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How To Build A Camera Kit For Adventure Photography



For most of my life, nature was my sanctuary. My job and life, like many of us, keep me connected to the technological world, but it's only when I go out in the fresh air that I can brake enough to understand the cacophony in my head. Photography had no place in it for years. I just wanted to be in the experience, not mess around with gadgets and settings. At some point, however, I wanted to share these places and these experiences, and some of them must be seen to be believed.

What began as a preliminary relationship with outdoor photography has become a full-fledged infatuation by engaging in the work of legends like Ansel Adams and Instagram's most creative posters. Now I plan to plan whole trips for something I want to shoot. In fact, it motivates me to go to the wilderness even more than before.

While not claiming to be at the same level as the incredible professionals, I've spent a lot of time over the last few years, I've been obsessively researching and putting my kit together. I think I've put together a very handsome set of adventures through a lot of experimentation, and it's one that (probably) does not require a second mortgage. Here is my recommended setup. (Remember, you do not have to buy everything at once.)

Cameras and Lenses

This is the most expensive and controversial part of the Shebang. Camera companies have their wool dyed loyalists, as well as lens brands and even sensor sizes. The truth is that cameras are currently ridiculously good, and I advise everyone to do their own research and see what best fits their goals, preferences and budget. Here is what I use. (Please do not yell at me.)

Main Camera


My current camera is the Sony A7R III, and in general I really love it. It is a full-frame camera (ie the image sensor is about the size of a 35mm film) that lets in a lot of light. This is important to me as I take many shots in low light, including shots of the stars. There are 42 megapixels, which I like because I can crop pictures and / or print large copies and they still look good. I've been shooting for years with the much cheaper Sony A7S, and before that, Canon was the entry-level 6D, and I was able to take some of my favorite photos with it. Full screen is recommended if you can, as you will be able to take wider, brighter photos with a shallower depth of field, but you can still get great results with cameras with smaller sensors.

Lenses [19659009] Which camera you choose in the end, you will probably have dozens (if not hundreds) of lenses to choose from, some of which will cost as much as your car. How do you choose Well, what interests you most about filming? Start by buying your lenses. I knew that I wanted to do a lot of landscaping and was able to show the Milky Way across the sky. So it was important for me to find a good, fast, wide lens. The best I've ever tried is the Sigma 14mm 1: 1.8. It is razor-sharp and fast, so I can make star shots with significantly less noise and blur. However, it's $ 1,600, which is not exactly cheap. The first wide-angle lens I bought was the Rokinon 14mm 1: 2.8. It was only about $ 250, and it's a great lens that I still use. If you are not interested in landscapes and only want to photograph small birds, you probably need a stabilized telephoto lens. If you want to do anything, it's nice to have a versatile, fast zoom lens. Sony's newest 24-105mm 1: 4.0 is my current setting, although I have the slightly cheaper version 24-240mm (3.5-6.3-6.3-6.3-6.3-6.3 ) used for many years and got a lot of good stuff.

Secondary Camera


A Many photographers carry multiple camera bodies. Good for you, if you have such a scratch! Personally, I only wear my main body, my cell phone (more about that in a second) and an action camera, which is currently the GoPro Hero 7 Black. I try to have it in my pocket when I walk. It's tough, it's waterproof and you can mount it on almost anything. It's just extremely versatile. I recently used it as I moved through a narrow, flooded canyon gorge in southern Utah. I've also used it in snowboarding, mountain biking, diving or other ill-advised things.

drone


This is certainly not mandatory. In fact, it is often prohibited (for example, in national parks). In other words, there is a lot of wildlife where using a drone is absolutely legal and can give you prospects that you simply can not get down to earth. For some time, my favorite drone is the DJI Mavic Air, because it's small enough to throw a backpack (or jacket pocket) and forget it's there. Nevertheless, it offers excellent image quality, bidirectional obstacle avoidance and more at $ 700 it will not break the bank. If image quality is your top priority, you should choose DJI Mavic 2 Pro. It's $ 1,500, and it's slightly bigger than the air. Not only does it have omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, it also has a Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch sensor that delivers unbelievably great pictures.

