Fallen Leaves: How to Appreciate and Photograph Post-Peak Fall Color

Nothing lasts forever, and peak fall color is no exception. Every year it seems that just as quickly as the dog days of summer transitioned to crisp and foggy fall mornings, the once vibrant colors of fall have faded and the trees are left solemnly standing bare, ready to face another long and cold winter. Fall color can be as unpredictable as it is fleeting, and even when planning months in advance and booking that perfect campsite or cabin during what is supposed to be peak color, oftentimes autumn throws us a curveball and decides to peak early, which has happened throughout much of the Northeast this year. While it’s difficult to not feel at least a twinge of disappoint when fall has passed its peak, there are still a bounty of picturesque wonders to be found in the late-autumn forest.

Credit: Joey Priola

Look Down for Color

Fallen leaves can be just as colorful and pretty on the ground as they were on the branches from which they came, especially after a strong wind has blown them from the trees before their color began to dull. Different trees tend to lose their leaves at different times, and strolling down a trail littered with fallen maple leaves while the beeches and oaks still retain their golden leaves is a joy to the senses. Fallen leaves make for interesting photographs, and are perfect for abstract and macro shots. Leaves covered in dew or raindrops are a particularly interesting late-autumn photography subject, and can make for truly unique images that stand out from the crowd. This is a great time to utilize a macro lens to create frame-filling shots of colorful fallen leaves, revealing an incredibly intricate world of textures and shapes that often go unnoticed.

Credit: Joey Priola

Find Moving Water

Another way to appreciate fallen leaves and use them for creative photos is to seek out eddies in creeks or small rivers where fallen leaves have gathered. These nooks in the shore often cause the water to slowly move in a swirling circular motion that’s difficult to perceive with the naked eye, but can be revealed in a photo by using a multi-second exposure. Depending on how bright it is out, a natural density filter, which reduces the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor, may be necessary to facilitate an exposure that’s long enough to capture a pleasing swirling motion. This type of photography is fun and dynamic, as no two photos are the same. Experiment with different shutter speeds and try tossing a handful of leaves from the nearby ground into the water to see how the number of leaves can drastically alter the photo outcome.

Credit: Joey Priola

Who Needs Leaves?

Bare trees that have bid adieu to their leaves until the spring also make for an intriguing photography subject. These trees are interesting in their own right as a standalone subject when isolated from the grand landscape with a telephoto lens, especially when a thick veil of morning fog obscures the background and simplifies the landscape. Mountainsides with trees that still have colorful leaves and some that are bare make for a thought-provoking contrast in color and form, and on a deeper level can make one think about the fragility and ephemerality of life. Forests and mountainsides on the edge of open meadows are great places to view and photograph this contrast of life and death, especially at sunrise or sunset when colorful clouds fill the sky.

Just because the majority of leaves have fallen and autumn is well past its peak, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t still beauty to be found in the fall forest. So the next time you look at a foliage report and see that colors are past peak, don’t hesitate to still get out and discover the splendor that the late-autumn season has to offer, likely in much more solitude than during peak color.


10 Tips For Taking Spectacular Winter Photos

Winter in the mountains is equal parts magical and challenging. With rocks and roots buried in snow, vicious flies and mosquitoes a distant memory, and the thick, humid air of summer replaced with a crisp chill, there are countless benefits to exploring the mountains in winter. When it comes to photography, no other time of year allows for such dramatic and otherworldly images. From alpine trees caked with rime ice to waterfalls frozen in time, the landscape takes on a special character that beckons to be explored and photographed. Hostile conditions in winter are more often the norm than the exception, however, and having a safe and productive winter outing takes a level of preparedness that far exceeds that of other seasons. So what kind of gear and techniques will set you up to take the best winter photos?

Credit: Joey Priola
Credit: Joey Priola

1. Protect Yourself

Just because you climbed a mountain or went outside to take pictures, doesn’t mean you’re not exposed to the same conditions as you would be if you were simply out on a hike. Having the right layers and gear are critical to keeping you comfortable and safe. In addition to snowshoes, skis, MICROspikes, and/or crampons, items such as a warm and lightweight jacket and pants, balaclava, and ski goggles will help keep you warm and protect your skin from the biting cold and wind while you’re taking photos.

Perhaps the most critical piece of clothing for the winter photographer is hand protection. Finding the perfect balance between keeping hands warm while maintaining enough dexterity to change lenses and adjust camera settings can be a tricky task. Pairing a thin and windproof glove with a warm pair of mittens can provide the best of both worlds: The base layer glove provide just enough protection and supple dexterity to handle the camera, but the mittens can slide on quickly before your hands get too cold.

Carrying extra pairs of gloves is always wise, as gloves that have become sweaty on an ascent can become hazardous if a prolonged photo session upon reaching the exposed alpine zone is planned. I’ll often pack an extra pair of buckskin or leather gloves to change into before breaking out above the tree line, as these types of gloves provide excellent wind protection and dexterity.

