referenced in the article is a large pack that weights 9,9 pounds and can carry lots of heavy camera gear along with hiking gear. It doesn't, however,  have a waist belt to take the load off your shoulders.  You are not going to hike very far with this "backpack".

For me the most important thing is hydration. I have found only one photo pack with a built in bladder. Having a bottle on your backpack is no good, you can't reach it. I have spoken to Lowe and their representatives about this but to no avail. Currently I use a Lowe Photo Trekker with a hydration bladder in the laptop compartment, not ideal but it works. I live in Australia and frequently hike in temperatures of 85F and above, hence the need for fluids.

I hike every weekend with my camera gear.  I recently started using a sling-pack for short hikes.  Various companies make them.  They allow easy access to your camera with a long or short lense already mounted.  Your hands stay free for hiking or scrambling, but the camera is accessible in seconds by swinging the pack under your arm to your chest.  You can't carry all of your equipment, but an extra lens or two and spare memory cards and batteries will fit.

Another method I use for longer hikes is to carry  most of my gear and water in a LowePro pack (I think it is AW Trek II).  The pack is split so that the bottom is setup like a camera bag and the top is open for other gear. But I carry the camera in a holster pack on my chest using a harness.  Again the hands are free for hiking, but the camera is easily accessible by unzipping the holster pack hanging in front of me.  The holster pack comes in different sizes and from different companies.  Mine is from Tamrac.  The harnesses come in different flavors as well.  Tamrac makes a simple, long strap the forms a figure 8 when attached to the holster pack at 4 points.  More sophisticated harnesses are also availble.