Yosemite: My Happy Home
Camera: Nowadays I’m using a Fuji X-E1. Yes, it’s a crop sensor. Yes it’s a mirrorless. No, it’s not top of the line. But it has a nearly identical sensor as the top line X-T1, works great for landscape pictures, has a built-in leveler, about half as light as my old Nikon D90, and almost ⅓ the size. For me, the hike and the travel is the priority; having a light camera allows me to enjoy more of the hike and save lots of weight in my pack, and enables me to get to the location I want to take the picture.
Backpack / Camera bag: For short hikes, I have a Lowepro Hatchback 22L which carries just about everything I need. For longer hikes, I’ve gone modular and use a technical pack (Osprey Stratos 34L); instead of camera inserts, I just wrap my camera in my jacket/beanie, and store my extra lens in a Ape Case lens pouch. This way it saves space in my pack and lets me store more important things… like food, water, and extra layers.
Tripod: Mefoto Roadtripper. Wouldn’t say it’s the best tripod around, I wish it was lighter. But the legs can be set at any angle to accommodate uneven surfaces, dismantles to clean, folds pretty compactly, and affordable enough that I don’t care how many scratches I got on it.
Filter: For long exposure shots I have a 72mm BW ND3 circular filter that threads directly on the lens. I also have a few stepdown adapters so I can use the filter on smaller lenses. It’s no Formatt or Lee filter, has a slight warm color cast, and some vignetting at the edges. But it’s easy to put on/off and cheap enough that I wouldn’t lose sleep if it falls or breaks. And it works just fine.
Shutter release: some generic stuff I got from Amazon. This has come pretty handy for long-exposure shots as most cameras’ built-in shutter control don’t go past 30 seconds. For about $20, this is probably one of the best investment I’ve made.
Other Tips and Notes:
Add in a subject to your foreground, a friend or other hikers to accentuate the grand scale of the scenery.
Don’t forget the small stuff.
Sometimes when you’re in the view of a grand landscape, you tend to forget to look around for the smaller beauty. Drop of dew or frost on the leave, a bright colored leaf that fell down to the ground, or ripple patterns of the lake.
If you’re going on a long hike, and it’s a nice bright sunny day, don’t bring your tripod. Seriously more trouble than it’s worth. I didn’t pull the tripod out once for the Half Dome hike and I had to carry the extra 4 lbs for 14 hours. Not worth it. Plus, on the more popular trail you’ll always find another hiker who would gladly take the picture for you.
If you’re doing star trails or super long exposures at night, you might want to turn off your Noise Reduction function on your camera. It will literally double your time and kill your battery faster.
Be mindful of others when you’re taking pictures, the park is there for the public to share and enjoy. Don’t hog a spot if others are trying to take a family picture. Basically, just don’t be a jackass… nobody likes a jackass.
If you’re driving and found a spot you like, don’t just brake hard and swerve, other cars might be behind you. The same as you are pulling out of the turnout, watch out for other cars or visitors that may be crossing the road. If you see a wildlife, respect their space, don’t start crowding them. How would you like it if you had a couple dozen zoom lenses pointing at you and clicking away while you’re having lunch?
Last but not least, don’t forget to put down your camera every now and then and just enjoy the sight, take in the scenery, share the moment with your friend or loved ones. Last thing you want to do is to remember your trip through the LCD screen of your camera.