Credit: Joey Priola
Credit: Joey Priola

2. Protect Your Camera

Protecting the camera from harsh winter conditions not only ensures that the best possible photos will be taken, but also prevents often expensive photo gear from being ruined. A snow/rain camera cover comes in handy when photographing in snowstorms or near a spraying waterfall, and costs much less than replacing a camera body that’s been ruined by water damage.

Condensation can also be a problem in winter, especially when taking the camera from the cold, dry outdoor air to a warm and relatively humid house, cabin, or car. Allowing the camera to gradually adjust to temperature differences limits the chances of condensation forming on the camera and lens and potentially making its way inside the camera. Leaving the camera in a camera bag inside your pack overnight after bringing it inside will allow it to gradually adjust to the swing in temperature and limit the formation of condensation.

While these tips will help to avoid damaging your gear after you’ve finished your outing, a challenge that’s often faced while out in the field is moisture from snow or waterfalls accumulating and freezing on the front of the lens. Periodically checking the lens glass for snow and ice accumulation will prevent the frustration of having an excellent photo rendered useless. While snowflakes can typically be simply brushed off the lens using a microfiber cloth or an air blower, special care needs to be taken if ice has accumulated on the lens. Trying to scrape off ice can lead to scratches which could permanently mar an expensive lens or filter. This is another situation where the ever-useful hand warmer can save the day. Gently holding one against the ice helps it melt, and the resulting water can be easily wiped or blown away.

3. Seek Out the Unique Beauty of Winter

One of the greatest aspects of winter photography is that even familiar destinations take on an entirely new character and appearance when the temperature drops and snow begins to fall. The typical summit views of grey rocks and green evergreens is transformed into a fantastical world that the majority of people will never experience first-hand. Crafting photos that fully capture the raw, surreal, and sometimes savage beauty of winter is equal parts challenging and rewarding, and focusing your efforts on the most eye-catching and awe-inspiring spectacles of winter will increase the odds of coming away with impactful photos. While the range of winter photography subjects is limited only by the imagination, nothing seems to epitomize winter more than evergreens blanketed with snow or rime ice.  Shooting at tree line, the highly dynamic mountain environment where the forest ends and the alpine zone begins, is the perfect place to seek out snow covered evergreens and krummholz encased with rime ice. Whether a wide-angle lens is utilized to craft shots of snow-coated trees in the foreground giving way to mountains in the background, or a macro lens is employed to capture an abstract photo focusing on the intricate shapes and detail of ice-covered tree branches, nowhere else represents the unique beauty of winter quite like tree line on a mountain.

Floating-in-Fire-Priola
Credit: Joey Priola

4. Choose Your Location Based on Conditions.

Knowing the optimal conditions for a given location that are conducive to the best photos is an important aspect of photography, especially in winter when conditions can change more rapidly than in other seasons. In addition to the typical weather forecasts, ski resorts often post snow reports and have webcams, which make for a very useful resource if one is located in the general vicinity of your planned hike.  Maybe you’ll discover that a low snow level will preclude a previsualized shot of evergreens coated in snow, and you’ll be able to call an audible before even leaving your house and switch focus to a different winter photography subject, such as frozen waterfalls.

5. Use a long exposure for waterfalls.

Partially-frozen waterfalls can produce some of the most impactful winter photographs, especially when photographed using a long exposure to give the water a silky-smooth appearance. Exposure lengths can vary from ¼ to multiple seconds, depending on the light level of the scene. A tripod is essential for these longer exposure lengths, and neutral density filters that limit the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor can also come in handy if a longer exposure is needed to achieve the desired effect.

4
Credit: Joey Priola

6. Utilize Live View

One of the trickiest parts of winter photographing is carefully composing a photograph in hostile conditions. While it’s easy to look through the viewfinder to compose a shot during other times of year, it can be difficult or impossible in winter. This is especially true when photographing from mountain summits, where high winds often require ski goggles, which impede the eye from being placed against the view finder, to be worn. Utilizing the camera’s live view function, which is found on practically all digital cameras, is a much easier way to compose a shot in harsh winter conditions. Live view displays what the camera is seeing on the LCD screen on the back of the camera, aiding in setting up the desired composition.

