Many many photographers go on huge long photo hikes. they pack everything up, cameras, lenses, filters, tripods, solar chargers. And then there is the traditional necessities such as water and food for a day trip all the way to tents and sleeping bags and more for a longer trip.
Personally at my age i enjoy the comfort of a bed in a nice hotel each night. Or at the worst an air mattress in the back of the rented SUV. I’m not one of those guys that likes strapping 50-100 pounds of camera and camping gear to my back and going in the woods for miles. There goes my back, my neck, my knees.. uggggg..
Now don’t get me wrong, i love nature, but my idea of hiking is simply walking through the woods with my shoes and a small camera and that’s it. I’m more of a minimalist when i go in the woods, i drink the water i find and i eat the berries if i get hungry.. or maybe a couple granola bars in my pocket. i’ve found that carrying tons of stuff first of all, duh, it’s heavy, but it also tends to make you stay near established trails that many have walked on already anyhow.
I’ve never really found anything breathtaking walking through the woods anyhow. Usually i find a stream, the occasional pond, or some animals that run away at the first sound of me coming. But if you must go in the woods then plan the trip, look at satellite images before you go, (see my previous blog.)
So if you are walking on trails that many have done beforehand, you are not finding that all important “original secret view” that hardly ever exists anymore anyhow.
I know that i am attracted to the latest cameras and lenses with the cool little fancy buttons and i love technology. so why do photographers run away from using technology to get to our subject? Cars people, cars.
When i work from my car i have everything i need for the whole day or even the week. i have all my cameras and lenses sitting on the seat next to me within easy reach. i love to have 3 or 4 bodies with lenses just waiting to be grabbed. I hate changing lenses because before i kept them all mounted it always ended up that i just took that great waterfall or mountain picture and then i forget to put the 400mm back on and i miss the animal on the side of the road up ahead. But, in a car i can have all the cameras and lenses ready to go.. try that with a backpack.
Now, can we say air conditioning and heater? i’m at that perfect place in the morning, all set up waiting for the right light just before the sun rises behind me. Well, it’s also 50 31 degrees that morning and then there could even be wind!! So we go back to the comfort thing, would you rather be standing out there at your tripod with your fingers going numb and teeth chattering? How about waiting in a nice cushioned seat with the heater going and your favorite music (audio books for me… i know, nerd), and a nice hot cup of tea or coffee and donuts…mmmmm
So i got that great picture and look, i have a car so i can easily drive to another site while there is still good light. try doing that camping out. i’m so sick of those guys saying “i had to wait all week for the sky and light to be just right so i can get this one shot.” if i went away for a week and only came back with one shot my wife would kill me! Even from a business standpoint: you waited all week, spent $1500 on airfare, meals, and all the other crap, and you got your shot! However, how many times do you have to sell it to get that money back? i don’t know any professional that sits for a week, i’m convinced that is an old wives tale that ego trip guys make up so we think they are soooo dedicated.
Morning is now over, i’m driving all along back roads finding really cool stuff to photograph. I’m scouting for the next morning and the evening location. I even have a chance to talk to the locals and find out the secret spots that are never published on the internet.
Cars also are a great way to sneak up on wildlife. For some reason even in remote areas most wildlife won’t run from a car like they would if you were walking. Plus, it’s a lot harder to get trampled by a moose if you roll up the window. An example i have is a blue heron. I have a beautiful pond at home and there is a blue heron that comes all the time to eat my trout. Now, if i drive up the driveway he just sits there and looks at me, i can sit in the car forever and he still dosn’t react. However, if i walk along the driveway he is gone and flies away instantly. Cars are just great blinds for your photography.
Now i’m a big fan of national parks, and you will say all the roadside stuff has been photographed to death. Well that’s true for the snapshot people. As a professional we see things from an artistic point of view that they will never see. the general public as a whole “knows what they like” but they don’t know how to get it. hang out in the gift shop and listen to people. grab a book and pretend to read it and stand near where they sell the large prints or even the post cards. i guarantee within 3-5 mins someone will say these exact words: “why doesn’t my picture of xxxxx look like that?”
it’s because we are professionals, we can see how the light is going to bounce off a mountainside, we know how to slow the shutter down and smooth out the waterfall, and now we have HDR. Plus, i like photographing the same thing everyone else does because it makes me think and makes me try to figure out how to get creative and make it an original image.
Don’t be afraid of your car, don’t worry about what that photographer hiking through the woods is getting. Enjoy what YOU are doing and getting and you will have an awesome week or day in comfort.