Backpacking With Photo Gear
Tips On What To Carry Into The Great Outdoors Page 2
Your lightweight tripod won't be as rock-solid as a heavier one, but it's easy to make it more stable by temporarily adding mass to it. I drape my vest over a knob on the tripod--I'm carrying that heavy vest anyway, I might as well put it to good use. Some photographers carry a nylon sack to load with rocks on the spot to ballast their tripod. Remember always to use a remote shutter release to trigger your tripod-mounted camera to minimize camera vibrations.
If you insist on hiking without a tripod, or if you don't want to stop to get it out, there are tricks you can use to stabilize your handheld camera for sharper pictures. You can brace the camera on a convenient boulder or against a tree trunk. Nestling the camera into a pile of pebbles, sand, or dirt can also keep it steady. You might sit and prop it on your knee. Carrying an empty bag and filling it with sand or dirt makes a beanbag support: place the bag on a solid surface and push the camera into it so it conforms to cradle the camera's shape. (A bag of rice from your food stash serves the same purpose.) Even a wadded-up jacket can serve as a beanbag if you steadily and firmly press the camera down into it while tripping the shutter. Perching the camera on a trekking or ski pole makes a poor person's monopod; or, with two poles, looping each hand strap over the other pole and crossing the poles makes a bipod.
I shoot slide film exclusively, so I have to carry plenty of extra film. At 1 oz per 35mm roll, I carry about 2 lbs of film for a week-long trip, the equivalent of a 1 liter bottle of water. (Digital shooters will be happy to be free of this extra load.) Film shouldn't get hot, and I've found that burying my bag of film deep in my pack wrapped up in my clothes keeps it well insulated and surprisingly cool, even on the hottest of days.
Backpacking can take you to scenic places that you wouldn't otherwise see, and leave you there at the best times to shoot. Using my system to carry a full photo rig, or finding a system of your own, will help you make the best pictures you can of these lovely remote areas. Happy trails and happy shooting!