7. Get the Exposure Right in the Field

With bright snow and dark trees, rocks, or water often present at the same time in a winter scene, properly exposing a photograph can be challenging. One of the best ways to ensure that a winter photograph is properly exposed is to utilize the “histogram” function that’s found on almost all digital cameras. The histogram displays the distribution of tonal values in the image, from 0 percent brightness (black, on the far left of the histogram) to 100 percent brightness (white, on the far right of the histogram). Keeping an eye on the histogram is a great way to avoid one of most common pitfalls of winter photos: overexposing snow so that it becomes a white, detail-less blob.  Coupling the histogram with the live view takes things a step further, as it enables you to view how the histogram changes as the exposure is changed, even before taking a shot. Checking that the highlights aren’t “clipped” and that the histogram isn’t getting cut off on the right, white side ensures that bright snow won’t be overexposed and will retain detail.

dad-in-snowy-forest-IMG_4697-copy
Credit: Joey Priola

8. Focus Properly

While intentionally blurring portions of a photograph, such as the aforementioned long exposure to blur/smooth moving water, can be a great creative effect, more often than not the desire is to produce a photo that is sharp throughout. This requires the camera to be focused properly, and the winter season makes this more challenging than other times of years. In extreme cold temperatures, the camera’s autofocus abilities can fail. In addition, as the autofocus function relies on the presence of contrast at the focal point to render a sharp image, the autofocus function can have trouble properly focusing at times of low contrast, such as a snowy scene in soft light that is common in winter. Manually focusing the image is often the best method to produce sharp photos in winter, and is another advantage of utilizing the live view function. To do this, zoom in on the composed image in live view, and then turn the focus ring on the lens until a sharp image is achieved. For wide-angle landscape photos, a general rule of thumb to attain an image that is sharp from front to back is to focus on a point that is approximately 1/3 the distance from the lens to the background. To further ensure that a sharp photo has been obtained in the field, zoom in at 10x on the LCD screen after taking a shot to confirm that it’s sharp throughout, and refocus if needed.

9. Pack Extra Batteries.

Cold temperatures sap battery life, and there’s nothing more frustrating than getting partway through a photo outing and having your camera battery die. Packing a couple extra batteries for your camera, and extra batteries for a headlamp/flashlight, can be a trip-saver when they’re needed. Extra batteries will be rendered useless, though, if they’re left unprotected at the top of your pack and subjected to the cold as you hike. Stashing batteries towards the center of the pack, where they’ll be insulated by the surrounding pack contents, can help spare batteries to maintain life. Double-bagging batteries in a plastic bag and placing a hand warmer outside of the bag that contains the batteries can provide extra insurance in truly frigid winter conditions.

9
Credit: Joey Priola

10. Freeze the Action

Capturing outdoor athletes in action can yield powerful winter photos that make the viewer feel as if they’re a part of the scene. Skiers carving turns, with fresh powder billowing in their wake, are excellent subjects that highlight the exhilaration of the winter season. Freezing the fast-paced action of skiing can be a challenge to the photographer, though, and it’s easy to come away with blurry images. To ensure that the subject is tack sharp, utilize a fast shutter speed of 1/1000 second or less. If such a short shutter speed makes the image too dark, open up the aperture to allow more light in or bump up ISO, the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light.


Faces of the Crawford Path

Crawford-Path-Instagram-3_LONG

In 200 years, the Crawford Path has seen a lot of footsteps, but today, its tradition is as strong as ever. Everyone from Appalachian Trail hikers in the last few weeks of their trek, to weekenders and trail runners traversing the Presidential Range, to day hikers, to those who drove to the top of Mount Washington and are taking a hike into the tundra calls the Crawford Path home. We sent photographer Chris Shane hiking the length of the Crawford Path this summer to get a taste of who is adding their footsteps on top of 200 years of history, and why.

 

Do you have your own story of connection to the Crawford Path and the trails in the Whites? Share it on Instagram (wear your EMSxWMTX shirt for bonus points) with a picture from your hikes and the hashtags #goeast and #HikeItHelpIt for a chance to be featured on here and on EMS’s social media.

Crawford-Path-Facebook-Ad-Opt2-1200w-(1)


3 Tips for Shooting Action Shots Outdoors

Landscape shots are beautiful, but action shots are just cool. In the ever-growing age of social media, everyone wants photos of themselves skiing, climbing, hiking, or otherwise in-motion, either for new profile pictures, their next Instagram post, or just to have as a memory of an incredible day spent in the outdoors.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it doesn’t necessarily matter what you’re taking the pictures with, whether that be a high-end DSLR, a point-and-shoot, or your iPhone. If you know how to use it, you’ll be able to capture quality images while you’re out on the trail. As long as you remember three basic rules, you can supply your adventure partners with action shots worthy of their Tinder profiles.

Credit: Joshua Myers
Credit: Joshua Myers

1. Avoid staging your shots

The first thing to keep in mind is that usually, unstaged photos turn out better than those that are staged. This means that you shouldn’t be asking your friends to pose a certain way, or go to a certain spot (most of the time, since you will want them to occasionally), because this could end up with the pictures looking unnatural. Some tricks to capture natural-looking photos are to hang back from your friends as you hike (or speed up and get ahead of them), and snap photos of them on the trail. If there are multiple lookouts, find a unique vantage point from one that’s nearby and capture a fantastic photo of your friends. If there’s only one lookout, try to find a vantage point from the side or behind that will give you a nice composition of both your friends and the view that you can put together for a nicely framed shot.

