Skip to comments.Photography In The Parks: What's In Your Camera Bag?
Posted on 10/31/2013 3:14:12 PM PDT by nickcarraway
For the past couple of weeks, I have been dragging myself along, super-tired from jet lag from the Eastern Seaboard time zone change (that Maine trip), losing hours of precious sleep due to plane delays and plane diversions, and then forcing myself to rise early (3 a.m. early) each day of the work week to sync my hours with the rest of my departments team currently located in London (you do the math). A fuzzy brain makes writing an article on a single subject quite a challenging prospect.
So, Traveler Editor-in-Chief Kurt Repanshek suggested a Q&A article. I liked that idea. It tells you a bit more about me personally, about what I photographically like (and dont like), and about the process I apply when choosing where and when to travel. So, with that little bit of preamble, here we go!
NPT: Do you lament the disappearance of film and/or do you prefer digital cameras over film?
Personally, no, I do not lament the disappearance of film or film cameras. Film purists will call me lazy, but the fact that I can immediately see the results of a digitally-captured image has been a huge boon toward improving my photographic skills. I can see right away whether or not my settings are spot-on or have missed the mark. I can see right away if I need to use (or discard) a graduated ND filter or a polarizer. I can see right away if the white balance works for a particular situation.
This immediacy permits me to really comprehend which settings I should use for different lighting conditions. With a digital camera, I dont have to bother with scanning slides or prints for use on websites and brochures and business cards, nor do I have to purchase an expensive slide scanner to achieve the quality of imagery I want for print or website purposes.
Sure, there is the initial monetary outlay of the camera itself, along with my choice of lens and however many memory cards I choose to purchase. But my cameras and memory cards have more than paid for themselves in terms of usage and output within a very short time span. On a side note, I think this immediacy of results after the digital shutter click has increased not only the number of people out there using cameras (great for the camera companies) but has taken the creativity level to a height not thought of in the past, when my father was using his Mamiya twin lens camera.
NPT: Besides your camera body, what is the most crucial item you ensure you take on your national park treks?
The most crucial item for me to take on my national park trek is a zoom lens usually more than one. Because of my predilection toward landscape shots, as well as the possibility of a wildlife image capture, I never travel anywhere without a wide-angle zoom lens (such as my 16-35mm or my 24-70mm) as well as my 100-400mm telephoto.
NPT: What do you think of the advent of smartphones with built-in cameras? Good or bad for photography?
Im really of two minds regarding smartphone cameras. Part of me likes having a smartphone to capture a video on the go or a quick photo of something yummy I am eating in order to post to Facebook. Its not bulky and is super-easy to carry along. I used my smartphone for videos of the bears while staying in Katmai National Park and Preserve.
For professional purposes, however, I dont like phone cameras at all. My SLR beats out that smartphone image, hands down. I have yet to see a smartphone totally equaling what a professional camera produces especially when it comes to making an enlargement of 16 x 24 or greater.
Smartphones dont have much nuance in terms of settings and adjustments, which I suppose is great for those people (like my sister) who dont want to learn the ins and outs of a more dedicated camera; they just want an easy medium with which to take a quick photo of the moment without any hassle. I also dont like smartphone cameras because those things lead everybody who owns one to think they are a professional photographer (which drives me NUTS when it comes to wedding photography).
NPT: Are smartphone cameras and the miniature video cameras (think GoPro) diminishing the skills needed for photography, or are they opening up opportunities for recording national park visits?
Both. I suppose thats something else film photographers probably say about digital photography.
As answered in Question 3, I really only use my smartphone camera for quick videos and Facebook posts. That being said, I do think smartphones and video cameras in the style of GoPro are definitely opening up opportunities for the people visiting national parks. These photographic vehicles are relatively inexpensive (compared to a $2000 - $6000 SLR, not including the lens). I personally think GoPro is a neat thing for videos. Ive seen a GoPro video made by a guy during a visit to one of the Alaskan national parks, and it caught some totally cool imagery of the coastal brown bears (including what the inside of a bears mouth looked like as it tried to chew on that tough little GoPro). The photographer just set the GoPro down on the ground, switched on the video, then walked away a good distance and let the camera do its thing.
In retrospect, I just might be looking at this the wrong way. Maybe it takes a great deal of skill to make a smartphone or miniature video camera image look as good as an image captured by a professional SLR with a really good lens.
Was this a trick question?
NPT: When you sit down to plan your next national park trip, what do you consider in deciding which park to visit?