Carrying and Attaching

Backpack


I've tried lots of camera bags The years I keep coming back to are the $ 250 Mountainsmith Borealis. The 2018 version is 35 liters (over 25), so it fits in with everything I mentioned in this article (and some others) and still manages to wear comfortably. The configurable, padded compartment accommodates camera housings and lenses, it has a laptop sleeve that also serves as a drinking compartment, a large main compartment (for warm clothing, groceries or even a sleeping bag) and many small pockets to organize equipment and even one built-in rain cover. It is also made of super strong 610d Cordura (also new for 2018), stands on a waterproof floor and can sit under the seat in front of me … mostly. It's not perfect, but it's as close as anything I've found.

Tripod


For three years I carried an old, heavy video tripod that I found in a closet. It was clunky, but it kept my camera safe, and that's the most important task after all. Recently, I decided to upgrade, mainly because I took more portraits and did not tilt video stands 90 degrees to make it easier. The check box for all my speakers is the Sirui Ocean Runner Tripod Kit (W-2004K20). It extends to 71 inches, but can be folded to just over 20. It weighs only 4.6 pounds, has a detachable monopod and is waterproof. It adapts quickly, has a lot of bubble levels, has a very quiet panning (important for video) and last but not least uses an Arca plate (see next section). It is available in aluminum for 320 USD and carbon fiber for 490 USD. I went with aluminum. It all had the same characteristics, it was a bit more compact and weighed exactly the same. I was extremely happy with it.

Quick Access Mount


I was shocked that such a small thing in the field could make such a big difference. When hiking, biking or climbing on rocks, it is really annoying to use a neck strap. It not only rubs your neck, but the camera bounces off your sternum all day (and / or scratches with stones). The $ 70 Peak Design Capture solves that. Attach the clip to the strap of your backpack and attach a small mounting plate to the tripod to screw in the camera. It snaps into place on the chest and does not jump when you move. The camera can be retracted and retracted with just one hand. Since the plate used is also of the type Arca, you can put it directly on a tripod of the type Arca, as the above mentioned. (There is also an adapter for many Manfrotto tripods.) It's awesome.

Alternate Tripod


When I walked through the Grand Canyon a few years ago, I packed very easily. The only tripod I brought was this crazy Joby GorillaPod. It can keep an 11-pound camera safe enough for very long exposure times. It has 360 degree panning, a 90 degree tilt for portraits, and flexible legs that hold onto rocks and branches, but they're rigid enough for them. It uses plates of the type Arca. In my current system, I essentially do not have to unscrew the plate from my camera. It is also ideal for mounting a GoPro, a light or even an audio recorder. Mine (pictured) is the GorillaPod Focus with Ballhead X, which has since been replaced by the 5K kit, which is essentially the same. That's not cheap for $ 180, but over the years, I've gotten a ton of use from me.

Photo upgrades

UV filter


Congratulations on your new lens. Now let us protect and improve it. UV filters were previously necessary in the era of film cameras because films were quite sensitive to UV light. This is not really an issue in the digital age. Nevertheless, many photographers recommend them because they are clear and they protect your expensive lens from scratches, dust, sand and salt water. UV filters are flat and therefore easier to clean than the curved surface of your lens. When scratched, they are much cheaper to replace than the front element. However, you may want to remove it before pointing directly to a light source, as this may cause additional lens flare. This is more of a problem with cheap filters. I really like B + W filters. They are extremely high quality and inexpensive. Make sure you get the right size for your lens. I recently purchased the B + W 77mm XS-Pro Clear MRC Nano 007 filter for $ 50, and I have not seen any impact on image quality.

Circular Polarizer

These are especially useful when you want to photograph bright skies or bodies of water (even small rivers) or really anything that has reflectivity. Just like your polarized sunglasses, these filters reduce glare and can make a dramatic difference. Look at the above and afterwards. You can manually rotate the filter to change the degree and appearance of the polarization. It will cost you a bit of light, so I do not keep mine on constantly. But when it's light, it really enhances the look of my photos. Once again, I chose the B + W 77mm MRC circular polarizer, which costs $ 83 for this size, and I was impressed with the build quality and clarity.