Credit: Joshua Myers
Credit: Joshua Myers

2. Use silhouettes to your advantage

A silhouette can definitely be your friend. Due to a camera’s inability to expose both the light and darker areas of a photo simultaneously, you may not be able to have both the subject of your shot and the background exposed at the same time (if one is dramatically brighter than the other, like at sunrise or sunset, or when the side of your subject facing you is shaded). While most modern phones have an HDR (high dynamic range) mode or setting that will try to even this out, you can still end up with an image that looks slightly cartoon-y with color and lighting. Other than using photoshop to combine multiple images with varying exposures, if you want to capture the background scenery clearly (especially at sunrise or sunset), you’ll end up with an incredible scenery shot, and a distinctive silhouette of your friend(s) that they can cherish forever.

Credit: Joshua Myers
Credit: Joshua Myers

3. Vary your composition

Finally, keep in mind that you essentially have two ways to compose your photos. You can either make your hiking companions the main subject of your photos, where they take up the majority of the frame, or you can have them be a much smaller (yet still recognizable) portion of a much larger image, capturing more landscape. This can sometimes be a tough call to make depending on the situation. If you can’t decide which one will be better, try to capture both from a few different angles to really give your friends a wider variety of photo options. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends as well, so they’re not forgetting to take great photos of you while you’re out there on the trail with them!


8 Tips for Taking Good Pictures in the Snow

You want to preserve the memories of your snowy wintertime outdoor adventures, but taking photos in the snow is hard. Sound familiar? The freezing temperatures make your fingers too numb to press the shutter button. The blinding sun reflects off the snow and into your photos. The beautiful snowflakes are moving so fast, you just can’t seem to capture them. Whether you have a DSLR with all the trimmings or a simple smartphone camera, snow photography is no walk in the park. But, if you want to take great pictures, so you can remember your time in this winter wonderland all summer, these eight tips will help you do it.

1. Keep your camera cold

If you’re out in the elements with an expensive camera, your first instinct might be to keep it warm under your coat, but this is actually a bad idea. In warmer environments, condensation may gather on your camera, fogging up the lens to the point it’s impossible to take a good picture until the moisture has cleared. Keeping your camera the same temperature as the outside air ensures it won’t form condensation when you pull it out.

TK_EMS-Conway-7833-CH-Chapney

2. Use manual mode

Often, a camera or iPhone will look at a snowy scene and automatically dial the exposure down. As a result, the snow comes out gray. As a solution, consider using manual mode and then slightly overexposing your photo. Expose for whatever you want to highlight (trees, a person, etc.). If you’re on an iPhone, change the exposure by simply tapping the screen on top of the object you want to expose, and then, you can tap and hold to lock the exposure.

3. Take advantage of shadows and silhouettes

In wintertime, the sun is lower in the sky, and thus creates longer shadows. These winter shadows may add a unique touch to a photo that otherwise would have been drab. As well, don’t be afraid to take several shots, experimenting with the sun’s placement and how you can best use the shadows. Try using the shadows to create leading lines. For an example, maybe tree shadows can “point” to the person who’s the subject of your photo, creating an interesting effect.

Credit: Hailey Hudson
Credit: Hailey Hudson

4. Use color

If all you can see is white snow, find something colorful to help your photo pop. This could be a person wearing a bright red jacket, a blue sky, or non-snow-covered trees—anything nearby that will add some variation into the frame.

5. Invest in fingerless gloves

Shooting in the snow can be dangerously cold, but if you’re trying to press buttons on your iPhone, you’ll need bare fingertips. Purchase some touchscreen-compatible or fingerless gloves, so you can work your iPhone camera while staying warm.

6. Watch out for footprints

There’s nothing worse than getting your settings just right, snapping some beautiful photos of a snowy scene, and only then realizing the photo is full of footprints. Stand in one place as you think about from where you want to shoot, and then, carefully choose your route to that place. Watch out for your shadow, too.

Credit: Hailey Hudson
Credit: Hailey Hudson

7. Use a lens hood

In the winter, photos often end up with a flare from the sun, because the snow is so reflective. As a solution, use a lens hood to shield your lens. For another benefit, it helps keep the snow off your lens.

8. Move around

Photographing your young hiking buddy? Getting low to the ground to shoot at a kid’s eye level will create a much better photo. Likewise, getting up high on a log or hill helps you capture every bit of a big, snowy meadow. This can also help you find something else to add to the photo, such as distant trees, so the picture includes something other than just white.


