Here I want to tell you about two photo expeditions I spent my summer holidays on, one through the Dolomites and one through Europe's last wilderness.
This summer I have primarily spent hiking and photographing, the idea was to combine two of my favourite things, being and photographing in nature. As I'm only 18 years old, the budget is very tight, so it was hiking, sleeping in tents and home delivered food on my trips. I'll talk a bit about my trips and what it's like to walk and photograph on long trips, both practically and whether you can get good pictures this way.
I went on two trips:
10 Days on Alta via 1 (Dolomites) - 130 km, 8000m up, 8500m down.
The idea of the first trip here was to experience the Dolomites, which is known for its very photogenic landscape, but budget friendly with Interrail down there and sleep in a tent + cup noodles.
And my big trip that I have spent many months preparing for:
17 Days through "Europe's last wilderness", from Sweden to Norway 200 km north of the Arctic Circle - 250 km, 5000m up, 5400 down.
Hiking these places, especially the last mentioned, is hard enough in itself, but carrying camera gear, charging and backing up your camera and photos makes it a lot harder. Let me start by saying that I 100% have some of the heaviest camera gear for hiking, so you can easily make it lighter, I actually ended up with about 11kg of camera gear to the Dolomites, here I had: drone (Air 2s), Nikon Z9, wildlife lens (200-500 f5.6), landscape lens (14-30 f4), All-around lens (24-70 2.8), FTZ adapter, filter set, camera tripod, MacBook and backup SSDs + some small stuff. I ended up carrying 30 kg, not optimal when hiking in the mountains with almost 1000 metres up and down every day.
On my trip to Sweden/Norway I had cut down a bit, I left the landscape lens and the drone, if I had had the money for two extra CF-Express cards, I would definitely have left the MacBook + SSD. I knew I would have to carry several kilos through Sweden/Norway because of food for 21 days, so even though I wanted to bring it with me, there were also some limitations, here I ended up with 34kg.
Alta via 1 in the Dolomites my friend and I walked together, he's not a photographer though. This is a hiking route in the mountains with marked trails and several others walking it, you usually walk from rifugio (hut) to rifugio. The rules about sleeping in tents in these areas are a little hard to understand, but as long as you bivouac, pitch your tent at sunset and take it down at sunrise, it's probably okay. However, this is perfectly fine for a photographer, as we prefer to photograph at sunrise and sunset, and also gives you the opportunity to sleep close to a place you want to photograph the next morning. There was one major negative, at least for me, and that was the thunderstorms that are known to occur frequently in the afternoon and evening. We experienced it twice with heavy thunder and lightning close by, and honestly, it's not much fun when you're up in the mountains, I certainly didn't get much sleep...
The hike was beautiful, but very hard especially when we walked with 5-10 times as much weight as the others on the route, however, we got in good walking shape during the hike and in the end it was actually pretty okay. It was also very hot and the sun was very strong, on the other hand we had good weather every day we walked except one. There were plenty of good photo opportunities here, but unfortunately we were a bit too busy to fully utilise them.
I have described my trip through "Europe's last wilderness" or "Europe's Alaska" as some call it in my Facebook post here (Danish): https://www.facebook.com/marius.karlsson.7/
Or on my blog (English, perhaps easier to read as the pictures are in chronological order with the text) here: https://www.mariuskphoto.com/post/through-europe-s-last-wilderness-an-epic-hike-through-sarek-padjelanta-and-rago-national-parks
I can tempt you and say that I used my SOS button.
It's 5 pages so I don't think I need to put it in this post.
The trip went through Sarek, Padjelanta and Rago national parks, which together with some other national parks and nature reserves make up one of the largest protected nature areas in Europe, if not the largest. There were no marked trails where I walked and you had to cross all the rivers yourself, I only passed one hut on my trip. I went 3 days in a row without seeing any people or things made by people and over half of the days without seeing people.
Okay but what do you do when you have to go up to 3 weeks without power with camera, MacBook, phone and Garmin Inreach satellite phone. The first idea was to buy a lot of camera batteries and then have a small power bank for the other stuff, besides being very expensive to buy batteries for a Z9, it doesn't work so well with the drone that I brought to the Dolomites. I decided to buy a large 72,000 mAh power bank and a 28 watt solar cell, this power bank had a 12V plug so I could actually use it to charge the drone (worked great!) and plenty of power for the camera and everything else. The solar panel was included as I was worried it wouldn't be able to hold enough power for my Sweden/Norway trip, however, it would have worked fine without the solar panel for the Dolomites. So I charged my camera via. Usb-c and drone via 12v drone battery charger (from Alibaba), and everything else with Usb-C or Usb-A.
