Taking Pictures While Out On A Hike

One of my favorite subjects to shoot are landscapes and nature. There’s one outdoor activity that is a great compliment to both, and it has allowed me to capture some of the most interesting and unique shots of landscapes and nature. That activity is hiking.

I absolutely love to hike! It’s a great excuse to get out of the house, take in some fresh air, experience the outdoors, and get some amazing shots. I get the great benefit of living in Utah, which has a ton a hiking areas pretty much anywhere in the state. Up north you have the mountains and down south you got the desert and the red rock, so there are plenty of options.

Bloods Lake near Guardsman Pass Midway, UT

Next time you go on a hike, don't be lazy and grab your camera, if it’s a mirrorless then that’s even less of an excuse. In this post I will share some tips on what to bring and how to take some awesome landscape and nature shots.

The first thing to consider before setting out on a hike is your equipment. To me, the most important piece of equipment (other than your usual hiking essentials and camera) is your backpack. There are many different camera bags available and not all of them are created equal. You want something that is comfortable, has easy access to your camera and lenses, and can withstand outdoor conditions so your gear stays protected. I sued to use a very basic camera bag that slowly started falling apart. For being basic it actually worked pretty well. However, I recently decided to upgrade and pick up a new one, I use the 30L Peak Design Everyday Backpack. It probably isn't the best hiking camera backpack but it is versatile and can be used for hiking, travelling, or walking around town. There is plenty of room for both the photo gear and personal items. There are camera bags that would probably be better, Lowepro and Manfrotto have huge selections of backpacks for different occasions. I recommend going to your local camera store and trying some out.

That backpack needs to be filled up with something right? Right! In addition to bringing your camera, I recommend bringing some extra lenses. If you have a lightweight telephoto, bring that so you can take pictures of wildlife that you may run into. For capturing more of the landscapes make sure to grab a wide angle lens. Most of the time the lens that comes with your camera can do the trick, but if you want a bit more of a challenge and get a bit sharper picture try a wide angle prime. I don’t go hiking without my Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 it’s a very nice low priced lens that's available for different mounts.

Beyond the camera and lenses you should bring a tripod. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just enough to hold the camera still if you have to drop the shutter speed. If you want to grab some nice sunsets it will help even more. The lighter the tripod the better, you don't want it to weight you down too much. 

In addition to the tripod bring some extra camera batteries, a microfiber cloth to clean lenses, and some personal items such as snacks and water.

Now that you know what to bring I'll share some tips for actually taking some pictures while you're out adventuring.

While out on the hike, examine what is around you, don't rush, and take your time. Think of what kind of shots you want to get. Are they of huge sprawling landscapes? Or maybe closer more intimate shots of nature? You decide. Make sure to keep an eye out for interesting subjects, unique landscapes, and lighting.

The most important thing to remember is light. Keep an eye on how its interacting with the environment. Most people think that sunny days are the best for taking pictures, that’s not necessarily the case however. Sunny days create harsh shadows, and in the middle of the day they are just make the landscape look flat. So don't get upset if there's some clouds or if it starts to rain. I've captured some of my best pictures while hiking on a rainy day.

This was a short walk out in Ogden Bay, but its a great example of the type of light you can get during Sunset. 

Capilano River Canyon near Vancouver, BC. It wasn't a sunny day, but the clouds and the mist added to the rustic green atmosphere.

If you can, try and wait till sunset, because that's when the golden hour happens. The golden hour is the hour of sunrise and an hour of sunset. During this time you get the beautiful orange glow over the landscape. This is considered one of the best time of the day to take pictures of the landscape.

Followed by light be sure to keep in mind the composition. Get to know the rule of thirds, don't place your subject directly in the center. Try to include some foreground and middle ground elements. This will add more depth to your picture and make the landscape appear more grandiose.

Pay attention to objects (whether natural or man-made) that can be used as leading lines. Things like roads, fences, rivers, hill, mountains, trees, and many other things can be used for leading lines. Leading lines guide your audience through the picture to the final subject and add focus to your shot.

An example of leading lines. Notice how the mountain tops act as a guide through the picture. 

If you want to capture closer, more intimate shots of nature a lot of the same principals apply. Keep an eye on lighting and composition. Try out different angles, go low, or go high (if you can). Pay attention to the details around you and think about how you can include them in your picture.

You can even include a human element. If you're hiking with friends include them in the shot. Have them do something interesting or place them somewhere unique. People work really well for showing scale. If you want your audience to see the scale of a tree for example, have your friends pose near it.

Try and get some candid shots of them as well you can get some of the best shots if they don’t expect it.

Those are some of my tips for hiking with a camera. Now grab your gear and go shoot some pictures. And remember to have fun, stay safe, and enjoy your hike.

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