There’s a story that someone once asked Ansel Adams when he used a tripod. Reportedly, Adams’ answer was “only when I want to take a photograph!”
That generally sums up my philosophy. Yes, it’s a pain hauling tripods on hikes through the bush. True, there are some situations where you cannot use a tripod, such as shooting game from one of Denali National Park’s buses (the only way to get deep into the park without a special, hard-to-obtain pass). So what do you use then?
While you can simply throw clothing over a windowsill, we prefer using a sandbag. Rather than have to travel with a heavy bag full of sand, Sara made some soft-fabric bags for us. When we arrive at our destination, we hit the local grocery and pick up some plastic bags of lentils or similar. Three of these bags go into the fabric bag, creating a very effective sandbag for use from vehicles, on fences, or over branches.
Of course, when you finish your trip, you can always cook up the contents of your sandbag for a getaway meal!
While we continue to see people walking along on mountain trails in flip-flops (although they aren’t carrying 30lb backpacks of photo gear), here is our “must have” items list for mountain areas:
We’ll post our preferred photo equipment list in the future.
If you think we missed something, please post your “must have” items!
Over the years, we’ve found both trail signs and hiking books to be less than accurate in reflecting true trail conditions. We’ve been on “easy” trails that had so many ankle-breakers we’d call them strenuous (especially lugging photo equipment), and moderate/strenuous trails that were surprisingly easy.
But the best example was a hike to Vernal Falls in Yosemite. About 0.3 of a mile from the base of the falls, you have a choice. You can continue on the trail directly to the falls, but count on getting wet and facing slippery footing. As those didn’t seem a wise choice with all our photo equipment, we opted for the alternate route, described in a hiking guide as “the slightly longer but more gradual John Muir trail…”
I couldn’t tell you how many switchbacks we traversed, but the Muir Trail was anything but SLIGHTLY longer and gradual. By the time we finished that section, we found ourselves 0.6 of a mile ABOVE Vernal Falls, further away than when we’d started the alternate route!
Next time, we’ll take the wet route!
1. Learn about the area (remember that you’re on their turf).
2. Understand the animals’ habits (and keep in mind they don’t read the books on how they are supposed to behave).
3. Camera set and ready to go at all times (when moving from area to area, we keep the telephoto on and tripod ready).
4. Keep ever vigilant (it’s amazing how even big animals like moose and bear can be concealed in brush).
If you put the first letters of those tips together, you’ll notice they spell LUCK!
Before this web site or business existed, we were often asked how people could tell which of us took the photo. I used to quip that my shots were the ones with the dead tree.
Dead trees can serve as excellent framing objects or help provide scale to the photo. They also can be quite attractive, with interesting shapes, rich browns, and varied textures.
When our first exhibit was scheduled, we decided it was time to create a web site, and needed a name. While the site initially launched as “naturepicturegalleries.com,” that was too difficult to remember. But we figured “Dead Tree Photography” was memorable, grabbed that domain, too, and decided to market under that name.
Since then, both Sara and Scott have taken many shots incorporating dead trees, so now there’s no obvious way to tell our shots apart. Also, after years of searching, we finally found “the dead tree” for our logo in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2007.
For the last few years deadtreephotography.com has definitely been the cobbler’s child forced to go barefoot because dad is too busy working for everyone else. We’ve fixed that.
Things have changed drastically since we created the first version of Dead Tree Photography. However, we let it remain stagnant in part because we’re photographers and rather critical of our own photos. Additionally, as web designers (our day job) we do sites for everyone else, and leave little time for ourselves. While re-creating our own site freed us from many restrictions, we were occasionally overwhelmed by numerous options, which slowed progress as we tried to make things “perfect.”
The new Dead Tree Photography isn’t perfect, but that’s not the point; we want to regularly update the site with new photography, our thoughts, and answers to questions that can’t be quickly summarized on our FAQ page.
Special thanks to:
Fred Martens of Martens Art and Kucia & Associates. As I said, it’s not easy to design a site for yourself; their feedback was helpful as I created the new design.