Posted by: Kostas Petrakis | May 11, 2011

Photography and hiking

It’s not secret that often the most breathtaking landscape views (not always the rule though) are to be found in remote isolated and less easily reached places.
If you are into landscape photography and you are passionate about it there will be times where you will be faced with the choice of visiting places which require some hiking either on cold or warmer weather conditions.
The most important factors is to dress properly for those situations, to protect your health and make sure you enjoy your visit in nature the second most important factor is to balance your load, so that you wont feel exhausted once you reach your objective waypoint.
But if you are not familiar with hiking or mountains you naturally don’t know what you should be wearing or buying for those circumstances.

Mountain / Hiking and any kind of activity that involves walking or hiking will make you sweat and will increase your body heat, wearing a proper layering system is essential for making you feel comfortable and especially for keeping your body in a healthy state during the activity.
What is a layering system?
Layering system is the way people who are involved with outdoor activities dress, it consists of 3 layers, the base, the mid and the
outer layer.
Most people use as a base layer a cotton shirt, as a mid layer a shirt and as an outer layer a jacket, but that’s only applicable when you are in the city or you dress casually, this kind of layering is the biggest mistake you can perform while being outdoors, Why? Because cotton does not allow your sweat to evaporate, your body to breathe and eventually it makes you feel cold and puts you outside of the comfort zone.
A proper layering system, depending of your activity should consist of a base layer which is highly breathable, in colder weathers you should be seeking a combination of thermal and breathable base layer while during warm weather you should be seeking a shirt which will wick the sweat away from your body keeping you dry while still breathable to maintain your temperature and reduce the effect of sweating during your activity.
A mid layer consists usually from a fleece jacket or shirt, depending on the weather and the activity level you may not need to wear one (warm weather) or you may need a double fleece jacket (cold weather with small activity level), fleece with a proper base layer will make sure your body stays within comfy temperature while still breathing and allowing body moisture to escape your clothing system. Note that if your photographic trek involves a high activity indicator (such as ascending a mountain) you should also make sure you carry an extra fleece jacket or soft shell jacket for the time you stop (either for photographing or for resting), this is needed because walking will already make you feel hot and sudden change of this situation could be risky for your health.
Finally the outer layer consists usually of a waterproof jacket, make sure the jacket is both light and breathable; those mountain jackets most often come without any kind of insulation, since the layering system ensures about your insulation and the jacket is there to protect you from rain and wind and not to replace your mid layer. Highly breathable is another important factor of this jacket, surely you can find waterproof jackets that cost close to 10$, but try to trek with them on you for a while, soon you will find out that you are totally wet (even though the rain does not penetrate the jacket) from your body moisture and most important you will feel utter discomfort, breathable jackets maintain their waterproof characteristics while allowing your body to properly breathe and remove the sweat away from it.
Hiking boots is another important part of the puzzle, proper hiking boots should be waterproof, should allow your feet to stay dry and most importantly protect them from accidents which are common when hiking over hills or places with lots of vegetation and hidden “traps”.
Shocks should also be breathable, and make sure you bring a second pair with you; you never know when your feet will get wet (even with waterproof boots) and if they do get wet and there is nothing more annoying (and also dangerous for your feet health) than wet shocks and shoes.
Trousers are there to protect your legs from plantation and insects, but also to allow your lower body to breathe properly and also stay dry, a lot of people bypass the trouser parameter, but trust me this is another key component for an enjoyable experience, try to imagine hiking for 3 hours with a wet jean…not the most pleasing experience. Trousers should be comfy, so choose wisely, they should allow your movement easily without restricting you and most importantly without making you feel discomfort, a quick dry trouser is a welcome addition, since in the event you get wet it will dry far quicker from any other typical trouser, they should be long enough to protect your legs, but not long to make you step on them on every step you take.
Gloves for colder conditions are a necessary accessorie as well, they will allow your hands to maintain temperature while stopping winds from making them feel cold, since we hike mostly for photographic reasons, you should be looking for thin gloves, personally, since I don’t easily get cold, I use a pair of polartec made gloves, they are thin, they stop wind from reaching my fingers and making me feel cold and most importantly they allow me to easily operate the camera without needing to take them off.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, equipment is another factor, you don’t want to carry extreme loads on your back, I believe its easily understandable, heavy weights on your back, even with the best backpack there is available will soon make you tired and will put a lot of stress in one of the most risky parts of your body, choose wisely your equipment and don’t pack more than needed, 1 camera body (in case you have more than 1), 2 lenses, 2 batteries, your filters and your remote control should be the maximum (in my opinion) on your back, 2 lenses cover nearly everything, a wide angle and a telephoto (such as a 70-200 which will be able to cover most of the situations) will allow you to cover most of the subjects you encounter. A light tripod is also a major relief for your hike, it will take away lots of the stress and it will also allow you to setup more easily and quickly, light tripods are usually more expensive than bulk and heavy tripods but they are worth every little penny!
I hope I managed to cover as much as I could on the subject, if you do have questions or corrections do comment I will make sure either to answer them or add them to the existing article. Happy adventuring!!!

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