Every single time you head into the outdoors with your camera, you hope that you come back with something great. Of course, we all know that the camera gods don’t always deliver. It takes a total convergence of natural and mechanical forces to bring a killer shot together, not the least of which involve your setting, your gear and technical skills, the weather and the willing dedication (read: bravery) of your models.
The other day, I got a text from my good friend and longtime partner of many mountain-related escapades, Eric Parsons, who owns the adventure cycle touring gear company Revelate Designs. We’d been trying to get together and shoot some killer biking shots all summer, and our schedules finally jived.
Eric and I have worked together enough times that he’s well versed in what I expect of my models. In other words, he’s willing to wear the right gear and do the really scary stuff all in the name of getting a breathtaking image. Especially since we were shooting as much for his company as mine.
An hour after I got his text message, we were out the door with bikes and camera gear. I packed my usual lightweight adventure photography kit, which consists of the following gear:
- Nikon D700
- Fujifilm X20
- Nikon 24mm f2.8 lens
- Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Telephoto Zoom
- Nikon SB-800 speedlight
- Lumiquest Softbox III
All of the above fits easily into my Lowepro Photo Sport 200 camera pack. I love the Photo Sport for longer, more involved days, because has extra room in the main compartment for jackets, water and snacks. You can see my video review of this awesome pack here (bloopers included.)
We had a specific ridge picked out where we wanted to shoot, that we felt would look awesome, partly because of the nice fall light, and partly because of the recent snow that had fallen in the Chugach Mountains.
Of course, we had to get there, which meant riding a few miles back and hauling our bikes a few hundred feet up onto the ridge, but stuff like that is always par for the course when you’re trying to get a photo that nobody else has.
I shot the main image above with the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR lens, which I think is the ideal adventure photographer’s lens. Not only is it half the weight and almost half the price of the Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8G ED VRII, it’s full-on pro quality ED glass with reduced flare, reflectivity and chromatic aberration.
Plus, the improved Vibration Reduction technology, which offers up to 5 stop of VR, makes it usable in a wide number of settings and situations. I just can’t see heading out to do any serious photography without this lens anymore. If you often carry your gear into the backcountry, then I’d highly recommend taking a look at this lens.
My 24mm f2.8 lens also saw quite a bit of action on this outing, as did the Fujifilm X20. When I’m going for maximum quality, I usually reach for the Nikon DSLR, but I find that when I’m moving quickly, and doing something precarious, like carrying the bike alongside a steep rocky cliff, having a compact camera like the X20 slung around my shoulder makes things a little easier. When the light is good, I have confidence in the X20’s ability to render a good, pro quality image.
I also broke out the flash for one setup, but I’ll run those shots in another post. Stay tuned for that. In the meantime, here are a few more shots from our awesome outing.
My last bit of advice for how to make a great image? Get outside with your gear.