Cleaning kit


This package is absolutely mandatory. Obtain a cleaning kit. It does not have to be fancy or expensive. The two most important things are a microfiber cloth and the small squeeze ball buffer to blow off dust from your lens or sensor. Also, I would recommend that you bring more than one microfibre cloth, as they can make things worse if they become oily (or take some sunscreen from your fingers). I spent a whopping $ 11 on this cleaning kit from CamKix, and it was great. I also try to have a few of these jumbo-sized Zeiss microfiber wipes on hand.

Intervalometer / Remote Control


If you are looking for more advanced techniques such as extra-long shutter speeds, star trails or fast motion, you need an intervalometer. Nikon has a basic function in the software of its cameras. This is a great feature that I really would like if everyone else stole. Fortunately, you get an external intervalometer that does the job cheaply. Just check if it works with your particular camera. I received a JCC timer for Sony from Amazon for $ 22, and that was solid. However, if you want to spend more money, my friend Rachel Jones Ross likes the $ 100 Vello Wireless ShutterBoss III, a two-part system that lets you do all the above tasks and manually control the trigger up to 250 feet away.

Fast Lights


As I mentioned earlier, I love photography on the Milky Way, but sometimes it's useful to bring a little light to the foreground (a cool rock formation, a tree, etc.) for some details show highlight with the galaxy in the background. I do not like using a big flash kit. Instead, I'm wearing a few of these little Lume Cubes. They are small (1.5 cubic inches), waterproof and rechargeable. They also have Bluetooth so they can pair with your phone, remotely control, and adjust by 1 percent each. At long shutter speeds, I usually have them down to 1 or 2 percent, but they can get extremely bright and also deliver lightning. You also have a tripod screw so you can put one on a GorillaPod and put it exactly in the right angle.

ND Filter Kit


Neutral filters reduce the amount of light that falls on your image sensor without affecting the aperture or shutter speed. They are extremely useful if you want to capture the movement of the water, eg. For example, a sunset over the sea or a river rushing around some rocks. With neutral density filters, you can take extremely long exposures without blowing out the photo, and they can also be useful for video work. The general consensus is that Lee filters are the best, but they cost a lot, and if you only dip your toes, I would recommend starting with a cheaper kit so you can experiment and see which filters are likely to be on most use. I received this cheap Rangers 8-Piece ND Filter Kit for $ 26, and I was allowed to take a few shots that I really love.

Audio Upgrade


Do you know where I know that your camera's microphone sucks? Because they all do it. If you want to record videos and record audio that actually pleases the ear, you need to go outside. I've been using the Digital Zoom H6 Sound Recorder for almost three years, and it was great. There are interchangeable microphones, four XLR inputs, audio output and visual levels. For $ 370, that's not cheap, but as a journalist, I think it's indispensable. If you conduct many interviews, it is worth investing in a wireless lavalier kit. I like the Sennheiser kits, although the new G4 system (including the Lav microphone, transmitter and receiver) costs about $ 600. Yesterday's G3 kids are still great and you can find them discounted today.

Adventure Essentials

Headlight


You may have planned a quick hike, but sunsets can be seductive. If you stay for the last few shots, you will go back in the dark. Just keep a spotlight in your backpack. I've tried a ton, and the one I keep coming back to is the Princeton Tec Sync. It is light (150 lumens), waterproof, has floodlights and spotlights and red light so you will not destroy your night vision. The thing that makes me come back is the dial that controls everything. It's easy to find even with thick gloves, and you do not have to remember complicated keyboard shortcuts to get into the desired mode. Oh, and it's cheap for $ 22.

Hydration Bladder


I drink a lot of water when I walk, and so should you. Whenever I rely on a water bottle stowed in a side pocket, I underhydrate, simply because it's uncomfortable. That's why I think a hydration tube with a tube is only a few inches away from your face. I always come back to the Platypus Big LP. It holds three liters (100 ounces), seals securely, is relatively easy to clean and has a valve that does not leak. It does not take too much pressure to bite. It also fits well in the Mountainmith Borealis bag.