LNT For Your Feed: Understanding the New Social Media Guidelines

New technological developments have changed our experiences in the backcountry. Particularly, the ever-common smartphone is now a staple, functioning as a map, flashlight, camera, and more. However, complete reliance on a smartphone can get someone into serious trouble.

A drained battery is not the only threat, though. Social media has popularized the outdoor lifestyle, leading to more and more people sharing their views and experiences online and thus increasing traffic at popular destinations. This, in turn, has led to erosion and overcrowding at places not yet ready to handle such heavy use. However, if used to advocate for stewardship, social media can be beneficial.

Contrary to popular belief, Leave No Trace (LNT) is not just the phrase angrily grumbled by a grizzly hiker as he picks up an energy bar wrapper off the trail to pack it out. Rather, LNT is an organization that advocates for sustainable outdoor ethics. In line with that mission, it recently released new guidelines regarding social media use—particularly, for protecting these spaces and ultimately strengthening our relationship with the outdoors. So, how does the everyday hiker make sense of these recommendations, and what shouldn’t you be doing?

EMS-LAKE-PLACID-2917

Tag thoughtfully

“Avoid tagging (or geotagging) specific locations. Instead, tag a general location such as a state or region, if any at all. While tagging can seem innocent, it can also lead to significant impacts to particular places.”

Our social media posts have far-reaching impacts. What seems benign may actually end up drawing masses to the site featured in your post. In turn, the larger crowds contribute to erosion and may complicate relationships with landowners. While some areas can handle heavy use, like the above cascade in the Catskills, many destinations are not equipped for the increased foot traffic.

DO: Post something along the lines of, “Enjoying this refreshing mist on a hot day in the Catskills!” Consider tagging the mountain range or region of the state, rather than a specific place.

DON’T: Tag the exact location of a vista, or mention any shortcuts to get to a destination.

EMS-Burlington-9124

Be mindful of what your images portray

“Give some thought to what your images may encourage others to do. Images that demonstrate good Leave No Trace practices and stewardship are always in style.”

Our posts should empower others to take care of our lands. Before you post, ask yourself if the content you are sharing is geared towards sustainability and respect for our natural spaces. Think about how you will view the post in five or 10 years—it is never fun to look back and cringe.

DO: Post photos of area cleanups, or artistic and creative landscape shots that depict pristine wilderness, thus encouraging people to keep it that way. Remember: “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footsteps.”

DON’T: Post photos of yourself or friends doing something dangerous or photos that may encourage others to harm themselves, others, or the land. As well, don’t show photos of you littering or camping in areas you’re not allowed.

Give back to places you love

“Invest your own sweat equity into the outdoor spaces and places you care about. Learn about volunteer stewardship opportunities and get involved in the protection of our shared lands.”

Nature gives us experiences and memories that we cherish forever. We can give back by cleaning up litter, maintaining trails, keeping our own impact minimal, and inspiring others to do the same through social media.

DO: Leave no trace, pick up litter and pack it out, follow the trails, and post photos promoting group cleanups.

DON’T: Litter, draw graffiti, damage plants, break trail, or post photos encouraging these behaviors.

EMS---BIG-SUR--0830-hike

Encourage and inspire Leave No Trace in social media posts

“Given the millions of social media users in the world, think of the incredible potential that social media has to educate outdoor enthusiasts—first timers to seasoned adventurers—about enjoying our wild lands responsibly.”

We sometimes see the effects of people leaving traces in the backcountry, which, then, influence our own experience. Greenhorn adventurers may not even realize that they are leaving a trace, such as when they leave obvious markings of a campsite. Even experienced adventurers sometimes violate LNT! Thus, we can use social media to educate others, regardless of their level of outdoor experience.

DO: If you see something in the outdoors that does not follow LNT principles, make an informational post to educate others!

DON’T: Post a photo of feeding wildlife, including summit chipmunks, or post aggressively or angrily about situations where LNT principles were broken (this may discourage people from listening!)

 

What other dos and don’ts would you add? Comment below!


How to Shoot Film in the Outdoors

In the digital realm, memory cards with almost-unlimited, deletable memory hold the majority of our images of the outdoors, and computer-based editing lets you fine-tune that nearly perfect shot. But, shooting nature the old-fashioned way has its benefits, too.

First things first: Film will cost you. It will cost you time, it will cost you space in your backpack, and it will most definitely cost you money. If you’re like me, it’ll likely also cost you sleep, as you think about what you could have done differently with a certain frame. Or, maybe, it will cost you a few gray hairs, as you anxiously wait to see how the processed negatives from an exciting sojourn abroad turned out.

But, film photography can also change the way you think about making images or even what you decide to shoot. With time, it’ll make you a better photographer and more a part of the moments you choose to document. Ultimately, it’ll change the way you see, and it’s a lot of fun to use!

North Carolina's Linville Gorge | Credit: John Lepak
North Carolina’s Linville Gorge | Credit: John Lepak

Where Do I Begin?

