Photography equipment overview

December 26th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

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:

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.

Avalanche Lake in front of Heavens Peak

Avalanche Lake in front of Heavens Peak at Glacier NP. Taken with an ancient Canon A70 point-and-shoot.

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.

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