Water Filter


During day hikes, I try to take enough water with me, so it's not a problem, but I went out earlier. I used to have a lifestraw, which was helpful in an emergency situation, but you would have to settle down in the mud by a stream, bring your face close to the water and suck, as if you were drinking the world's coldest milkshake. The MSR Trailshot was a revelation to me. It's a tiny little pressure pump that's small enough to fit in your pocket, does not require suction, and can even top up your water bottles and hydration bladder (something the straws could never do). They should be secured anywhere in the US. However, if you travel to countries where waterborne viruses are a problem, you need something bigger, such as the MSR Guardian Purifier, which offers military filtering (including viruses) and a high flow rate. That's what I use for longer backpacking trips.

Multitool


Get the $ 100 Leatherman Wave It's a classic. Any other multitool that I've used (even those made by the same brand) has not let me reach it. The Wave has a wide selection of blades and tools, is dangerously sharp, but folds into a compact pocket. I've used her of everything, from repairing a tent to preparing food to ticks from my thigh. As a rule, I also have one on me for short day hikes.

GPS communicator / navigator


Think of this as a cheap insurance policy. With the Garmin inReach Explorer Plus Satellite Communicator, you can send and receive text with your family and friends, and even track your journey. It has topographic off-line maps, and it's easy to wirelessly load routes and waypoints from your computer to the map. There is also an SOS button that is called to search and rescue virtually anywhere in the world. There is a subscription fee for the texts and the like, but it's worth it. I recently had two camera shots that stretched out at night in the desert a good deal. I used the inReach to leave a needle on every camera and I could switch back and forth between them. This thing has a permanent place in my adventure package.

USB Portable Charger


This is another solid backpack, whether in urban environments or in the wild. It's incredibly important that you can charge small gadgets while you're on the go. I've been using Anker portable USB chargers for years and they're doing incredibly well. For most people, I would recommend the $ 60 PowerCore II. As the name implies, it is housed with 20,000 mAh power in a very slim little bar that fits in a jacket pocket. This new device has a port that delivers 18W of charging power, which is enough to quickly charge your phone or even boost a full-size, mirror-less camera.

Watch


Having a good outdoor watch is great for the sake of it. I personally use the Garmin Fenix ​​5S Plus. It's not just a fitness tracker and a rudimentary smartwatch (displays alerts etc.), but it has built-in TOPO maps for the entire US. You can also use the GPS to drive back when you've lost your track, and it can even display weather and sunrise / sunset times. It looks good that I carry it all the time, even when I'm in town. The predecessor of this watch took me to safety twice last year in the southwest during an unpleasant, prolonged heatwave.

Bear Spray

There are some things a good multitool can not do, such as fending off bears. If you are in a bear country, get some bear spray and always keep it on your hip. They do not want to end up like Leo in The Revenant .

In addition to the stuff in this category, I strongly recommend wearing a compressible warm layer, a waterproof layer, a small first-aid kit, a means to make fires (storm-proof matches are a great choice) and a handful of bars or other high calorie foods that can help you if you get stuck out there.

Data Management

After you I took your pictures, you have to do something with them.

Laptop


Discussion about which laptop is best suited is probably as bloody as dealing with cameras. Personally, I used a 15-inch MacBook Pro for years. For photography I would not opt ​​for a smaller screen. In the last few years I did not like what Apple did with the MacBook Pro. I did not like typing on the keyboard, and I did not like the fact that I could not get a 4K screen and only had one port type (USB-C). So I jumped the ship this summer and got a 15-inch HP Specter x360. It has a 4K touch screen (fantastic for photo editing), a wonderful keyboard, the latest Intel processor and a Radeon RX Vega M for graphics. It has every port I want, including two Lightning-compatible USB-C ports. an old USB-A port, a full-size HDMI port and an SD card slot. This effectively means that I never have to carry stupid adapters or dongles with me. And it costs about half the price of a less powerful MacBook Pro. I will not lie: I miss MacOS a lot, but I do not miss that a lot.