Get started by picking up a film camera. Hit up a tag sale or a flea market. Or, poke around the internet a bit to see what strikes your fancy—Craigslist and eBay are both excellent resources. In all cases, 35mm film cameras are widely available, and the film typically has 24 or 36 exposures per roll. Medium-format cameras take 120 film, which is a bit bigger and produces a larger negative. Generally speaking, though, these cameras—and their film—are a little less accessible. They’re less forgiving, too, usually producing just 12 images per roll.

You can get your film on eBay or at a tag sale, but it does have an expiration date. As a side note, using expired film can produce some cool effects. However, you’re probably safer sourcing from a camera supply store (yes, they still do exist). Tip: Buy film in bulk to save some money and refrigerate it. Cooling it down significantly extends its lifespan.

A Guanaco in Torres del Paine, Chile| Credit: John Lepak
A Guanaco in Torres del Paine, Chile| Credit: John Lepak

Packing It Up

Next, the hard part: Finding room in your bag. Full disclosure: There is nothing ultralight about this. The film adds weight, and the older cameras have more in common with bricks than today’s backcountry equipment, but remember how much fun you’re having.

Personally, I only drag a camera along when I’m going somewhere far away, as opposed to a walk through the local park, and want to get the most out of photographing the experience. I’m also not lugging it on longer backpacking trips, where weight and space are serious issues. Overall, consider where you’re going and how much you want to carry. It will take some trial and error to figure out how many exposures you’re going to make, and you’ll likely need to drag some unnecessary ounces around before you find a good fit.

Also—and this is no different from using digital equipment—make sure you have a way to keep your gear dry. If you’re carrying the extra stuff, it’s a whole lot nicer to have it working than not.

Valahnúkur, Thorsmörk, Iceland | Credit: John Lepak
Valahnúkur, Thorsmörk, Iceland | Credit: John Lepak

The Downsides and Upsides

It’s worth noting that film is expensive—infinitely more so than if you just whipped out your existing phone and fired away. You’ve got the camera setup and the film, and then, you have to get it processed and either printed or digitally scanned. Most opt for the latter, unless you’re looking to gift or sell any of your images. All in all, it’s not cheap.

But, consider this a positive and use it to your advantage. Instead of running around with your phone out the whole time, take the opportunity to be deliberate and present. When you have a price tag attached to each image and a finite number of potential exposures, you’re going to really see what’s around you before raising your camera. Being in the moment ultimately helps you make better images and, moreover, connects you to what’s around you more than ever before.

Lastly, just have fun with it. Like getting out into the woods after a long work week, treat shooting film as a change of pace. Time in the backcountry seems to slow down in such a tremendous way that it only makes sense to capture it with a fitting medium.

Cuernos del Paine, Chile | Credit: John Lepak
Cuernos del Paine, Chile | Credit: John Lepak

VIDEO: Photographing the Milky Way Over Acadia

Video and text by Kris Roller
Video help from Nick Girard

Behind every great photo lies a story, one that describes the process and events leading up to the photograph. To me, the amount of planning and effort you put into its creation makes it that much better, and no photos require more work and preparation than astrophotos. When planning a shoot that involves the night sky, you have to take a few things into account: the equipment you are using, the location, and timing.

With astrophotography, the Milky Way is an extremely popular subject. But, depending on what part of the world you are in and the time of year, getting the perfect shot can be tricky.

Location

Generally, you want to be in an area with little-to-no light pollution. I use Google’s light pollution maps to help me pinpoint the darkest spots anywhere I travel. Also, the farther south you go, the more you can see the Milky Way and its galactic core. When you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way always faces south. So, for this photo, I knew I had to choose a location that would allow me to face in that direction, and Google Earth 3D helped me identify possible spots. And, because I knew I was shooting rock climbers, I also had to find a climbable rock that was pretty exposed to the night sky. Acadia, Maine, turned out to be perfect.

Timing

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way’s core can only be seen from February to late October. Depending on what’s in the foreground and where you want the Milky Way to be, you will want to plan your shoot during certain months. Various apps can help you organize this, and for this specific photo in Acadia, I used PhotoPills. The timing of the year was important, too, because I had to get the Milky Way a couple of hours into its initial rise above the eastern horizon. July ended up being ideal.

Equipment

Most DSLR cameras are great for shooting astrophotography. The equipment that I used was a Sony a7RII with a 24-70 mm f2.8 lens. Usually, you want to shoot the night sky anywhere from 14 to 24 mm—wide enough to see the Milky Way’s vastness. My setting was 24 mm 2500 ISO for 15 seconds. Generally, you can set the shutter speed to 20 or 25 seconds, but I had live subjects, so I had to keep it shorter than usual. Otherwise, any sudden movements would’ve made them come out blurry.

