5 Hiking Tips for Photographers
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.