Adventure Photography Toolkit - Our Tools for Taking Great Photos Outdoors
I honestly believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, and even before we started this blog, photography has been an important way for us to capture our favorite memories in an attempt to freeze them in time to relive again and again.
I often get asked what kind of gear we use when we are taking photos or videos outdoors, so we decided to write a post on our essential outdoor photography and videography gear. We will also put this into our Gear Resources Page for future reference. This is gear that we love and use on a weekly basis for all of our adventures.
Since Michael takes 80% of the photos here on the blog, unless he can't make a trip with me, he has helped me out in describing the photography gear below. So, unless noted specifically, assume all the advice below is primarily from him :)
Note: This post contains some affiliate links. These are all products we use on a regular basis, so please reach out if you have any follow up questions on the gear below, we'd be happy to help you out!
Our Current Camera - Canon 7D Mark II
By no means did I start with this camera, that honor goes to the Canon t3i (detailed below). The Canon 7D is for those who want to get a little more serious and take their photography to the next level (not just with pictures but with video as well). This is a top of the line crop sensor prosumer category camera which is a little lighter and smaller than its full frame 5D sibling and holds itself well in that category. This is usually my go-to camera of choice these days. I used it to take the below action shot of my buddy when we were bouldering in South Africa.
Alternative Beginner's Camera - Canon EOS Rebel T3i Digital SLR Camera
This was the first camera I started shooting with in college and is much more affordable and is more than capable of tackling anything you want to throw at it. If you are just starting out but still want to take great photos this is a great beginner camera option. I still use it from time to time given its smaller form factor.
All around Lens - Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS II
In my opinion there is no one do-it-all, magical lens that will work for every occasion. Nope, does not exist. But if I HAD to pick one lens that is maybe close to that, it would have to be the Canon 24-105. This lens certainly sees more action than some of my other lenses and can give you a variety of looks ranging from mild wide-angle to mild-telephoto. Given that it’s a red series lens (canons high-end line of photo lenses, hence the red ring around the front) the quality of the glass is sure to blow you away with its crisp and clear focus. Of course it comes with a price tag, but don’t think too hard about it because this lens still falls under the cheaper of the red series lenses and with its versatile nature, it’s well worth it!
Wide Angle Lens - Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II
This beautiful wide-angle beast is one of my favorites! This is the perfect crop sensor lens because its extreme wide-angle range fits perfectly within the more telephoto form factor of a crop sensor, reducing it to a more “normal” wide-angle (more info on that here) meaning it’s made for that style of camera and produces little vignetting. This Tokina is a great affordable lens that you will have tons of fun getting up close to your subject or capturing incredible landscapes. Below are a couple fun photos I took of Allison and her friend Ashima with this lens when we went backpacking in Havasupai Falls.
Portrait Lens - Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX
In a nutshell the Sigma 30mm prime (fixed focal length) lens is the equivalent of a 50mm on a full frame for my Canon 7D which makes it the perfect portrait lens. Why you might ask? Because a 50mm lens is the closest you get to the human eye when it comes to perspective. On top of that you get beautiful bokeh-effect (blurred background) with this lenses f/1.4 aperture which leads me to mention its great low light shooting capability (because of how much light an f/1.4 aperture lets in), all for great price!
Beginners Lens - Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
Everything I said about the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 goes for this little guy too, but the main reason I bought this lens was for the same reason everyone buys it and that is because at any given moment it’s prices around $100 dollars which makes it one of the cheapest lenses on the market and great for beginners on a Budget! By no means is it the best glass but it carries a punch and it’s plastic housing makes is a nice light weight portable lens for hiking, traveling or those sketchy multipitch climbs because if you break it it won’t break your bank or your soul for that matter!
Camera Accessories - Peak Design Capture Camera Clip
If you are an outdoorsy person and are a photographer you need to buy this gadget! This is by far one of my most prized camera accessories. It takes the pain and hassel out of carrying a DSLR on a 15 plus mile mountaineering trip or a 4 day long backpacking trip across rough terrain by placing the camera neatly holstered on your backpacks straps ready for when you are to take a shot!
Camera Accessories - Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
This is a great travel tripod! It’s an affordable carbon tripod that is light weight and packs down nicely into its own little bag but at the same time it feels sturdy enough for a DSLR. You can see the tripod hanging off of my small camera bag in the below photo.
Camera Bag - Dakine Sequence Camera Backpack
What can I say about this backpack. I think the best way to put it is that I have had mine going on 7 years now and never considered getting another, not once! This bag had been incredible for storing my gear from a single camera set up to a two body set up. One of my favorite features besides its space is the fact that the compartment in which you house all the major camera gear (bodies, lenses etc.) separates completely off the main backpack shell leaving with you a second bag or a quick swap if you want to leave your heavy gear behind.
Drone - DJI Mavic Pro
The newest edition to the family, the Mavic Pro, will become a crucial part of our photography and videography going forward. Since we like to have fun in such beautiful places this low profile drone was a no brainer. It carries the quality of its bigger brother (phantom series) while coming in at a much lighter and packable profile (plus more affordable) for the long days hiking or out in the wild climbing. We have had it for only a little while but has already blown our expectations out of the water! Below are a couple photos we have already taken with the drone. We used it to take the below family photo this past Thanksgiving, worked like a charm!
Adventure Camera - GoPro HERO4 Silver
The GoPro is great for taking on-the-go wide-angle group photos or adventure video. I like to attach one of these babies to my mountain bike for some awesome, close to the bike footage and cool angles, or attaching it to our helmet when we are out climbing. Definitely something to consider having in your photography arsenal.
Camera Accessories - SanDisk Extreme PRO 64GB Memory Card
This memory card is super fast and has a ton of space which is important with any photography you will be doing, especially if you are shooting in RAW mode or are taking video. Go ahead and invest in a nice memory card (or even a couple for backup) an you won't regret it!
If you're just getting started in outdoor photography, it is definitely worthwhile to invest in learning a bit more on how to capture the perfect action shot. This book has a ton of great tips on many aspects of adventure photography including lighting and focusing and grabbing the perfect motion shot. The author, Dan Bailey, has been published all over including National Geographic and Backpacker Magazine.
Allison's Camera - Sony Alpha NEX5
Allison here. I bought this Camera back in 2011 when I first started wanting to take better photos. It isn't as powerful as the cameras mentioned above in Michael's reviews, but it is a great alternative to a DSLR and is super-super compact, but still has the option of interchangeable lenses. I've loved it so far, I took most of the photos from my backpacking trip from Tuolumne to Devil's Postpile with this camera since Michael wasn't able to come with me. Below is one of the photos from that trip.
Camera Accessories - Lowepro Compact Camera Case
Allison again. If you've been following the blog, you've probably seen this bag hanging around my shoulder in photos of me. Since my camera get-up is fairly minimal, i carry this minimal bag too, and it works great for my small Sony Alpha NEX5 camera.
About the Photographer: Michael Auffant
Besides being my number one human, Michael has been pursuing his passion in photography and videography for over 7 years now. Michael attended college at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco and received his Bachelors of Science Degree with a specialization in Media Arts and Animation. He started rock climbing shortly after he graduated college and has been in love with the outdoors since. We actually met at our local rock climbing gym, and the rest is history. We became life, climbing, and adventure partners ever since. :) Michael is the lead multimedia marketing specialist for his current company, ProSoft, and has also done quite a bit of freelance work including special projects for The Wildlands Conservancy, the largest nonprofit nature preserve system in California. He also enjoys working on his own projects, like a video featuring some of our hometown climbing area in Kern Canyon.
If you'd like to follow Michael and his work, you can find and follow him at the below contacts:
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