Post Processing

After I took the photo, I processed it in Adobe Photoshop first to bring the Milky Way’s details out. Then, I imported it into Lightroom to touch up the rest of the composition and balance the light on the foreground. After your shoot, there are numerous ways to process your work, but these two programs are the most common for night photography.

Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller

Song credit: “Pyrite Promises” by Dionysia


Packing Your Camera Gear For Hiking and Backpacking

So, you’ve decided to take your DSLR out for the first time on a hike. That can be pretty intimidating. Carrying what could be thousands of dollars in sensitive electronics in the dirty, wet outdoors is enough to make any photographer think twice before packing up. But, if you know ahead of time what to bring and how to pack it, your camera will be in good hands, and the rain shower freakout can be averted.

Depending on the extent of your hike, you probably want to pack as light as possible. This is no different with your camera gear. Each piece you choose to bring should either be a necessity or a backup. So, what should you have with you?

Credit: Chris Daniele
Credit: Chris Daniele

Carrying and Protecting Your Camera

Carrying your camera while you’re on the trails can be quite the struggle, but one of the simplest things you can do for outdoor photography is to upgrade your stock camera strap. A longer, more comfortable option with a quick-release buckle, such as the Peak Design Slide, may make things easier. By resting the strap diagonally across your chest with the camera body sitting by your hip rather than around your neck directly in front, you’ll be much more comfortable, and the camera won’t move around as much while still being easily accessible.

For more intense hikes, a chest harness might be more helpful. This mounts the camera securely to your chest and distributes the weight evenly over both of your shoulders. The camera usually sits facing downward, so, if you were to accidentally fall forward, it would stay close to your body and won’t hit lens or glass first. This position also gives you a better line of sight to see where your feet are stepping.

Credit: Chris Daniele
Credit: Chris Daniele

Keeping Dry

So, you’re mid-hike and here comes the rain. That can be pretty scary, but with the right precautions, you shouldn’t have to worry. The key? Plan ahead and look at the forecast. A 30-percent chance of rain is still a chance! One of the cheaper and most important accessories you can get to keep shooting in the rain (or snow) is a rain cover for your DSLR. Even if rain is not in the forecast, these are small and light enough to always keep in your pack—and it wouldn’t hurt to store it in a side pocket that is easily accessible—and could save your camera’s life in a downpour!

If you decide you’re going to hop into a canoe or kayak during any of your adventures, I would strongly suggest getting a waterproof case or bag for your DSLR. While this is a more expensive accessory, the odds of the camera possibly getting submerged are greater than if you were on land. They also make taking my camera out on kayaking trips far less stressful and way more fun!

Tip: If you think your camera is getting wet, shut it off! For your electronics, one of the worst things is having water get inside when they’re powered on. And, try not to turn it back on until you are sure it is dry. Also, if you are about to cross a slippery stream or climb down a steep rock, it’s always a good habit to shut the camera off, just in case!

Credit: Chris Daniele
Credit: Chris Daniele

Which Lens Should I Take?

You will probably only want to have one (or maybe two) lenses on you for your hike. As often as possible, I try to only bring one, but if I do bring a second, I use an athletic fanny pack to keep it on me and easily accessible, so I don’t have to dig through my backpack.

Choosing a lens depends on what you plan to shoot. For landscapes, you’ll want a wide lens; for shots of your hiking pals, consider a medium focal length; and if you’re planning on photographing wildlife, you’ll likely want a telephoto. If you’re shooting all styles or want a lot of versatility, your best bet is a lens that covers as many focal lengths as possible. My go-to when I only bring one is a 24mm-105mm, so I can shoot wide landscapes and get closer, just in case I run into any wildlife.

A UV filter also adds a layer of protection to the front, and it can also keep dirt and moisture off the glass. Keep in mind that a cheaper UV filter may impact your image quality!

Credit: Chris Daniele
Credit: Chris Daniele

Batteries & Memory Cards

Bring extras, and don’t forget to charge them all the night before. Remember, colder conditions may drain your batteries faster, so keep them someplace warm, if possible, like inside a jacket. It also doesn’t hurt to bring a car battery charger along, in case you start shooting before you get to your hike or for reviewing photos after. If you can recharge via USB, a lightweight portable backup power supply additionally comes in handy.

As always, bring a backup card. You never know what can happen, so having that second card adds no weight and could be a lifesaver. It’s also a good idea to have a card case that’s water and impact resistant.

Credit: Chris Daniele
Credit: Chris Daniele

Accessories

Other important—and light—tools to pack are a lens cloth—remember, you will be kicking up dirt—and an air blower cleaner, in case you notice dust on your camera’s sensor while you’re out shooting!

If you are planning to use a tripod for stability, longer exposures, or selfies, the Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom with a Ballhead is a lightweight and versatile hiking option. It can hold about 6 lbs., and you can grip to almost any surface. I’ve definitely had my camera hanging from tree branches on this thing!

