As photographers and story tellers, we rely on certain tools to capture our environment, but what we take with us into the mountains, must be carefully considered. Because the amount of weight we take, will ultimately determine, the amount of steps we are able to make. This is key in landscape photography. I’ve packed too heavy on many occasions with the mindset “I might need it!”. The result, being early fatigue and unwanted stress, often preventing me from making the summit or desired destination in time to capture the best light, and jeopardising the real reason I’m in the mountains in the first place; to enjoy it!
Ok so, here are a few revelations that became more relevant to me after my last trip to Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania.
Number one; Consider taking a Manfrotto BeFree Carbon Fiber Tripod. We story tellers want to explore these magical places, and get those extraordinary shots, but we don’t want to be weighed down by the amount of gear we need in order to do so. This is where Manfrotto has ticked a big box for us by combining light weight with versatility; the BeFree Live Carbon Fiber Tripod delivers to the needs of the travelling story teller, it’s great for both still and video, it’s ridiculously light, yet sturdy, and very quick to set up! They have put the understanding of our vision, in the design of their product. It quickly became my workhorse in the mountains as I’m often out there shooting both video and stills, it’s just so conveniently quick to set up, giving me more options and time to utilise the light and create those inspiring adventure scenarios.
Secondly, establish an objective! Having the right tripod is a big advantage but you also have to set out with an objective, a goal, and pack your bag according to that objective. When you are trying to achieve too much, you usually end up achieving very little. The gear you leave behind can be just as important as what you take. I’ve learnt this the hard way on many occasions! Taking too much “just in case” equipment can make your pack unforgivingly heavy, and put strain on it as well. On day trips, (along with the essential safety items) I’ve learnt to take just a couple of camera options and get creative with that. Usually one wide, and one telephoto. I may not be able to shoot everything, but at least I can enjoy shooting what I can, and it also forces me to get more creative, and spend a lot less time procrastinating when I’m presented with a photo opportunity. Plus, being light on your feet is not only safer, it’s way more fun and functional setting up those grand scale adventure pictures!
Number three; Be Present! It’s great to have a vision with where you want to end up, and what kind of photo you are after when you get there, but remember to be present where you’re at! If a scene looks good or the light is popping where you are standing, don’t miss that photo to get to your anticipated destination quicker, often the best shots of an entire trip are taken along the way to the summit..
Four, and this is important; give yourself time. Plenty of TIME! Waiting for the light is ALWAYS better than chasing the light! I constantly find myself guilty of being a light chaser, and every single time, hindsight speaks up and scorns me for not leaving an hour or two earlier!
In fact, let me tell a story about that. During my recent time in Cradle Mountain, TAS, I was standing upon a peak, looking over the valley, it was mid to late afternoon and the sky had become dark and gloomy, threatening to rain. As I was presented with a decision to either wait for the chance of a breakthrough in the clouds OR return to base and call it a day, I opted to return to base. Not long after my return and after a thoroughly needed bowl of porridge, the clouds miraculously began to open up and shone a beam of golden light on the tip of the mountain where I was just a couple of hours ago pondering my next move. As I stood bedazzled at what I was seeing, my mind battled over the photo opportunity I had missed and the idea of redeeming my poor decision with a plan of attack. A few restless minutes went by before the fear of missing out overcame me. (Have you been here before?) I quickly shoved everything back into the car, grabbed my Bumblebee bag and BeFree tripod and took off down the track like I’d just seen the last Tasmanian Tiger! I took to the ascent at a running pace and the will power that initiated the decision didn’t really let my body slow up as I climbed past the shadow of the neighbouring mountains into the very last moments of golden light. Somehow, I’m still not sure how, I arrived at the spot with a soft light still anointing the peak. Sweating profusely and barely able to breath, having just done a 2 hour hike in 20 minutes, I proceeded to set up the shot and got in position to best showcase this scenario. I did it. The shot didn’t turn out to be as good as I had anticipated but I felt a great sense of achievement nevertheless. I personally wouldn’t recommend doing what I did; running across a mountain ridge to get ‘that’ photo in a 2 minute window of light, it’s not at all fun, and rather dangerous! But, I was light on my feet thanks to my Manfrotto kit, I had the vision, and there was no one around to tell me how crazy I was, what could of possibly stopped me..
Lastly, you don’t have to put your bag down so much.. If you’re using a Manfrotto Bumblebee, which I recommend.. It’s got a nifty little lens changer pocket that you can keep a wide or a 50mm in.. Which saves you the time of putting down the pack and changing lenses or pulling out your camera. Also, I like to take a camelpak full of water (and a slice of lime) and slide it into the laptop pocket in the back, it fits snug as anything and gives you plenty of water on the go!
Being equipped to be as productive as possible on your journey is awesome, but always remember the most important part of creating a story or content; ENJOY the process..