It is summer time in the Northern Hemisphere, and for many of us, that means enjoying photography while camping, hiking, or just being in the great outdoors. Along with being outdoors with your camera and lenses come several problems: heat, dust, weight, etc. Since I moved to Idaho, I have been spending a lot of time camping with my photography gear, so most of these tips are from personal experience. Here you go!
Outdoor Photography Tip #1: Bring no more than two lenses. When I am going to be shooting in an easily accessible location in the city, I usually bring a couple bags of gear full of lenses and other stuff, but when I go outdoors I decide on two lenses and do not allow myself to bring any more. Typically, I bring a 10-24mm lens for landscapes and a 70-200mm lens for close range wildlife photography and some landscapes.
Mountains Photography Tip #2: Do NOT forget the polarizer! When shooting outdoors, especially if you will be near a lake or some other type of water, the polarizer is an absolute necessity. In fact, one nice thing about shooting with a polarizer is that it takes the reflection of shiny leaves when the sun is bright, which can extend your shooting time well into the day. Don't be tempted to skimp on the polarizer. For more polarizer tips, check out this post.
Camping with a DSLR Tip #3: Don't forget the cooler. If you live in a hot location and need a safe place to store your gear for a day or two while you are camping, then bring along an empty cooler and put the camera and other gear in the cooler without ice. Place your gear in the cooler and put the cooler in the trunk of your car. In my opinion, this is the best way to protect your gear from the heat for a few days while camping.
DSLR Protection while Camping Tip #4: Invest in a quality camera backpack. Your gear will likely get squished in the trunk with your other stuff, rained on, be exposed to dirt, and knocked around pretty good while camping. Purchasing a good quality camera bag is an absolute necessity. I personally use the Clik Elite Pro Camera Backpack because it is large enough to fit my gear, it has a rain cover, and is built like a tank. If you want something smaller or don't have much gear, then I would recommend the Lowepro Fastpack 250.
Lightweight Photography Tip #5: Choose a reasonable tripod. Most of the time, I use an Induro AT-313 tripod. It is an absolutely fantastic tripod, but it is far too heavy to enjoy a hike with. I often bring a monopod while hiking and simply lean it against a tree to make a tripod, or carry a lightweight travel tripod. Don't bring your giant tripod or you'll hate the hike.
Outdoors Photography Tip #6: Understand sunrises and sunsets are different in the mountains. Landscape photographers need to change their techniques for shooting in the mountains. If the sunset is at 8PM and there is a large mountain in west, then the sunrise may be as early as 6PM. Also, remember that sunrises and sunsets are often colorless in the mountains because of the mountains blocking the rising sun. Understanding that light works differently in the mountains is the first step that landscape photographers need to understand when shooting in mountainous regions.
Hiking Photography Tip #7: Including outdoorsmanship in your photos. While hiking or camping, many photographers focus too much on the landscapes or the wildlife and forget to photograph typical camping or hiking scenes. Capturing a photo of a tent perched on a mountainside, or a group of people around a campfire, or the stars at night, or people in your party walking down the trail will probably be the most memorable photos from the trip.
Protect DSLR while Camping Tip #8: Be careful with lens changes. Being outdoors is a dusty experience–period. If possible, wait until you're in a grassy field or in your tent to make a lens swap rather than changing the lens while out on the dusty trail. This will prevent dirt from getting on your lens or camera sensor and cause spotting.
Camping Photography of Wildlife Tip #9: If you want to increase your chances of seeing wildlife, then walk into the wind so that animals cannot smell you and do not be in a rush. The best way to spot wildlife in the wild is to SLOW DOWN so the animals do not perceive you as a threat. Sorry for the shameless plug, but if wildlife photography is your interest, then you might want to check out my wildlife photography eBook for $5.99.
Photography Outdoor Safety Tip #10: In some regions, there can be animals which are dangerous to people. Though I have been in the outdoors almost all of my life and like to think I know how to take care of myself outdoors, I was still charged by an adult black bear a couple years ago. Fortunately, I had invested $30 in a can of bear spray, which saved me. If you are in bear country, keep a can on hand.