Highly Mobile Photo/Light Kit – Hiking in the Woods

Highly Mobile Photo/Light Kit – Hiking in the Woods

Ok, here’s a post for the photogs out there. This is the rig I decided to go with for my hiking trip to photograph the landslide project. Click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s super important that when you know a day of shooting will be a little out of the ordinary that you ask as many questions as possible so that you can as prepared as possible.

For this specific photo task, I knew the following:

  • I will be shooting both ground level and aerial shots, aerials from a helicopter.
  • The location is only reachable by foot, requiring a 15-minute hike.
  • The location will be focused around a giant landslide.
  • My focus for ground level shots will be the people working in the environment.
  • My focus while shooting from the air will be a mile-long landslide.

Now I’m kind of a gear junkie, I have lots of camera bodies, lenses, and a mountain of lighting rigs to choose from for my shoots. As nice as it is to have all of this at my disposal, it sometimes makes gear decisions tougher when narrowing it down for jobs. Selection for this gig started with the process of elimination – based heavily on the environment and weight. Whatever I want to bring is going to have to fit in my backpack and I’m going to have to lug every pound of it up a mountain. Doing a bit of backpacking in the past, I knew that I didn’t want it to be a “pack my bag with as much as I could fit” situation, rather I aimed for a “how little could I pack and get away with good shots and not hate myself for leaving something behind” situation.

Up above is a photo of everything I took with me (minus a couple spare batteries and memory cards). Here’s a list of what that entailed.

  • One camera body – 5D2
  • Two lenses – 24-70 2.8 L, 70-200 2.8 IS L (including lens hoods)
  • One polarizing filter
  • Two 580exII hot shoe flash units
  • One 8′ light stand
  • One 60″ convertible umbrella
  • Three PocketWizards
  • One TriGrip reflector

This gear combo is heavy but not unrealistic for a 15-minute hike. The lenses give me great range, from 24-200mm, and I have off-camera lighting equipment if opportunities arise for me to use it.

Now, the backpack I used was a legit hiking backpack, capable of easily packing 60+ lbs, but it lacked padding that is desired when packing this type of delicate equipment. To work around this I wrapped my camera and lenses in t-shirts, my hot shoes slipped into socks, and the other gear fit into the little compartment pockets of the back, which kept it all separated to ensure nothing banged together. The light stand, umbrella, and lens hoods all were fitted to the outside of the pack. See picture below, the bag all loaded.

This setup worked great. I almost used all of the gear while shooting as well, minus one hot shot flash and the reflector.