Friday 17 March 2017

Photography Then & Now on the Yukon & Watershed Walks

Tombstone Mountain & Talus Lake, Yukon Territory

Following on from my post about the gear I used in 1990 and 2013 on my Yukon and Scottish Watershed walks here's some notes on my photographic gear for those trips.

The Yukon walk took place long before digital photography arrived and I took two 35mm film SLR bodies, the autofocus Nikon F801 and the manual Nikon FM2. These were quite heavy but tough and the F801 had one big plus - a thirty-second self-timer that made taking pictures of myself hiking or doing camp chores easy. In 1990 wide angle zoom lenses also hadn't arrived, at least not ones that were any good. My lenses were a Nikkor 24mm F2.8, Nikkor 35-70 F3.3-5.6 zoom, and Sigma 70-210 F4.5-5.6 zoom. I had a tripod too, called the Cullman Backpack. The cameras and lenses were carried in well-padded and tough Camera Care Systems bags. The total weight of my camera gear was just over 4kg (9lbs). In the appendices to Walking the Yukon, my book on the walk, I wrote that this was 'very light for an SLR system'. It sounds very heavy to me today.

All my pictures were taken on Fujichrome 50 and Fujichrome 100 transparency film. I shot 66 35-shot rolls during the 83 day walk, 2,310 images in total. Many were duplicates though as I couldn't see the results until after the walk and so often bracketed exposures. Films went ahead in resupply boxes and were sent home in batches for processing.

Sunset over the Yukon River

In 2013 my camera gear was completely different. I'd converted to digital ten years earlier and then changed from SLRs to smaller, lighter weight mirrorless cameras in 2010. My camera bodies now were the Sony NEX 6 and NEX 7, my lenses the Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 and 10-18mm F4  (35mm equivalents 24-75mm and 15-27mm). They were carried in Camera Care Systems and LowePro cases. My tripod was a Velbon V-Pod. The total weight was 1.85kg (just over 4lbs), less than half that of the Yukon gear. I didn't need to carry film (28.35 grams a roll ) either. Instead I had several memory cards that weighed less than one roll of film. I ended up with 1620 images for the 55 day walk, not including those I shot on my smartphone. I was able to check the images too and so could delete images and retake them if necessary.

View over Rannoch Moor from the Watershed

Last autumn I took almost the same camera gear on my Yosemite to Death Valley walk, the only changes being a Sony a6000 body instead of the NEX 6 and ThinkTank Mirrorless Mover 5 and Mirrorless Mover 10 cases. The light weight, low bulk, and the convenience of digital with no films to deal with, a histogram for exposure, and being able to check images makes this set-up far preferable for long-distance walking to my old film camera gear. I do miss that 30 second timer though.

A clearing storm in the Ben Lui range on the Scottish Watershed

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