In my day job, I am around people constantly, all day long. While I can be as extroverted as the next person, I really am a loner at heart. I want to do my own thing, go where I want, when I want and call my own shots. If I feel like stopping along the road to photograph something, I dont want to worry about whether the other person with me in the car is getting tired and restless and wants to get to the hotel for the night.
Because of my loner nature, and depending upon the time of year during which I wish to travel, I always go online and check those busiest times of year for a park I wish to visit.
I also like vacationing at what I think may be under-photographed parks. Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Zion, Acadia those are all heavily-visited and heavily-photographed parks. I want to try and see parks that may not be as oft-photographed as the aforementioned parks. As such, Capitol Reef, Sequoia, Great Basin and Theodore Roosevelt national parks are on my bucket list for the near future.
One final thing regarding planning my trips to national parks: aside from living near a national wildlife refuge and being within a 4-hour drive of Padre Island National Seashore, it would take me at least a days drive or longer to get to someplace like Big Bend, depending upon how early I start off on my trip. So plane flight is my mode of travel to the locations I wish to visit. Upon landing, I rent a vehicle. Ergo, I always check to see how much flying and driving time is entailed to arrive at a particular park, not to mention how much a roundtrip ticket and car rental will actually cost. Those two items differ depending upon the time of year and how far ahead I make my reservations.
NPT: Is there any one park that you return to (or would return to time and again) and why?
Prior to discovering Arches National Park, the one park to which I continued to return to was Glacier National Park in Montana. Part of this is because I am a native Montanan and was born 20 miles away from Glacier, so its home. Actually, its more than home. When I was married and living in Seattle, my then-husband never wanted to travel to Glacier with me because as he once told me - mountains are all the same; youve seen one, youve seen them all.
With Glacier, that just aint so. I made it my mission to visit and revisit this park in my attempts to capture the many moods of that magical place and photographically prove that the mountains of Glacier are different from anywhere else .geologically, they really are different from other mountains around the U.S.
Alternate Text Delicate Arch on a cloudy day, Arches National Park. Rebecca Latson photo. Then, I visited Arches in 2012. Ive been twice now and would like to go back. Theres something about the immensity and geology of those red-rock formations that continue to pull me back. I wish I could put into words that open-mouthed awe I experienced the first time I drove between the Three Gossips and the Organ, and Sheep Rock and the Tower of Babel; the first time I made that hike up to Delicate Arch; the first time I captured a sunrise at the La Sal Mountains Viewpoint.
Plus, I dont have to worry about a grizzly popping out of the forest to surprise me while I lollygag along the trail with my cameras, tripod, and heavy camera pack. Grizzlies were always a bit of a worry for me while hiking solo in Glacier. Ok, maybe I have to worry about snakes and scorpions at Arches, but I think I could maneuver my way around them better than a grizzly sow and her cubs on the trail. ￼
NPT: Do you have a checklist to ensure you take all the necessary photo equipment with you on national park visits, and if so, whats on that list?
Do I have a checklist! Id forget half of what I want to pack gearwise if I didnt write down my list on an Excel spreadsheet, then keep a copy at work and email a copy to myself at home to print out and lay upon my suitcase (so I wouldnt forget where I placed the list itself).
Heres what is always on my list the only thing that changes is the number of extra lenses I pack, including any rental lens like the 500 prime I rented for my Katmai trip earlier this year.
* Induro carbon fiber 8X C314 tripod
* Canon 1-DX body
* Canon 5D Mk III body
* 16-35mm lens
* 100-400mm lens
* 24-70mm lens (sometimes yes, sometimes no but I always try to take it with me if I can)
* All of my extra batteries
* All of my memory cards
* My battery chargers
* All of my filters (UV, polarizer, neutral density and graduated ND)
* My wireless shutter release remotes 2 portable hard drives (yes, I believe in redundancy)
* A memory card storage device My 15 laptop
* All of the assorted electrical cords that go with the above items
* A couple of microfiber lens cleaning cloths
* Giottos Rocket Air Blower in case I have to do the unthinkable and clean my sensor in the hotel room
* 1 or 2 extra push-on lens caps since I have a habit of losing them
* My Vortex Media Storm Jacket rain covers for camera & lens
Im sure Ive probably forgotten something here, but you get the gist of what kind of photo gear I pack with me for a national park trek. Most of these items are packed into my two plane carry-ons, which consist of my camera bag and my laptop briefcase.
NPT: How do you store your national park images?
