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Bushwalking and Landscape Photography

Monday March 21, 2011

Tips and Preparations for Photography and Overnight Walking

It is such an obvious statement that it almost redundant to say it, but if you want to photograph landscapes, wilderness, mountain sunsets and so on, then you are going to have to pack your gear and walk for hours or days, just to get into location – ie composition, exposure and camera gear are your second most important task!

The reason I mention this obvious sounding statement is to emphasise that wilderness and landscape pictures do not take themselves. Obviously some beautiful landscapes have become extremely well serviced tourist attractions, and some magnificent scenery can be appreciated in relative comfort, not far from a car park (Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake for example), or with only a minor walk to a lookout (Russell Falls or Wineglass Bay for example). The real reward will come though the minute you make the decision to fill up a backpack, strap on your tripod (yes, it’s an extra 2+ kgs, but you cannot shoot at night without it!), and carry in your gear to somewhere even just a little further than most people go.

A great option is in fact simply doing walks that are described as day walks, as overnight walks. I have found fantastic rewards from walking tracks such as Cape Raoul and Mt Rufus, which are easily done as return day walks if you have a small pack with nothing but your lunch and a sun hat, but infinitely more rewarding if done as an overnight walk.

Planning:

Obviously an overnight stay in the mountains requires a lot more planning than a short stroll or day walk. Your own personal fitness and determination levels will also be tested. If you have the luxury of being very flexible about the dates you are going to walk, then regular visits to weather websites are essential. In this case you can choose your walk dates to suit weather conditions. Obviously when camping in elevated or exposed locations, a calm night in terms of wind and relatively high minimum temperatures will make your stay more comfortable, but cold weather if the forecast is fine will have its own rewards if the terrain freezes overnight. Also, camping out in snow, rain or deep cloud cover has a new set of risks that only the fairly experienced should undertake. Cloudy conditions although limiting your long view of the landscape, can nevertheless provide beautiful atmosphere to your immediate location.

Of course maps and as much reading of what to expect is essential. It is good to set mental goals in your mind before leaving. Dividing the walk up into stages is a good example of setting mental goals. A 1km vertical climb looks like a mighty task (and it is!) but if you make yourself aware of the physical challenge that awaits, it will serve as a great checklist while you are walking. For example knowing that a long flat section is a reward that awaits after a particularly steep climb will keep you focused on reaching that flat ground!

Essential Items:

Without doubt this will depend on your destination, but there are a few clear must haves:

A good, lightweight tent and warm sleeping gear. Clothing will always depend on location and time of year, but it’s always better to carry something and not need it than to leave something which could be vitally important in an unforeseen situation at home just to save a few hundred grams in pack weight.

Camera gear: Here you must ask yourself a very important question. Are you serious or not? Tripods are heavy. Lenses are heavy. Filters, spare batteries and the camera bag take up space. Do you bring it all or do you reduce your weight? Ie – are you serious or not? I always carry my tripod (approx 2.5kg), strapped to the outside of my pack. I take 3 lenses (including a wide angle and 100mm macro), as well as ND grads, polarisers, spare battery, memory cards and so on. It is no doubt an extra 5-6kgs on top of the fully loaded pack, but I wouldn’t want to be in location without any of those items, and so the only solution is to carry it all in. But if your goal is to capture images that stand out from the flood of images that the digital revolution has produced, then very simply, all you’ve got to do – is do it!

– by Luke O’Brien

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