I have a backpacking trip scheduled in early October. It’s not an especially long hike and it’s just for a weekend, however I just haven’t done a whole lot of this since I was a kid so I think it’s a pretty good idea to get some practice trips in. My last trip was a good one but the weather was pretty predictable for the Santa Cruz Mountains in April. This next one is Yosemite to Ostrander Lake in the fall season and you never really know once you get up there. In any case I’m looking forward to it and I’m getting the kinks worked out. Part of this exercise today was to simulate the hike with all of the same gear and to experiment with a new idea on camera placement. I hope I can lug around my tripod this time.
Well of course this is a photography trip. Duh.
Last time I brought my Panasonic Lumix for the actual hiking. It was barely adequate. This time I brought my old Canon Rebel XT and my 7d mk II. For the 2 miles I kept the Rebel on my left shoulder strip with a Peak Design Capture Pro. It wasn’t great there because it tended to put pressure on my shoulder. I moved it to my left hip. That worked great and I think I have a winner.
At 3.1 miles, the turnaround point, I changed cameras. I made a few photographs on the way to really exercise it. The placement was very important, but I also need to be able to shoot with it if I find something interesting even if it’s for future reference. This is where I was surprised. My 7d is a lot heavier than the Rebel. Heck, I think my favorite Sigma lens is heavier than the Rebel body and kit lens combined.
The Peak Design Capture Pro uses the tripod mounting plate to seat into its platform — a great idea. The problem was that at my hip the camera sways a little, just enough to work a bit loose. This caused the mounting plate to jam a couple of times. This happened to me once before a couple of years ago and I didn’t understand why. Now I know. So I think the right answer is to keep the Rebel out during the hike for snapshots and to keep the 7d in the pack for my objective.
That’s not the point of this post. Thanks for staying awake. I guess all the earlier stuff was for my own reference.
On my way out I met a sweet young lady, a tourist from Spain. She was setting up a photo with her Nikon on the trail. I asked her what her subject was and she said it was nothing really. Well in my mind I knew it wasn’t nothing. Something caught her eye and she decided to stop. I still had a couple of miles to go so I wished her a good day and kept going. I met her again on my way back. She had gotten just a little turned around and wasn’t positive which trail would lead back to the Big Basin Redwoods State Park entrance. I was absolutely delighted to show the way. Now I had some company and I could ask more about what intrigued her about her subject.
We spent the next mile or so talking and taking photos. I asked her again when she stopped “What do you see? What tells you that you should make a photograph of this? Something did. What was it?” We went through the exercise a bit.
- The bigger scene.
- The sheer size of the trees.
- There was a fire and that tree still lives.
She said there was a problem too. It’s too big. The scale doesn’t come across at all. It doesn’t convey what she feels.
This conversation was wonderful! We talked about that and shared some ideas. I suggested that she was right and maybe ignore the enormity of the subject. For example, capturing something the scope of The Grand Canyon is nearly impossible. Why not try going for details? Imagine 3 shots each one exploring details, then producing those 3 as a set? I also suggested patterns, relationships, anything that conveyed depth. We walked around a set of trees and shared ideas about compositions that might work and why.
I would have loved to keep that conversation going but I really did need to get home just a few miles from there.
The whole time I was deeply aware of “mansplaining”. I’ve known enough know-it-all’s and I get rid of them as soon as I can. Ugh. My goal here wasn’t to “mansplain”. I wanted to engage, ask questions, maybe encourage. I also wanted to keep those wheels of my own turning — I need to ask myself those questions all the time.
What is it about this scene? What’s my subject? What’s the nature of the light? Is it a photograph or is it a snapshot? Why?
In a more practical sense I also wanted to hone my approach for asking this question when I teach the occasional workshop. I think it’s a great exercise that tends to push beyond the gearhead technical photography and into a more creative frame of mind.