I totally believe in redundancy when it comes to my precious photos. When on the road, I download the days park images to two portable hard drives. In addition, I download the images on my memory cards to a portable memory card storage device (SanHo Hyperdrive Colorspace). I take with me all 42 memory cards of 4GB and 8GB size so I dont have to reformat and reuse a full card until I absolutely must. Once I get home, I keep those images stored on the two hard drives and clear out the memory card storage device and start reusing my memory cards.
After processing those images I like best, I upload them to my photo website which is linked to SmugMug.
NPT: What single piece of advice can you share that would make national park visitors better photographers?
While you may or may not have used the perfect settings or arrived at the optimal time of day for great lighting conditions (each issue of which can be rectified to some extent in the post process), the thing that will make you a better photographer is working to improve upon your powers of observation and patience. Dont just look around a spot, take a snapshot, then walk away.
Take a moment to breath the fresh air, savor the scenery, and frame your composition.
If the lighting is not quite right, or if you are waiting for that bear/wolf/moose/eagle in the distance to approach a little closer, just be patient and see what transpires.
When you return from your trip and look at that photo you took, it will not only remind you of that one particular spot during that one particular moment, but it will also bring to mind how you actually felt while you were there at that one particular spot. Thats the power of photography: to elicit an emotion or response from a single photo. Thats what I, as a photographer, try to accomplish with each image I capture.
NPT: Which do you consider your best-yet photo from a national park visit?
This fall image of Mount Rainier at the Paradise area of the park is what I consider my best-yet photo from a national park. I have a 16 x 24 metal print of this hanging on my living room wall. I use this image on my photography business cards, and I have a coffee mug with this image on it. I love the bright colors and clarity of this scene.
Ive captured many landscape images which I think are beautiful, but this one most elicits the feelings and memories about which I described in Question 9. I can absolutely remember where I was standing when I shot this photo. I remember the weather and how I felt. Yup. This is my favorite and thus to me my best yet.
One of my best: Autumn in Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park. Rebecca Latson photo. Hopefully the answers to these questions give you a little more idea about me as a photographer, how I feel about certain things and how I plan for things.
Surely you readers out there have some photographic questions of your own that you might like answered? If so, feel free to ask me; your question may stump me, but that just means Ill do a little research of my own and then get back to you. I wont ignore you.
Very interesting read, thanks for sharing.
Film bigot checking in. Velvia 50. Rolleiflex Automat, Mamiya 7ii 43 & 80, Nikons 3HP and FE w/may primes.
I shoot film!
She had me believing she was a pro until she said smug mug. I am a working pro. I have been for 12 years full time. I don’t know a single peer who uses smug mug.
That said, I ‘ve dragged my cameras to many National parks. Many of the good ones are so damned crowded and fenced off, the average person is never, ever gonna get that PRO shot. It’s too bad too....the average cameras these days are simply magnificent.
Canon Élan 7e
Nice.....where is that?
It’s a few short miles from the pacific coast...near Nicasio California...In Marin County just north of San Francisco.
I shot this one morning on my way to church! Stopped for maybe two minutes.
Nikon F3HP, Nikkor 55mm micro, Velvia, tripod.
I got a Deardorff 8x10 this summer. I gotta dust that off and get working. Film is the best. For so many reasons beyond, it’s the old way.
I shoot film!
Ditto. Pentax K-100, 20-80mm lens. Shooting Kodak High Speed Infrared B&W film with #25 Red filter.
Sure, the Best By Date is 2009, but I’ve kept 12 rolls “fridged” and it still works GREAT.
Nikon Super Coolscan 9000 Scanner. Darkroom is now the bathroom, for film developing.
If someone could tell me how to post a photo...
That's a 100 Megapixel capture system right there. Pre-war German. :-)
To post a photo, you have to have it hosted somewhere first. Then, within FR, you have to use html like this:
< img src = (file location with the http:\\stufflikethis.jpg)>
Just don’t put that space in front of the “img” like I had to to make it appear. Then it shows up like magic!
I wish I had the same equipment he has but just can’t afford it.
I have to get by with a Sony Alpha 200 and an Alpha 230. Fortunately they both work with my old Minolta Maxxum lenses. I normally could not even afford those bodies but a local Wal-Mart cleared out the kits for $200 and $230 each. I came back a week or so later and noticed they had reduced the 230 to $170 but they were all gone by then.
I gave my Sister and B.I.L. an older 5mp Canon P&S. They have been in Europe for nearly a year and have sent me some pretty darn good photos taken with that old P&S.
Er ... I’m just happy to see you ...
Click, snap, ping....
Hasselblad ELM and 500c/m
Nikon F Apollo
I have a Bolex H16 for moving pictures, but I haven't used it yet.