If you’re camping and there’s a chance of rain, it also doesn’t hurt to bring a dry sack to seal your camera in overnight. It could be the one time you wake up in a puddle, and your camera is sitting halfway underwater. Peace of mind will help you rest up!

 

Each hike and situation is going to be different for every photographer, but with these tips, you can enjoy your trek more without all the worry about your gear. For most, it will be figuring out what works best. Happy shooting!

Credit: Chris Daniele
Credit: Chris Daniele

How to Photograph the Sunrise and the Sunset: 7 Tips

Some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve experienced outdoors have been spent in seclusion, watching the sun rise and set while the sky erupts in a multitude of colors. There truly is nothing more magical than the world quieting down for the night as the sun sets—except, perhaps, watching and listening as it comes alive again and the sun peeks out from beyond the horizon.

As is often the case with these and other magical moments, trying to accurately capture it in a photograph can be difficult. However, you can usually come quite close by remembering a few key tips and tricks.

photo-2

1. Stick with it

When it comes to outdoor photography, the most important thing to keep in mind is that dedication and perseverance are the keys to helping you get the perfect shot. This can sometimes be tough (I know it is for me) because it means you will almost always be losing a good deal of sleep. Driving to or from your destination, hiking time, and other factors all have to be taken into account, but you’ll rarely regret it.

Hiking in the dark is also a big component of getting mountaintop sunrises and sunsets, and if you can find some people crazy enough to go with you, the trip will be much more enjoyable. There’s a special kind of magic that takes over as you sit and watch, and forget about just how tired you are or will be later.

photo-3

2. Not all sunsets and sunrises are the same

Not every quest for the perfect shot will result in even a mediocre sunset. For instance, before one recent hike up New Hampshire’s Mount Moosilauke, I checked the weather forecast and decided it would be a good day to catch the sunrise on top. During the entire drive there, I had clear, starry skies and was getting very excited for the sunrise. About halfway up the trail, however, a thick fog suddenly rolled in, and didn’t clear until I was almost back to my car—an hour after the sun had already risen. But, that failed attempt didn’t stop me from catching a sunset near my house later the same day, and boy, was it worth it. Weather and conditions change rapidly, but persistence eventually nets you a shot you never thought was possible.

photo-4

3. Look at the clock

For planning your trip or hike, a key factor to take into account is the actual time of the sunrise or sunset. You can usually get this information from many different sources, including weather apps on your phone or online. I tend to use mountain-forecast.com and Weather Underground.

Realize, however, that the sunrise or sunset doesn’t always happen at that specific time. Colors can begin erupting across the sky up to an hour before the actual sun crests over the horizon in the morning or starts to set in the evening. As a good rule of thumb, get to your destination roughly an hour beforehand, and stay up to 30 minutes afterwards.

photo-5

4. Clouds are your friends

As one of the trickier things about shooting at dusk or dawn, those colors that everyone seeks can erupt across the sky and fade in as little as 30 seconds. So, you need to be aware and ready to shoot at any time, and never forget that clouds are your friends. Clouds reflect the scattered light particles to create astounding color combinations.

The most amazing sunrises and sunsets I’ve ever seen have occurred on slightly cloudy days, and the colors seemingly came from nowhere and disappeared just as fast. Don’t forget to look behind you, away from the sun, to catch a glimpse of the alpenglow, which is when subtle blues and pinks fill the sky.

5. Adjust for the sun

Keep in mind that shooting with a phone in the direction of the sun will typically result in some sort of flare, unless you center and focus directly on it. However, since most colors tend to appear either just before the sun emerges from the horizon or just after it sets, it’s easy to avoid flares. If you are using a DSLR, you can oftentimes create a starburst or sunburst effect with the sun’s rays, which adds some uniqueness to your shot. Finding innovative ways to frame this burst can give you a shot unlike anyone else’s.

photo-8

6. Don’t forget the foreground

Remember your rule of thirds. Breaking your view into three parts, both vertically and horizontally, and then using those imaginary lines to align items and frame your shot allow you to capture more aesthetically pleasing photographs.

Sunrises and sunsets are great for creating silhouetted shots of fellow hikers, photographers, and friends. Focusing on the sky behind your subject allows you to capture the beauty of the scene while adding your companion’s silhouette to an already-fantastic image.

photo-9

7. Keep the editing light

It’s important to try to keep editing to a minimum. While it’s very difficult to shoot a photograph that completely matches how your mind remembers the moment, slight adjustments to the image’s overall brightness and color can usually help you come close. Many times, people will want to increase the saturation quite a bit, but this typically results in an image that looks very unrealistic and not what you were originally going after.

photo-10

All photos credit: Joshua Myers

 


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!