While many of us carry a smartphone wherever we go and can snap photos with ease, there’s still something to be said for having a dedicated camera to capture shots of your trip that you’ll really treasure. A slim, lightweight digital compact camera will, for a modest outlay, deliver great quality images from your hike or run.
What to look for in a camera Whether you’re taking shots on a smartphone, a compact camera or a state-of-the-art digital SLR, you’ll need a wide angle lens. A wide angle is vital for landscapes and group shots that take in a wider view of the surroundings and provide for a nice backdrop to your photo, giving context. Try and find a camera that has a zoom lens that allows for wild angle shots and close-ups (such as for taking photos of wild flowers). If your camera is a little limited in terms of how wide a shot it can take, don’t fret — free software available for download online from all the major players such as Canon, Nikon and Olympus (not too mention Google’s Picasa software and Adobe Photoshop Elements) can be used to stitch together landscape images and create great panoramic shots.
Technology from high-end DSLRs (think big, heavy, somewhat unwieldy professional tools) has over time trickled down to more affordable compact cameras and even smartphones like the iPhone. Really handy technologies such as image stabilisation, high speed continuous shooting modes and minimal shutter lag operation make capturing the moment just that little bit easier.
Image stabilization helps ensure your photo is more sharp and less blurry by compensating for any camera shake if it's freezing cold and you can't quite keep that camera perfectly still in a buffeting wind. It’s also great if you simply can’t stop and need to capture a photo while on the fly — frequently the case when trail running in a group! Helpful too when trail running is high speed continuous shooting, which allows upwards of 3-4 shots per second (even the newer Android and iPhones feature this) and helps ensure you can capture that fleeting moment of action on your outdoor adventure. Continuous shooting is especially helpful when taking action shots where the subject is fast moving or a little unpredictable (great for wildlife photos where you never know the intentions of a marmot or chamois!). For the same reason, minimal shutter lag is also a handy benefit of newer cameras - it allows you to capture the exact composition you're expecting, not what follows half a second later!
Packing - a few thoughts on what you’ll need As with any trip, think about what layers you'll be needing. This is particularly important if you think you might need to wait a little or experiment with the composition of your shots — avoid getting cold by having the right gear! This is especially the case where you combine high intensity exercise such as trail running or strenuous hiking with the inevitable standing around that outdoor photography involves. Wherever you are, even in summer it’s always important to have a compressible down or fleece jacket in your pack along with a lightweight waterproof in case the weather abruptly changes. Thin gloves (made from silk or microfibre) are very affordable and handy (excuse the pun!) — you’ll need warm hands to operate your camera with the minimum of delay!
Getting the best shot Firstly, good outdoor and mountain photography starts and finishes with being aware of your immediate surroundings - and being sensible about the decisions your make. Trips into the mountains always require, among other considerations, being informed about the weather conditions. Getting good photos makes proper planning even more important. Changing weather conditions can have a real impact on the light, cloud formations and how you photograph landscapes. Nonetheless, foremost you must make sure you’re focused on staying as warm and dry as possible. There are times where it’s just not conducive to wait for the clouds to part: instead, finding shelter is the priority if a storm’s brewing!
Other considerations Low weight is indeed crucial when considering what device to purchase. Lean, compact cameras or a smartphone are a must! If it's too bulky (awkward to fit into a jacket pocket and retrieve at the crucial moment) or heavy you'll find yourself leaving it back at the hotel or cursing every time you have to claw it out from the bottom of your rucksack. Your camera needs to be available at will so that you can capture those spontaneous moments (such as the ibex you chance upon as you turn the corner of a twisty alpine trail) that will remind you of the fun times on your summer trip.
A slimline device such as a compact camera or smartphone also ensures you aren't wasting time pulling out and stashing away your piece of kit every time you wish to capture an image… which otherwise wastes precious time on a route, and can start to wrangle the nerves of your trekking peers if you’re frequently faffing with kit!
Three affordable cameras we recommend:
1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 The DMC-TZ100 offers a large (one-inch) sensor and a very flexible 10x optical zoom, which makes it an ideal travel camera. Furthermore, it has full manual controls that allow you to improve your photo-taking skills as your gain experience. Images taken with the Panasonic are bright, sharp and well-exposed. The camera also works excellently in low-light conditions: great for dawn shots or pics huddled around the campfire! More details on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100
2. Canon PowerShot SX730 The Canon PowerShot’s incredible 40x optical zoom range is perfect if nature photography is your passion. The SX730 offers the best available zoom currently on the market and will allow you to frame a great photo without disturbing the fauna in the wilds. The camera also features manual controls, a tilting screen (handy for viewing what in frame when you’re coached down to take close-up shots of alpine flowers). More info on the PowerShot SX730
3. Nikon Coolpix A900 Nikon’s A900 is a well-designed superzoom compact with many great features. It’s zoom range is a little shorter than that of the Canon, but a 35x optical zoom should prove more than adequate. The large size of the image sensor on the A900 model provides for good image quality in a variety of different shooting situations. Whilst the Nikon has quite a boxy look to it (think 80s Volvo…) it is, like the car, well-built and able to withstand knocks — an important consideration when out and about in the great outdoors! Get all the specs on the Nikon A900 here
In next month’s blog we’ll be giving a few more hints and tips on taking photos in the outdoors. Do get in touch if you’ve any requests on advice you’d like featured!