Photography equipment overview
I knew that I wanted to document the trip photographically. Words are great, but there’s nothing like a good image to really tie things together. Or to mislead a reader who is just skimming — not that I’d ever do that.
I tried to simplify by equipment load in many other categories, but for photography things quickly ballooned. I started the trip with four cameras, added a fifth, and found uses for all of them.
This is the gear I brought with me:
- Canon EOS 7D DSLR
- Canon EOS 40D DSLR
- Battery grip for the 40D
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS lens
- Canon 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens
- Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 lens
- Canon Speedlite 580EX II flash
- 72mm circular polarizer
- Canon A1100 IS point-and-shoot
- The camera on my Droid X
- Flip UltraHD video camera
The polarizer was one of the most important tools I had in my bag. It let me get those super-saturated nature shots with the dark blue skies that really popped.
Speaking of the bag, I started the trip by carrying everything in a cheap Canon bag, but but the end, I was using my Osprey backpack. Why do that, especially since the Osprey pack was unpadded? Simple: the suspension on the Canon bag was horribly uncomfortable.
I also brought my light stand with two umbrellas, but I ended up not using them at all on the trip.
There were three main situations I had to worry about when planning my camera needs: backpacking, hockey, and everything else.
On most of my past backpacking trips, I brought only a small point-and-shoot with me. It was great for convenience and weight on the trail, but I often found my artistic vision limited by the capabilities of my camera. Sure, there were occasions where I still managed to make some decent images, but those were the exception rather than the rule.
I went backpacking three times on the trip. The first time, in Banff NP, I brought my Canon 7D DSLR and my 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens. That let me get some great images, but it was heavy, bulky, and I spent most of the hike terrified that it would get wet and ruined.
The second time, in Denali NP, I decided to go with just my Canon A1100 IS point-and-shoot. I very nearly went with the 7D/17-55 solution again, but at the last minute, the DSLR got bumped for the P&S. It would have been nice to have the DSLR’s capabilities, yes, but the P&S turned out to be the right choice. It was an extremely wet hike, the 55mm focal length would have been too short in many situations, and I didn’t have much room to spare in my pack. Plus, I didn’t have a very good exterior mounting solution for quickly drawing the camera.
Thus, it might be a surprise that the third time I went backpacking, in Yellowstone NP, I once again chose the DSLR. What was different? Foremost, it was just an overnight trip, so I didn’t have to worry about long-term consequences. Slightly behind that in importance was the lack of rain in the forecast. And coming in third was the fact that I had acquired a new quick-draw widget for storing my camera on my pack’s shoulder strap.
Hockey is a fast sport played in dim arenas. I wanted at least a few decent photos of me playing on the trip, so I brought my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS lens for mounting on my Canon EOS 7D DSLR. That setup worked great. It was easy enough for novices to run (I couldn’t really take photos of myself while I was on the ice), and it had the aperture size and ISO sensitivity to freeze action with minimal noise.