External Hard Drive


Look at this little thing in my hand. That's a terabyte. The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD disappears into your shirt pocket, but is also fast (550 MB / s read speed) and robust to IP55, which means that it is fine in rain or small drops. After dropping a rotating hard drive this year when I pushed it a bit, I can not tell you how much that peace of mind is worth. This thing has fallen from my desk to the hard floor and did not even seem to notice. There are a number of capacities, but I believe that $ 210 is a solid investment for 1TB.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

While cafés with Internet are plentiful and many phones support tethering, I still prefer a dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot because my speeds appear to be slightly higher than through my phone. (And if you use your phone as a hotspot, the battery kills very fast.) In the US, I've been using a Verizon Jetpack for almost three and a half years as my first Internet connection. I also had a hotspot from T-Mobile ZTE Falcon that I almost relied on. Yes, you have to pay for data, but if your livelihood depends on being able to go online, it's worth it.

For the next year …

I was reluctant to bring this in because it is not so It will not be available until early 2019, but I think it's interesting enough that it's worth mentioning. The original Gnarbox was a good idea. It was basically a portable hard drive with SD card slots and its own power source. Once you're done shooting, you can put the card in and she'll save everything. You can even start editing the full-resolution files from your mobile phone, and the changes will take effect when you return to your home system. As I said, it's a great idea. But the first iteration did not quite live. Gnarbox 2.0 looks a lot better. The SSD uses SSD, so the transmission speed is extremely high and the checksum is checked, so you do not have to worry about being really secure . It now also has a screen, and the entire app is being redesigned. It does not exist yet, so I do not recommend it, but I think it has a lot of potential, so take care of this place.

Telephone and Apps

Smartphone cameras have become really good. They are still a long way from a real full-screen camera, especially in low light, but some of my favorite photos are those that I photographed on my phone just because I could get it in time to capture the moment. My current phone is the Google Pixel 3 XL. The photos are the best I've ever seen from a phone. However, there are other important reasons to keep your phone with you, and many of these reasons are apps.


Google Maps

If you drive into the wild, being able to download maps for offline use can literally save your life.

PhotoPills

The UI is not completely intuitive (although it's compared to the competition), but PhotoPills (iOS, Android) is one of the most powerful apps for planning photos, especially when you're trying to get a sunset, to record a special event or the Milky Way. It even has AR, so you can position yourself exactly where the Sun / Moon / Milky Way will be hours, days or even months in advance. My night shots had a much better success rate since I started.

Astrospheric

This is another mainly aimed at night shooters. Astrospheric (iOS, Android) offers very detailed weather forecasts for a few days in advance, but it is about "it will be drizzling". Things like transparency, true "seeing," moon phases, and light pollution are considered. You really know exactly how much you'll see.

Adobe Lightroom CC Mobile

For every photo I take with my phone, GoPro, or even the pictures that I quickly transfer from my big camera Still in the field, I leave it through Lightroom CC Mobile (iOS, Android) before I post it. It gives you precise control over the way your photos look and really puts them on a par.

AllTrails

What Google Maps means for roads, AllTrails (iOS, Android) is for hiking trails. Not only does it help you hike around the world, but you can also download interactive topographic maps directly to your phone, with the route clearly marked. You will then use your phone's GPS to keep you up to date. If you are in a real wilderness area where the trails are badly marked (or not present), it can easily make the difference between reaching your destination or not. It's a subscription service, but it's worth it.


And that's my list. Is it all you will ever need? Is something of what you will never need? Probably! As I said, it is not necessary to buy all this at once. This is a list of things that you want to add over time, or to point you in the direction of replacing something from your own kit. This is all that I have tested and served me well. If you buy some of it, I hope it will do you good too.

Brent Rose is a freelance writer and regular Verge employee. He is currently traveling in the US in a high-tech van looking for stories to tell. Follow his adventures on Instagram Twitter Facebook and ConnectedStates.com .

Photograph by Brent Rose for The Verge [19659089] Vox Media is a partner company. These do not affect the editorial content, although Vox Media may receive commissions on products purchased through affiliate links. For more information see our Ethics Policy .


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