If I Bring My Camera on the Trail, Will It Take Away From My Experience?
Like many other hikers, I am planning on documenting my thru-hike. For that, there are different methods available such as filming, vlogging, photographing, blogging, journaling, or all of the above. Personally, since photography/filmmaking is my job, I like to film, photograph, and write about my adventures. I don’t do vlogs because I am not comfortable with talking to a camera, and I’d rather be behind it (except when I do these shots, you know, where you walk past the camera and then have to walk back extra miles to get the camera…).
But I suppose, like many other hikers who plan on bringing a camera, I keep asking myself these questions. Will the camera distract me? Will it prevent me from living in and enjoying the moment? Will it bother others around me?
At the end of the day, part of the reason I am going on a thru-hike is to get away from technology. So, wouldn’t bringing a camera, and all the gear that goes with it, be a little bit contradictory?
In search of an answer to my question, I conducted an experiment. I was curious to see what it would feel like to leave my camera at home during a hike. So, this past summer, I set out on a multi-day hike in the Alps with my phone as the only tool to take pictures and videos. The final verdict? I hated it!
It felt so weird not having my camera (although my pack was lighter, which was nice, I am not going to lie!). It made me realize that I missed not only my camera but also my ability to be creative with it. There was my answer.
Following that experience, I spent time reflecting on the reasons and goals that made it so important for me to carry the extra weight of my luxury item.
3 Reasons Why I Will Bring My Camera on the Trail
1. It’s My Passion, and I Love Being Creative
I am a photographer and filmmaker, so you probably guessed it: being creative is my passion. And for me, I am sure that hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail will be like walking into a candy shop for a kid. Capturing the sweet, endlessly changing scenery, the salty fauna & flora, and the spicy hiker trash culture promises to be a treat for my creative taste buds.
With all of these different subjects to focus on, you can easily lose track and end up filling out all your SD cards in only a few days. So it was important to ask myself: what do I want to accomplish? And how committed am I planning to be?
And the answer is simple: I want to tell a story. The story of what makes this trail and the people who walk on it so special.
2. No Pressure
You have to stop and look around every now and then, right?
Because photography/filmmaking is my professional job and my passion, I am aware that I can easily get stuck in my head trying to make a vision or goal come true when it comes to capturing images. Knowing this, I have set up ground rules with myself to not get too wrapped up in trying to capture everything to the point where I forget to put my camera down to enjoy the moment. After all, this is why I am thru-hiking the PCT, to enjoy the moment.
If I don’t feel like grabbing my camera to shoot, I just won’t. I don’t have to capture everything, and nobody is pressuring me to do so other than myself (and probably my mom!). I think Sean Penn says it best in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: “If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”
Moreover, I have come to realize that when the right balance was found, filming and photographing actually added to my experience. Not only was I happy I could fully experience a view, but it would make me twice as excited to find out afterward that I got a sick shot out of it.
In addition to that, it is equally as important to recognize when it is appropriate to capture images when surrounded by other people. Impacting the experience of other hikers negatively is the last thing that I would want to do, so I must be considerate of my actions. It doesn’t cost anything to ask people if it’s okay to grab a few shots at some point if in doubt. Plus, as mentioned previously, my goal is not to capture every single thing (sorry, mom!) but rather to live in the moment, engage in conversations, and get to know people, without the need to add a camera to the equation.
3. To Remember the Moment
Unfortunately, memories do deteriorate over time. But taking a picture can freeze a moment in time and slow life down for a split second so you can go back and relive it later. That is why it’s so important for me to preserve memories through photography and filmmaking because it will allow me to look back on my life and revisit those special moments when I grow old and my memory starts playing tricks on me.
Photographs and videos, just like journaling, have this amazing power to remind you of the small, simple details that you may have otherwise forgotten. Photographs and videos are also timeless and therefore can be a continuing source of inspiration across time for the next generations to come. It can be used to set an example of behaving accordingly in the wilderness, including practicing LNT principles. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Weight vs. Quality
In prepping my gear for the trail, my goal is to keep the weight of my pack down (Thank you, Captain Obvious) while carrying with me camera equipment that will provide quality footage and do so efficiently. I don’t want to have to take off my backpack every time I need to change lenses or grab my tripod, so those items need to stay within reach while wearing my backpack, however, without bothering me when I hike. As a problem-solving-oriented person, I accepted this fun challenge and came up with a few ways.
In regards to the camera, I will use the Peak Design Capture Clip V3 to clip it on my shoulder strap so it’s easily and quickly accessible if I need to snap a quick shot. For my secondary lens, a small fanny pack will bear the responsibility of carrying it, making it also easily reachable. Finally, I couldn’t find a way to carry my tripod other than in the side pocket of my backpack, which meant that I would have to take off my pack every time to grab it. But after some research and trials, I found a way by using a tactical MOLLE bottle pouch that I would clip to the side of my hip belt, making the tripod easy to access as it sat on the side of my hip.
For the camera nerds out there, here is my list of camera gear that I will bring to the PCT:
– Sony A7SIII
– Sigma 24-70mm f2.8
– Sony 14mm f1.8
– 4 batteries
– SD Cards
– PolarPro Variable ND Filter
– Peak Design Capture Clip V3
– Peak Design Travel tripod (aluminum)
– Rode Videomicro
In the end, I like to remind myself that my goal in embarking on this journey is to experience the Pacific Crest Trail in real life, not behind a camera. Although being creative and taking pictures/videos also please me, I will prioritize enjoying the moment first before thinking about grabbing my camera because you only get to live these experiences at best a few times in your life, and it would be a shame to only remember them through a small camera viewfinder.
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