For your review and critiques. See above. Just an amateur with old gear I love....
The older I get, the less I carry. The last trip saw me taking a Canon G12 for most of my picture taking, and a Nikon Coolpix 9100 for HD video and telephoto work. To this I added extra batteries, memory cards and a small table top tripod. Much easier on the back than a DSLR, flash, 4 lenses, full size tripod, etc.
If I were going to a national park or a once in a lifetime location, I would lug the weight, but for the other 95% of the pictures I take, light is the way to go for me. Although I must say, the new Sony Alpha 7 looks very promising. Small and light.
OK, Ladies & Gentlemen, herewith is my FAVORITE photographic Trivia Question:
What does the F in F-Stop mean?
The answer, is highly educational...
‘Still have an Olympus OM-2 with four lenses from 16mm Fish-eye to 200mm zoom Telephoto, plus adapters for an old 8” f/10 catadioptric telescope.
I used to shoot slide film including a lot of Astro when physically capable ... it’s probably been around 15 years since last use.
That's what I carry most of the time also. That 24-105 is a sweet carry lens.
Nice shot for a P&S.
It’s also called focal ratio.
Excellent. Where was it?
That is my back yard. He is sitting on a clothesline. The S2 will let you get so close that it is very nearly touching the subject.
I am hopefully going to eventually get a DSLR body with at least 24mp but as you can see, the number of pixels is not completely what makes a good pic.
This with a DSLR.
Same Velvia. Ol Canon T90 with ton of lenses. And some assorted 35mm and mediumframe cams.
Squeeze the Velvia to 100, and you’ll see something interesting :).
AF-S NIKKOR 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6GII ED
A little heavy to carry all day, but it will do everything your heart desires.
Do you have a shot of Half Dome from your back yard or front porch?
I have spent a lot of time in national and state parks but I am not much of a landscape photographer.
&# 60 with no space gives you <
&# 62 with no space gives you >
Same Nikon D200 with 18-105mm. Three shot HRD.
OK, the Trick-or-Treaters are gone...
The F in f-stop stands for fenestra, the Latin word for window.
Assigned in the late 1800’s with the development of adjustable diaphragm lenses, it was a designation meant to represent the amount of light required to make a perfect exposure on a film with an arbitrary speed, or sensitivity.
If you had a lens rated at f-1, the light from one window would be sufficient to make a perfect exposure.
The light from 16 windows would mean one would have to ‘stop’ down to the f-16 setting on the lens, reducing the amount of light through the lens, in order to make the correct exposure.
The confusion comes from the use of the word ‘focal’, which pertains to focus. An f-50 lens, has a focal distance of 50mm - the image is in ‘focus’, when the rear lens nodal of the lens is 50mm from the film plane. The closer the rear lens nodal (the high point of the rear lens element) is to the film plane, the wider the field-of-view - a 28mm lens is considered ‘wide-angle’, e.g.
I have a smugmug account and out of what hosting services I have tried, like it the best.
Currently use the 60d and had the 20 and 50d’s.
Lenses: 50 mm prime, 28-135, 100 mm fixed macro, 70-200, 70-300 and a Rode shotgun microphone. I do more video, mostly for stock submission and some YouTube fodder.
The Ritz camera store was going out of business and the 60d was on sale at a very good price.
That’s a great abstract.
Very nice “capture”.
I have a bridge camera...that I seldom use these days..a Leica Vlux 1 that despite its poor performance in at above 1oo isi has a wonderfully sharp lens and a macro mode which is a real charmer.
never discount the camera.
Thank you. Theres a retires guy who used to show up in this hug parking lot within eyeshot of where i used to live.
Ive seen him there as early as 6:30 AM...and gone over to capture as many bubble related...photos as I could manage.
Ive never felt more challenged than going after that sort of image, as one never lknows what sort of image may arise unbiden from those simple “fishing rods and thin cotton “ropes”
I always wanted a Leica but the cost was just too high. I did have a Hasselblad 500C, I think was the model. I just had the 80mm lens tho.
I used to work at a Summer resort back in the 60s. Our staff photographer had nothing but Leica equipment and he wasn’t wealthy so I guess it is possible to assemble an outfit without breaking the bank.
My Father brought back a mint Leica from WWII. He must have been a pretty good scrounger as he also got a Luger, a P-38 and an Austro-Hungarian .32. A gold pocket watch and a bottle of expensive French perfume for Mother.
The only thing I remember was the gold watch which my Brother has now. Everything else got sold over the years. Mother did use the perfume for a long time. It was in a really beautiful box.
All this should work with the 5D.