Ok…let’s start with some truths:
I’m not a hiker and I have never been hiking in my 26 years on this planet before last week. We just did an epic (well to my greenhorn-self it was most definitely ‘epic’) trip up and around the peak district filming all kinds of videos. Oh yea, and I’m one of the video team for Simply Hike – hey there!
So that’s the basis of this blog, I’m a total hiking newbie and had been set the mission of a 3-day trip to the Peak District (more specifically the ‘Kinder Scout’ area) with a 2-person video team and our Technical Adviser Shaun, to film an array of advice videos and get some great content together to create our new advert. Simple!
Having about 8 years professional video and photography experience I thought I could do anything in this industry, but hiking and scrambling up steep inclines whilst carrying kit, trying to get great shots and not break any of your equipment is quite a hard task and is something I felt the need to pass on my experience with anyone else out there who will be taking camera equipment with them on a hike.
Now I realize not everyone will be making use of all the lenses, shoulder rigs, tripods etc.. that we work with but I do know that the home videography and photography market is becoming increasingly popular and there were some very basic points that I came across which I would never have known otherwise – so here goes:
Waterproof Dry Bags
Firstly, and this is a biggie – purchase waterproof dry bags! These things may seem like something you would never use but at least twice these saved my camera equipment from flooding during a heavy downpour.
I personally used these which gave a great variation of sized dry bags which allowed me to put different sized items in different sized sacks which I then safely kept stored within my rucksack for the journeys. However if you’re simply only taking a single camera – just get a small single bag which can fit both your lens and camera inside like this one.
This is going to give you such great piece of mind whilst you travel, knowing no matter what conditions you get in, your camera will stay dry - these things are 100% waterproof (you can dunk them in a river!) so you know your expensive kit will stay safe.
Also these came in handy not just during the travelling but once I had the camera out and was filming, when the heavens did decide to open I was able to quickly put the camera in the bag, fold the top and seal it down, ready to take on whatever ominous power was smiting me at the time.
Additional Layer of Padding
So once the camera is in the waterproof stuff sack it’s safe from the rain, but not much else. So my second piece of advice is to pack an extra fleece or something which is generally lightweight so it doesn’t weigh you down but has a nice thickness to it to wrap the camera in during transit. Without a camera in your rucksack you probably don’t notice the amount of times it swings and bangs ‘this’ and catches ‘that’, so having that protective padding around the camera is really going to come in handy. Even when putting your bag down off your back, I noticed with most hikers, they don’t worry too much when launching their 65 litre rucksack from their weary back to the floor – but when you’re carrying a good few hundred quid in there…you start to notice these things!
Packing your Kit
So the camera is now waterproof and has some shock resistance to it, so the next thing is packing the thing cleverly. Now I quickly refer to my opening paragraph “I am not a hiker” so please excuse the lack of technicality that comes with this next statement, but I found the best place to pack my camera in my rucksack was right at the top…oh dear I just heard the ‘gasps’ of a thousand hikers!…I really do apologise since I know more important things like waterproofs or, ya know…food should be stored here for easy access during bad conditions, but when you’re hiking and are a complete photography nerd, you'll suddenly see that perfect shot and can quickly grab your camera without having to waste time rummaging around... some things might need to suffer for your art.
And this really was a big aspect for me since I was constantly getting the camera in and out of the bag (incessantly annoying the crew of course) to get great shots, and at one point I did pack my camera nearer the middle of my rucksack to be in keeping with my fellow hiker, but when the time came and I just needed to grab and snap the perfect shot…the shot had gone. And I promise at some point the same thing will happen to you, the clouds will come over or the subject you’re trying to film/photograph will move, and you’ll go ‘I should have listened to that blog guy!’
Also final note…it may seem like a great idea to pack the camera in the overhead compartment of your rucksack for easy access, but it really doesn’t sit well in there and just isn’t worth it. It starts to knock you in the head after 2 strides.
The Neck Strap
Now this is truly down to personal preference and whether the weather (thanks Primary Education!) is nice enough to have your camera hanging around your neck, but on the whole I found the neck strap was more painful and annoying than it was worth. It most definitely gives you the quickest access to the camera, but within 30 minutes of hiking with that round your neck, you get a nice ‘Canon’ or ‘Nikon’ logo branded into your skin and your neck starts to ache and you get some gentle bruising appear around your sternum where the camera thinks it’s fun to swing back and forth into your chest.
So personally, I’d say don’t use the neck strap – or at least not for long periods of time. Maybe invest in a camera belt, because even when you wear it nonchalantly over one shoulder it will swing and become a hindrance, especially when using walking poles or needing your hands to scramble.
Some Techy Stuff: Landscape Images
Now if you’re just using your mobile phone or a standard style camera then ignore this next section, but if you’re using something a little more professional like a DSLR and you’re just starting out then this may help you. You can of course shoot however you want to, but if you want to capture nice sharp images of everything within a landscape shot then this is your best bet. Manual mode is best, try to keep your F-Stop on a higher number than you would normally and use the shutter speeds to even out the brightness of your shot – but don’t take the shutter lower than 200 otherwise this will start to blur your image if you move slightly. This technique reduces the depth-of-field in your shot and allows you to get a sharper image of the entire landscape as opposed to having one mountain clearly in focus and everything else all blurred out. In lower light conditions you'll need tripod, which can be a cumbersome piece of kit, but choosing one would be a whole-nother-post! (But completely worthwhile for capturing moonlit landscapes and even getting some stars on film - or memory card!)
And that’s pretty much everything in a nutshell! All the points made above are from real-life experiences so take from them what you will, but they worked for me and allowed us to capture some great footage and pictures whilst hiking through the peak district. Happy Snapping!