This post written by: Oldest GeoKid
When out hiking, walking, biking or geocaching, we almost always carry photographic equipment. The pros and cons of photographic equipment vary depending on the activity and location. When out on such adventures, there is generally a trade-off to be made between picture quality and equipment weight. There really is no perfect solution; you are going to end up sacrificing something. Between the four of us, we are able to bring quite a few cameras for very little weight by avoiding heavier DSLR cameras and bulky lenses. Instead we favour lighter, micro 4:3 DSLR cameras and some higher-end point and shoot cameras. When hiking/walking, two of us bring Olympus E-PL1 cameras (with up to 3 lenses between us). Youngest GeoKid carries a Canon G9 or Sony Cybershot DSC-TX5 or Canon S90. Mr. Geok currently carries an Olympus E-510 with the Zukio 12-60, but is eagerly waiting for the Olympus Micro 4:3 Pro, EP3 or E-PL3.
Let me explain the reasoning behind bringing each of these cameras. Firstly, the Olympus E-PL1 is widely regarded as having pretty much the best JPEG images of any camera currently in production. Combined with its small form factor and interchangeable lenses, it an ideal camera for hiking and biking, sacrificing very little quality for a much lighter camera. However, the recent release of the Olympus E-P3 trumps this camera with a lightning fast Auto-Focus, better low light focus and faster processing without any significant image quality or weight/size change. The Olympus E-P and E-PL series are ideal choices for light, high- quality hiking and biking cameras.
As far as lenses go, we typically bring something like this: two Olympus 14-150mm telephoto lenses good for most shooting (28-300mm equivalent on a standard DSLR). These are very versatile lenses, so we have one per camera. We also take one Olympus 9-18mm wide angle lens (18-36mm equivalent), one Panasonic 20mm pancake lens for low light (40mm equivalent), one Olympus 14-42mm kit lens for macros (28-84mm equivalent), and sometimes one Panasonic 100-300mm for long distance (with in lens IS, 200-600mm equivalent). Each of these lenses is suited to specific situations. When hiking you don’t usually shoot telephoto, so we generally leave the 100-300mm at home for long hikes and all bike rides. We do plan on substituting the kit lens for a true macro lens in the near future.
The Sony Cybershot DSC-TX5 is brought along for quick access shooting and low light situations due to its extreme low light capability. Ditto the Canon S90 although the sony is much better in low light situations. Either of these cameras work well for the Youngest GeoKid to carry on long hikes or to tuck into a pocket for quick access while biking. The Canon G9 is a very capable point-and-shoot that is a great learning camera for Youngest GeoKid. He will likely transition out of in the near future for an Olympus E-P or E-PL, which will put the whole family on the same platform for easy lens sharing and other such benefits.
Mr GeoKs’ Olympus E-510 is equipped with a 12-60 Zukio High Grade lens which is an unbelievable lens. Although as I said before, it will be replaced in the very near future in favor of a lighter kit.
As for gear such as filters, tripods and lens cleaning equipment, we take a variety of equipment depending on the hike or bike. Generally, we will take high quality polarizing filters for all lenses and one for the G9. We also bring an Ultra Pod II, a small portable and stable tripod. Some of my friends carry a more compact but also less stable Gorilla Pod. On occasion, we also take along a full sized Velbon Ultralight Aluminum Tripod which weighs only 2lbs and is extremely portable but hard to fit in on long hikes and any bike ride. As for cleaning equipment, we bring Lens Pens for in field cleaning. Additionally, both E-PL cameras have 2 spare batteries as these are the primary cameras. As for memory we carry a variety of SD cards all class 6 or 10. Our primary cards are 32GB and we carry a mix of a few 2, 4, 8 or 16GB spares.
I will not go into bag details as this is entirely dependent on personal preference and what you are carrying; however, I recommend getting one which stores all your gear as mine is too small and I end up carry a lens separately.
For after-production and cataloguing, we use Adobe Lightroom 3, which has a great mix of in depth sorting and mid-level picture editing. It is very easy to use and is a great set of tools for both new and expert photographers. Those who enjoy heavy editing can pair this with Adobe Photoshop for even more after-production ability. When shooting panoramas we use Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE), which both perform seamless stitching.
Hopefully, this answers everyone’s questions about what we bring hiking and biking for photography. If you have any other questions ask in the comments section and I will happily answer. If anyone wants “how to shoot” or “how to edit” lessons I can also do those from time to time – just let me know in the comments.