Backing up pictures, I was very worried about losing the pictures or running out of space on the trip, dropping the camera in water or flying the drone into a rock or something else. I therefore decided to take my MacBook + 2 SSDs with me, people were very surprised when I took it out after a full day of hiking 😊. In the Dolomites, I was primarily afraid of losing the drone and thus all the pictures stored on the small micro-sd card in it, and in Sweden/Norway I was primarily afraid of running out of space as I also had to film for a small film I have to make. The first mentioned I found no solution to (besides maybe taking a micro-sd card with me for each flight) you could of course just risk it, but now I have seen several drones take off and never come back again, and have been close to it myself a few times, so I did not want this. The latter could easily be fixed with two extra memory cards. Space wasn't a problem either, mainly because I didn't take as many photos and videos as I thought I would, and because I shot in High Efficiency* raw which made the images take up less space and I didn't shoot in RAW.
Of course, you also have to take care of your gear, I had it in an F-stop ICU pro large in the middle of my backpack, it had to be easily accessible so I made sure I had a backpack with a zip that could open the centre of the bag, so I could open it up and take lenses and drone out quickly. In addition to this, I had a drybag that I could get around in case of heavy rain or when crossing a river so I didn't risk it getting ruined if I got caught in the current and had to drop the bag. My backpack is a Gregory Baltoro Pro 100 L, not sure if I would recommend it, but it has worked very well so far and fits great! Would also consider Fjellraven's Kajka as it also has a front opening, and has a more "fixed shape" I think this works better with an ICU.
I was carrying my camera in a bag on my stomach, see the pictures. I had tried a Capture Clip, but it just didn't fit well, it gnawed into my shoulder and my heavy camera + lens sat and bounced while I walked + the weight was shifted to the side. I use my Capture Clip on my normal photo bag but on my hiking backpack it just didn't work. I'm super happy with my fanny pack, it's easy to get the camera up and it's well protected from impact and rain when it's down there. A surprising positive of having a fanny pack is that the weight is better distributed so you don't have everything on your back, which makes it easier to carry a lot of weight. It was also great for storing my phone and extra snacks :)
Got 0 blisters on all trips. I use a thin toe wool sock (Injinji) and a thicker wool sock as an outer sock, if it's wet or the boot is wet I switch to a waterproof sock as an outer sock. The important thing is not to get damp feet.
Trekking poles are also great to have, you walk faster with them (I've read 20%, that's a lot over 10 days), help a lot when going up and down, were almost vital for me when crossing rivers. The only downside is that it's harder to use a camera with them, but I just throw them on when I take photos.
Okay, but is this a good way to get good photos? I'm a bit torn on this one, I often feel like I didn't get enough time to take photos when I had a goal to achieve. If you don't have a goal, it would work well because then you can stop somewhere nice and wait for sunrise or sunset and get some good shots. However, when you went out there, you had something to do and it was rare that you could "time" your campsite with a nice landscape. So most of the great landscapes were taken in daylight, not optimal. When you walk for long days, you can even be so tired that you don't have the energy to take photos, which is not how it should be! The big plus is that you go places where there are very few photographers, so most of the photos you take are completely original!
Next time I go out, my only goal should be good pictures, not to reach x number of kilometres, otherwise if I'm going to reach a goal then, I need to have many days to do it, so you have plenty of time.
Equipment I was happy with:
Front camera pack: LowePro ProTactic TLZ 70 AW II, super quality, nice to walk with, weighs a lot though.
Rain trousers: Adidas Terrex Gore-Tex Paclite, got them at a good price, really good in the rain, good weight, surprisingly durable.
Trekking poles: Leki Makalu FX TA, folds in 3 so easy to fit in your bag when travelling by plane, very durable (almost ripped off all the paint on the bottom third), feels good in the hand.
Hiking boots: Hanwag leather boots with gore-tex and semi-high shaft, good support, hold up really well, are reasonably waterproof, only bad thing is the Gore-Tex as it makes them dry extremely slowly (good for the Alps, bad for the wilderness).
Waterproof socks: Uberg waterproof socks are really waterproof! (I've held my foot under water for over a minute and crossed rivers without getting damp feet), works great with wet/damp boots, works great against blisters due to wet terrain/boots, you can wear a thin inner sock underneath.
Tent: Nordisk Oppland 2 LW, great space for low weight, big enough for two adult men, large outdoor area for equipment, - not so strong, had it in strong winds (25m/s) above the tree line and it certainly felt like it was about to be destroyed. A pole also broke when my dad got stuck in a guyline, but of course they're not made for that either :).
Feel free to ask questions