By Sam Collentine, Meteorologist Posted 8 years ago December 12, 2014

PHOTO: 5 Essentials for the Outdoors

This article is brought to you by the Adventure Film School. We like what they do, they like what we do, it's a win-win-win-win, or something like that. 

The most essential part of taking photos is finding what is most inspiring and intriguing to you, the one who’s behind the camera.  At least that’s my opinion, but I also was schooled as a visual artist and not a commercial photographer/graphic designer.  Those people usually have a client and specific audience to cater to.  Right now I’m not speaking to those people, I’m talking to those of you out there who probably want to simply have a few technical basics to spur on that creative desire and inspiration you get when you are in the middle of a gorgeous landscape or close to stunning wildlife or experiencing your friends’ enjoyment of those places and the activities.

1. Find A Camera

Obviously you need a camera to take photos, but how do you choose?  Well, budget is usually the biggest determining factor; that and how hardcore you want to get into this nonsense.  Something like the Canon 5D Mark III will run you about 3K just for the body, whereas a mirror less Sony NEX-5TL is only about $500.  In the point-and-shoot category there are a good amount of rugged cameras to choose from as well.  Other than money, another factor is what capabilities you want to have.  If you want to shoot wildlife you’ll need a camera that can somehow utilize a massive telephoto lens.  If you’re planning on getting all up and close to the action, almost any point and shoot will suffice.  I’ve recently become very fond of mirrorless cameras.  The bodies are super light (great for backpacking), most of them affordable and some models have interchangeable lenses. Here are some pros that use them.  Keep in mind the ruggedness of the camera too, you don’t want something that’s gonna break on you at the sight of a few tumbling rocks.  So it boils down to money, needs and desires, in that order.

2. Know Thy Camera

This may seem simple, but there are a lot of functions to all these new-fangled digital cameras.  Knowing them in and out will greatly improve your skills and make the technical side second nature so you can concentrate on creating stunning images.  Learn the cameras limits, be that in capturing light, auto focusing, or maximum photos per second it can take.  When you’re outside and hiking is not the time to try and learn a new feature on your camera.  There are wide ranges of tutorials out there for each specific camera…also, they usually come with a manual.

3. Expose It Well

One thing I always highly recommend to people wanting to start learning the fully manual ins and outs of photography is to take a class on old school photography; that means film.  Community colleges almost always have a black & white film photography class going on.  For a decently low cost you get a proper education on how to expose, develop and create prints from film.  Check out I Still Shoot Film for some good info.  Learning how to shoot and process black and white film is the one reason I don’t need an LCD screen to tell me if a photo will be over or under exposed, why I can take images quickly on the fly from dark shadows to bright sun.  I highly recommend it.  Also you can also find out more about exposure settings from (shameless plug) some of our articles here.

4. Edit To Taste

You may like your images just the way they are straight from the camera.  But most of the time it’s a good practice to get them off of your camera and review them on a bigger and better screen, you may notice things that could be in need of correction.  Spots are common due to dust or moisture on the lens or sensor and if you don’t have a flash, sometimes balancing shadows and highlight in camera isn’t enough to see details in one area or the other.  I recommend buying Adobe’s Lightroom for your photo editing needs.  It’s inexpensive, easy to learn and very powerful. 

5. Don’t Forget Things

Not just the previous four essentials mentioned above, but literally, don’t forget pieces of equipment you’ll need.  This one is hard for me cause I notoriously forget things.  Or I’ll think, “I do need this audio recorder” and then forget to check if it has a memory card inside.  You’ll more likely than not need extra batteries, maybe a solar charger, extra lenses or memory cards, all kinds of things besides just your camera.  Make a list a check those items off as they are packed.  Then when you return you can go back through that list and inventory whatever you may have lost or even forgotten on the mountain!   No, you should take that list with you and inventory before you start to come back down.  This is especially true if you decide to share/split gear between people.  It may seem tedious, but it will save you from needing to replace that $90 Canon battery…hypothetically speaking.  And if losing/forgetting gear doesn’t sound bad enough, here’s some more horror stories.

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About The Author

Sam Collentine


Sam Collentine is the Chief Operating Officer of OpenSnow and lives in Basalt, Colorado. Before joining OpenSnow, he studied Atmospheric Science at the University of Colorado, spent time at Channel 7 News in Denver, and at the National Weather Service in Boulder.

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